Why Did Jesus Let Lazarus Die?

John 11:1–6, Part 2

Jesus loved Lazarus, and Jesus let Lazarus die. Is that possible? In this lab, John Piper applies some basic principles for reading the Bible to the story about Lazarus’s death. In the end, we see that love does not always look like what we expect.

Principle for Bible Reading

The word “Therefore” (or “So”) is one of the most important and most overlooked words in all the Bible. A “therefore” says that what follows is an inference or conclusion from what came before. That logical relationship is often packed with meaning and significance.

Study Questions

  1. Read John 11:1–6. List everything you learn about the relationships and history between Jesus, Lazarus, Mary, and Martha.
  2. How would you expect Jesus to respond to their plea? How does he respond?
  3. Explain the “So” or “Therefore” at the beginning of John 11:6. How does what comes after the “So” follow from what came before?

Introduction/Prayer (00:00–02:36)

In the last lab, John Piper laid out three important questions to ask when reading any passage in the Bible: 1. What? 2. How? 3. Why?

Jesus Loved Lazarus (02:36–06:30)

  • Lazarus is sick, and he’s from Bethany, where Mary and Martha live (John 11:1). Mary and Martha are Lazarus’s brothers. (John 11:2)
  • Jesus has a history with Mary (not his mother) (John 11:2). The ointment story has not even happened yet in John (John 12:3).
  • We know Jesus loved Lazarus. (John 11:3)

Jesus Loved Mary and Martha (06:30–07:55)

  • Mary and Martha ask Jesus to come heal Lazarus. (John 11:3)
  • Jesus answers by talking about the glory of the God and of the Son (himself). (John 11:4)
  • We know Jesus loved Mary and Martha. (John 11:5)
  • Jesus’s love for his friends and the glory of God are the two central ideas in this passage.

Jesus Let Lazarus Die (07:55–10:01)

  • Therefore (“So”), Jesus decided to stay where he was two days long, and Lazarus died. (John 11:6)
  • Mary and Martha both say that Lazarus wouldn’t have died if Jesus would have left earlier. (John 11:21, 32)
  • Jesus chose not to leave earlier, and in this passage, that’s called love (John 11:6). Because Jesus loved Lazarus (and Mary and Martha), he let Lazarus die.