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§ 230. The Sickness of Lazarus; Christ’s Reply to the Messengers who informed him of it. (John, xi., 1-4.)

While Christ was in Peraea, about a day’s journey from Bethany, Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, was taken sick, and the sisters sent to inform the Saviour of it, doubtless in the hope of obtaining his assistance. His reply gave this consolation, at least, to the sisters—that their brother should not be separated from them by death; although its true import was not obvious until afterward: “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.”

Now, as Lazarus actually died, these words appear to need explanation. Did Christ, in view of the symptoms that were reported to him, really think that Lazarus would not die? and was the object of his message simply to console the sisters with the assurance that the mercy 338and power of God would be glorified in themselves and their brother, by saving the latter from death? Was the latter part of the message, “That the Son might be glorified,” added by the Evangelist himself, incorporating his own explanation with Christ’s words?

Certainly we shall not assert that Christ could not but foreknow, infallibly, in the exercise of his superhuman knowledge, the result of the disease; it may have been the case that he described it, in view of the symptoms at the time, as not necessarily fatal, although it afterward took another turn. But if all this were granted, there is something else to be considered. Christ could not, consistently with his character, have given so positive a prediction on the deceptive evidence of mere symptoms; he could not have mocked his friends with baseless hopes, so soon to be scattered. We must take it for granted, therefore, that his confidence was founded on a far surer basis; it was the Divine nature, dwelling in him, that illuminated his human mind. To be sure, it is possible that his confident conviction that Lazarus would be saved may have been coupled with uncertainty as to whether he should be saved from sickness, or from death; but the language of his reply, although it might admit this construction, is not at all inconsistent with absolute certainty on his part that Lazarus would die. The reply was intended to comfort the sisters, and to them it could make no difference whether their brother was saved from apparent or real death, in case the latter were of short duration; and Christ may, therefore, have wished to avoid presenting the naked idea of death in his words. And the partial ambiguity of his language may also have been designed to test the faith of the sisters. It is possible that with this view he uttered the words “ὑπὲρ τη̂ς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ,” and stopped there, the rest being (possibly) added by the Evangelist,

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