"Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was."
Jesus is just maddening sometimes, isn't He? What is He waiting around for? What on earth is He doing where He is while His friend is dying?
Why does Jesus stay two days longer in the place where He was? Precisely because He loved Lazarus and his sisters, John insists. That little So has got to be one of the most perplexing, frustrating conjunctions in all of Scripture. Jesus took His sweet time going to see Lazarus because he loved him! Jesus loved Lazarus; therefore He couldn't be bothered to lift a finger to help him! It doesn't make any sense!
And so, once Jesus actually decides to get going and finally arrives at the home of Mary and Martha, Lazarus is already dead. His sisters betray some of the same frustration that we feel at His tardiness: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died," they both tell him (11:21, 32).
But Jesus has a plan in all this. As He said upon hearing the news of Lazarus' sickness, "This illness . . . is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it" (11:4). Jesus allows His friend Lazarus to die so that, in the presence of all the mourners, He can demonstrate His power and divinity by raising Lazarus from death to life, so that they might all have faith in Him. Before Jesus commands Lazarus to come out of his tomb, He prays, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. I knew that thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that thou didst send me" (11:42).
Indeed, it is because Jesus loves Lazarus and his sisters that He does wait to answer Mary's and Martha's plea to help their brother. He loves them so much that He wishes to reveal to them His power over death, so that they might believe that He is the Son of God and lay claim to the new and everlasting life He offers to everyone: "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die" (11:25-26).