The sisters Mary & Martha send a message to Jesus: Lord, the one you love is sick (v.3). Clearly, Jesus had a special relationship with this man and his sisters (v. 5). Yet John chapters 11 and 12 are the only reference to Lazarus in the New Testament. This request is very similar to Jesus' mother's request at the wedding of Cana (2:4). It presents a need but does not dictate to the Lord how He should respond. In these requests we have a model of intercession that makes a need known to the Lord with humility and a recognition that it is His will that should be done. Such humility and submission are key characteristics of true disciples.
Jesus had responded to His mother by saying it was not yet His hour, a reference to the cross (2:4). Now, however, his hour is fast approaching. Mary and Martha must have known how dangerous it had become for Jesus to be in the vicinity of Jerusalem. They might have known that Jesus could heal at a distance (cf. 4:49-53), yet they seem to want Him to come to heal Lazarus (11:21,32). Perhaps their anxiety for their brother led them to summon Jesus. But love is the laying down of life (cf. 1 Jn 3:16), and the sisters seem to think that Jesus would be willing to risk His life for the sake of their brother, whom He loves. Whatever they may have been thinking, we see that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, was indeed willing to risk his life for His friend (cf. 10:11, 15), though He was under no real danger since He was doing the Father's will and under his protection (10:39; cf. 10:29).
Jesus' love for Lazarus and his sisters teaches us that our faith in God's love, even in the midst of adversity, is well grounded. Even those especially dear to God must endure such things. The one sick, the others sad, all of them beloved: but He who loved them was both the Saviour of the sick, nay more, the Raiser of the dead and the Comforter of the sad.
In all that Jesus does we see the glory of God (1:14), for we see God's love and life-giving power. Now, in the raising of Lazarus, we will have the most spectacular manifestation of this glory. God is the one who brings life to the dead out of his love for those in such need. This is the heart of the Gospel. God's glory is thus seen in his victory over death--indeed, it is possible only through death--first the death of Lazarus, and then the death of Jesus himself!