John 11:1-4

Passage: 

“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it’” (John 11:1-4).

Question: 

The way this verse is worded makes no sense to me. I would love to see the metaphysical interpretation. Thank you.

Comment: 

I’ve added the preceding verses to your question about 11:4 to give a better sense of the context. I would agree that the wording is awkward, at best. There’s almost a kind of defensiveness—as if the author knew that people were going to find the rest of the story hard to believe. It’s worth noting that the Gospel of John was the last to be written—about two generations after the events it describes. It’s very strange that none of the earlier gospels—or other earlier writings—mention the raising of Lazarus. Yet, according to John, it was witnessed by dozens of people. Is it likely that no one would think to mention it for some 70 years? Or is it more likely that the author of the Gospel of John invented the story to emphasize his central point—the fact that in the Christ energy that Jesus taught and demonstrated, life is eternal and death has no reality? It’s certainly a powerful foreshadowing of the imminent death and resurrection of Jesus himself.

Of course, the story doesn’t have to be literally true to hold great spiritual Truth. Jesus suggests in this passage that there is divine purpose even in our greatest challenges.  We can’t always see or understand that purpose, but it’s important that we know it is present. Just two chapters earlier, when Jesus is challenged as to why a man was born blind—was it a punishment for the sins of his parents?—he replies, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him” (John 9:3). In other words, perhaps he was blind so that in being healed he could be a vivid demonstration of the Presence and Power of God. Likewise, perhaps Lazarus is going through a death illusion so that the Power of the Christ can be demonstrated through him. And perhaps our own challenges—both in the tangible world and in consciousness—exist as an opportunity for us to ‘believe’—to know, claim, and experience the truth of our spiritual wholeness.

Blessings!

Rev. Ed