The story of Lazarus—it’s one of the most fascinating in the Bible.
I love this story for so many reasons.
I love it for its place in the unfolding of the tender and devoted friendship between Jesus and the siblings of Bethany.
Jesus, Lazarus, Mary and Martha—we might call them the Fantastic Four!
We know there were many more encounters between them that we don’t see recorded in the gospels for the level of friendship they express for each other to be as real and deep as it appears.
After all, the message from the sisters to Jesus about Lazarus’ illness was, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”
That is not a reference to a casual acquaintance.
No doubt there were occasions of Lazarus and Jesus out roaming across the hills, talking of spiritual topics for hours, while Mary and Martha prepared the feast they would enjoy together later at home.
Or perhaps vice versa—maybe Jesus and Lazarus took their turn in the kitchen as well!
Late night dinners, hours of conversation, thinking and praying together about God’s work in the world—they were intimate spiritual companions.
They might even have been friends before Jesus began his ministry, or at the very least, from very early on in it.
Mary, Martha and Lazarus have seen Jesus grow into his ministry.
As he has ranged farther and farther afield to heal and teach, still the little house in Bethany remains a home base, where he returns for his own healing and renewal.
Drained by his work, he can always recharge with his three dear friends.
Because while they are his followers, they are always first and foremost his friends.
In fact, their friendship is so well-known among the disciples and other followers of Jesus that the whole community is aware that Jesus would want to hear of Lazarus being gravely ill.
The message from Martha and Mary reaches him quickly, and here we have the first jarring note in the story. Continue reading