The way love is expressed in the Kingdom of God is often at odds with its worldly expression.
- In our lesson today, Jesus makes these differences plainly clear.
- He shows us this love is a Glory kind of Love.
1) JESUS LOVED LAZARUS, MARTHA & MARY – BACKGROUND
Knowing the nature of Jesus’ relationship with Lazarus, Mary and Martha is necessary to fully appreciate one of the remarkable principals to be found in our text.
Jesus Loved Lazarus:
- Jesus had a very special relationship with Lazarus (means – “whose help is God”).
- John tells us that Jesus “phileo” (vss. 3 & 36) and “agapao” (vs. 5) Lazarus.
- In other words, Jesus not only had a deep, selfless love for Lazarus, but He also had a deep affection for Lazarus based on a personal relationship; they were very close – DBL.
- The depth of Jesus’ love for Lazarus is also revealed in that:
- On his way to where they “laid him” (vss. 34), words that spoke of the stark reality of Lazarus’ death, “Jesus wept” (vs. 35).
- Even the Jews present, perhaps mourners, noticed, “See how he loved him!” (vs. 36).
- And John tells us twice that Jesus was “deeply moved” (vs. 38) over Lazarus’ death.
- “deeply moved” literally means to have “an intense feeling of concern” [a combination of anger and sorrow] in our context – DBL.
- It is translated as “groaning in himself” in the ASV and YLT and “angry” in the NLT.
- Jesus’ deep love for Lazarus meant the feeling of a deep loss with Lazarus’ death, even by Jesus.
Jesus Loved Martha and Mary:
- As with Lazarus, Jesus “agapao” Mary and Martha (vs.5).
- As with Lazarus, Jesus was “deeply moved” by their grief because of His love for them (vs. 33).
Now that we fully understand Jesus’ love for Lazarus, Mary and Martha we can move on.
2) A STRANGE RESPONSE
John 11:1–6 (ESV) — 1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair [John 12:3], whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
Mary, Lazarus’ sister, sent word to Jesus about Lazarus’ illness.
- Given Jesus’ relationship with Lazarus, Mary knew Jesus would want to know that His dear friend was ill.
- And no doubt, Mary had a pretty good idea that Jesus could heal Lazarus (vs. 32).
- Jesus reply to the messenger must have struck him as rather peculiar.
Jesus’ words to the messenger from John 11:4:
- “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
- This answer is very similar to the one Jesus gave for the blind man’s blindness.
- He was blind not due to sin, “but that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3).
Yet, even stranger than His words were His actions.
- John reminds us that Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus (vs. 5).
- This reminder in vs. 5 seems to be an acknowledgement of how strange Jesus’ coming actions are.
- So, after softening the blow, John tells us what Jesus did in response to the news of Lazarus’ illness.
Jesus’ action from John 11:6:
- “So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”
How is Jesus’ action in verse 6 a demonstration of the kind deep love we know He had for Lazarus, Martha and Mary?
- We have to try and make sense of this answer.
Let’s acknowledge the obvious.
- 1) Given Jesus’ relationship to Lazarus, Mary and Martha, we would have expected Him to rush at once to Lazarus’ aid.
- 2) Jesus’ response is the complete opposite of this expected response.
- 3) In fact, it seems almost to contradict, or at least show that John’s description of Jesus’ love for Lazarus to be hyperbole.
- 4) And, frankly, we can’t relate to it at all.
However, I think we will find here an understanding of love that suits perfectly with the Kingdom of God which Jesus inaugurated and operated.
- In fact, we will find that the “two-day delay was motivated by Jesus’ love for Martha, Mary and Lazarus” – D.A. Carson.
- This of course means that our perplexity over Jesus’ response is informed by a worldly understanding of love and not a Kingdom understanding.
3) LOVE IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD
To get at the answer to our question posed above, “How is Jesus’ action in verse 6 a demonstration of the kind deep love we know He had for Lazarus, Martha and Mary?” we need to understand a little of the foundational principals of the Kingdom of God.
A definition: “The Kingdom of God is primarily the reign, rule, or authority of God himself; secondarily, it is the realm in which that rule is directly exercised, consisting largely in the laws governing the natural world and, more importantly, the individual and collective hearts of those who have bowed to God’s rule.” – J.P. Moreland.
- Dallas Willard says simply that The Kingdom of God is “death to self” and “where what God wants done is done”.
Why will it help us to have a basic understanding of the Kingdom of God to answer our question?
- Because the Kingdom of God “stands at the very center of the message of the historical Jesus” – AYBD.
- It is “the worldview of Jesus of Nazareth and Holy Scripture” – J.P. Moreland.
- It “established a radically new order of life on earth” – Dallas Willard.
- And Jesus’ odd response clearly points to “a radically new order of life on earth”.
