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John 11:4

ESV 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.”
NIV When he heard this, Jesus said, 'This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it.'
NASB But when Jesus heard this, He said, 'This sickness is not meant for death, but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.'
CSB When Jesus heard it, he said, "This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it."
NLT But when Jesus heard about it he said, 'Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.'
KJV When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.

What does John 11:4 mean?

Mary and Martha are supporters of Jesus (Luke 10:38–42), though they do not travel with Him. They live in Bethany, around two miles or three kilometers from Jerusalem. Jesus is in Bethabara, twenty miles away, when a messenger from the sisters comes saying His beloved friend is sick (John 11:1–3). A dedicated messenger could cover that distance in less than one day.

Later verses will indicate that Jesus delays two full days, then travels to Bethany, which takes somewhat more than a day. If Jesus eventually arrives four days after Lazarus has died, it means that when the messenger reaches Jesus, Lazarus is already dead. He would have passed shortly after the message was dispatched. And yet, Jesus sends him back with a comforting reply, implying that Lazarus' illness won't lead to death!

This apparent paradox presents many questions and lessons. The statement would have been extremely difficult to understand, at first. Mary and Martha would have mourned and buried their brother, then gotten word from Jesus saying Lazarus' illness would not lead to death. It's possible to translate the Greek of Jesus' reply as "this sickness is not to end in death," and later events show that this is likely what He meant. The reaction from Mary and Martha probably would have been the same either way.

Similarly, God's command for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac would have been difficult to understand without the benefit of hindsight (Genesis 22:1–2, 12–14). Jesus' response shows that God's love is not condescending or indulgent. Pain still happens, and we will not always understand. And yet, despite our ignorance, God works out everything for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
What is the Gospel?
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