In Jn. 11, Jesus told the apostles, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m on my way to wake him up” (vs. 11). The disciples knew he’d been sick, and so were encouraged by the this, thinking of the restorative power of sleep. So they said, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” (vs. 12) for “they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep” (vs. 13).
But that wasn’t what Jesus meant at all. Rather, “Jesus had spoken of his death” (vs. 12). Then, “He told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him’” (vs. 15).
This is the paradox and great hope in Christ. Plainly, he was dead, but they were going to him. Jesus said he was asleep so He was going to wake him—but he wasn’t asleep, he was dead. And though he’s dead there is a way that its a good thing that will cause them to believe.
To those who know Jesus’ teaching, none of these things are too difficult. And for believers, there are also other paradoxes to sort through: the last shall be first, but the first shall be last (Matt. 20:16l); gaining your life will lose it, but losing it shall gain it (Matt. 10:39); and how the things which are not seen are more meaningful than the things which are (2 Cor. 4:18).