Kingdom of God in Scripture – a few examples:
1) The Kingdom of God is at hand – the now and not yet.
- Matthew 3:2 (ESV) — 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
- Matthew 10:7 (ESV) — 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
- Matthew 12:28 (ESV) — 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
2) The Kingdom of God is priceless.
- Matthew 13:44 (ESV) — 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
- Matthew 13:45-46 (ESV) — 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
3) The Kingdom of God requires self-sacrifice.
- Mark 9:47 (ESV) — 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell,
- Acts 14:22 (ESV) — 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
4) The Kingdom of God has different priorities than the world.
- Luke 9:60 (ESV) — 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
- Luke 12:29–31 (ESV) — 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.
5) The Kingdom of God is not about worldly gratification.
- Romans 14:17 (ESV) — 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Right away we see that all of these things have in common the denial of self and the glory of God.
- In this context, love will look different than it does in the world.
So, how does this relate to our question and a “glory kind of love”?
- In the Kingdom of God, the “deepest essence of God is love” – Dallas Willard.
- And our expression of this love is NOT an expression or fulfillment of our desires or the desires of those that we love – Willard.
- But, love expressed in the Kingdom of God IS the “will to good”.
- In other words, “We love something or someone when we promote its good for its own sake” – Willard.
- This love is contrary to a secular worldview, one outside of the Kingdom of God, which sees love as a fulfillment of desires or not standing in the way of the fulfillment of desires.
And in the Kingdom of God, the best way to love someone, to “will to good” and to promote someone’s “good for its own sake” is to point them to, and help them behold the glory of God.
- Isaiah 66:19 (ESV) — 19 and I will set a sign among them. And from them I will send survivors to the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, who draw the bow, to Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands far away, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations.
- 1 Peter 4:10–11 (ESV) — 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
- 1 Corinthians 10:31 (ESV) — 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
- This is why, for example, the Westminster Catechism states that the chief end or aim of man is to “glorify God, and enjoy him forever”.
- And John MacArthur says, the glory of God is “the most important theme in the universe”.
- Clearly, not an aim of any worldview but that of the Kingdom of God and thus Jesus.
So, the answer to our question is that, in spite of looking like Jesus didn’t care much for Lazarus, Martha and Mary, Jesus’ actions actually demonstrated the highest form of love to them and even His disciples.
- He showed them a “glory kind of love!”
- A love that fulfilled much more than a desire to avoid pain and grief.
If an expression of love in the Kingdom of God is to point people to the glory of God, how did Jesus’ actions do this?
1) Jesus loved them and glorified God by using Lazarus’ death, not just his sickness, to glorify Himself.
- As Jesus’ own words declared, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
- This is because, as Jesus said in John 5:23, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him”.
- Jesus resurrection of Lazarus was the means used to glorify Himself and the Father.
- Jesus was showing that He is “the resurrection and the life” (vs. 25).
2) Jesus loved them and glorified God by His example of obedience.
- John 5:19–20 (ESV) — 19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.
- We can deduce, then, that Jesus waited because it was the Father’s will He do so.
- Obedience to God’s commands and law “is the structure of a life of grace in the kingdom of God” – Dallas Willard.
3) Jesus loved them and glorified God by preparing them for His death and crucifixion.
- John 11:14–15 (ESV) — 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
- The disciples, Mary and Martha “are manifestly unprepared to endure the shock of faith that lies ahead of them; the awakening of Lazarus from his death will grant them a fresh vision of his glory” – Beasley-Murray.
- “Lazarus’s death becomes occasion for rejoicing because it will serve to strengthen the disciples’ faith in Jesus once Lazarus has been raised” – Kostenberger.
Lessons for Us:
- The result of all this was that Jesus resurrection of Lazarus “confirmed the faith of his disciples and friends with dramatic power that would have been lacking if Jesus had responded immediately to the plea for help” – D.A. Carson.
- Jesus’ waiting here is very similar to our lesson from John 6:16-21 – Jesus Had Not Yet Come.
- In fact in verse 30 John tells us, “Now Jesus had not yet come into the village”.
- And to grow and increase a believer’s faith is both to glorify God and is to love the believer at the same time.
- This, in the Kingdom of God, is more important than the keeping people from pain or fulfilling their desires.
- In fact, as discussed, Jesus Himself also endured deep emotional pain over Lazarus’ death.
- This means that outside of the Kingdom of God, pain and suffering have no purpose – this is both sad and disturbing.
- But in the Kingdom of God, God desires that we glorify Him by enduring what is necessary that we might “manifest the radical nature of the Kingdom of God and the fruit of the Holy Spirit” – J.P. Moreland.
- And bringing us to this nature is to show us a Glory Kind of Love.
- On one level, this is what Jesus means when he says to us, “This illness does not lead to death” (vs. 4).