"Friends of Jesus: Martha, Mary and Lazarus"
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’" John 11:25-26 NKJV
There is text shorthand a lot of people use today to describe their closest friends. It is the three letters BFF, which stands for Best Friends Forever. The person or persons you call your BFF means that you have a close friendship and strong bond with that person(s) that you say will last forever. The problem is that there are no guarantees that your friendships will last forever.
There is one friendship that we can have that will last forever. That friendship is a result of being born again by placing your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, and Lord. Through the process of discipleship, we begin to see Jesus as our Friend. Jesus had such a friendship with two sisters and their brother: Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. This friendship was put to the test when Lazarus died.
The story is found in Chapter 11 of John’s gospel. As the story begins, we are told that Jesus loved Lazarus as well as Martha and Mary. They live in Bethany and they frequently opened their home to Jesus and his disciples.
Martha would spend most of the time serving Jesus by tending to His physical needs by slaving in the kitchen cooking. Mary spent her time sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to the stories He told along with His disciples. We don’t know a whole lot about Lazarus except that he is described like John the Beloved disciple as “he whom You love.” No doubt, Jesus was very close to this family. You could say they were best friends.
Then something happens to challenge everything this family believed about this close connection and friendship they had with Jesus. Lazarus is deathly sick and they send word for Jesus to come. They had seen and heard about many of the healings Jesus performed. Since they were such good friends, surely Jesus would come immediately and heal their brother. After all, Jesus is just two miles away. Surely the One Who walked on water could get there within an hour or so.
But Jesus delayed His coming. And in this delay, the unthinkable happened. Lazarus dies. By the time Jesus finally gets there, it’s been four days and the body is decomposing so much so that it reeks with the smell of death.
Martha and Mary both face a crisis of belief. If only Jesus had been here, perhaps their brother would be alive. Why was Jesus delayed? Were they no longer His friend? Did Jesus not care? These and many other questions swirled around in their minds and hearts as they grieved. Not only have they experienced the loss of their loved one, but they also felt the disappointment of the pain of death without their friend Jesus with them. Even if Jesus would not have healed their brother, at least He could have been there with them when he died.
Martha goes and confronts Jesus as He finally makes His way to their home. As a friend, she lets her feelings of anger and hurt and disappointment out. Jesus knows part of her pain is not just about the death of her brother. Martha needs to know, like us, is there life after death?
Jesus gives Martha the assurance she needs. He tells her without hesitation; “I am the resurrection and the life…” Then He explains what this means to us. The resurrection is the key doctrine of Christianity. All is required by us is to believe.
The NLT translates John 11: 25-26 this way: “Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in Me and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this, Martha?’”
Today, Jesus asks us the same question. Do you and I believe? When we truly believe, we do indeed have a forever friend. That friend is Jesus. This should motivate us to try to introduce as many of our friends as possible to Jesus, so they can be forever friends as well.
I love you and it’s a privilege to be your pastor.