"Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, 'Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.' When Jesus heard that, He said, 'This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.' Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, 'Let us go to Judea again.' The disciples said to Him, 'Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?' Jesus answered, 'Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.' These things He said, and after that He said to them, 'Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.' Then His disciples said, 'Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.' However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, 'Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.' Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, 'Let us also go, that we may die with Him'" (John 11:1-16).
The apostle John here mentions three siblings: Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. They were all of the city of Bethany which was located about two miles from Jerusalem (cf. 11:18; there was another Bethany beyond the Jordan, 1:28).
John wrote this book many years after these events took place. Thus, it isn't unusual for him to mention something about Mary that he hadn't fully detailed yet in order to identify which Mary he is referring to here (cf. 12:3).
It is worth observing that this family was not poor for they lived in their own house, owned a tomb, and were able to later use a pound of very costly oil to anoint Jesus' feet (cf. 12:3). Thus, it is exceedingly unlikely that this Lazarus is the same as the one identified as a beggar in Luke 16:20ff.
In John 11:3, the sisters communicate this message to Jesus - "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." They make no direct appeal for Him to come to their aid, but they leave the decision in His hands regarding what to do. They trust that His love will bring Him to Bethany. Surely Jesus had a very close relationship with Lazarus for the sisters don't even mention his name here, only that the one Jesus loved was sick.
Jesus then declared - "The sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Our Lord does not actually say that Lazarus would not die (cf. 11:14), but that is certainly the conclusion most would draw. What Jesus means here is that the purpose of this sickness was to bring glory to God--specifically to the Son. This sickness of Lazarus would take his life, but that wouldn't be his final day on Earth. Lazarus would be brought back to life as another of the many proofs of the deity and Messiahship of Jesus (cf. 20:30,31). Jesus would thus be glorified, especially because this miracle would lead many to believe, even some who may have previously been His enemies. Lazarus' sickness would not ultimately lead to the sort of death to which man is accustomed (i.e., the kind in which there is no resurrection until the "last day"; 11:24).
"Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus" (John 11:5). This is an explanatory note from John to indicate why the sisters informed Jesus of Lazarus' illness and that the Lord's delay in going to Bethany was not due to indifference.
Jesus' actions in 11:6 may seem strange at first. Why would He delay two days before coming to the aid of his friend? One must realize that when God delays to grant a favor it is not necessarily a denial of it; often it is to create an opportunity to provide an even greater blessing! Could Jesus have healed Lazarus before he died? Certainly (e.g., Matt. 8:8ff). But, to allow Lazarus to die, be in a tomb for several days, and then be resurrected, would be a more convincing miracle than healing him in his sick condition (cf. John 11:15). Raising a man from the dead after four days was just not something that could be denied or explained away! Additionally, resurrecting Lazarus would provide an opportunity for Jesus to strengthen the faith of the sisters and His disciples.
We will continue studying this narrative tomorrow.