There’s a powerful story of friendship in the Bible that gives us a glimpse into the humanity of Jesus. It’s the story of three siblings who lived in a little town called Bethany just two miles away from Jerusalem.

At some point in Jesus’ ministry, He was in a certain village and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. While Martha was busy being a hostess, her sister, Mary, sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to His words. When Martha complained about the lack of help, Jesus honored Mary’s choice of activity. (See Luke 10:38-42) There is no mention of their brother in this account, but based on later events, Lazarus must have also spent quality time with Jesus.

This initial encounter must have led to a deeper friendship with this family, because later on when their brother Lazarus got sick, the sisters sent word to Jesus that the one He loved was sick. Luke’s gospel tells us that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (Luke 11:5 NKJV) What happened next? Two days later, Jesus told His disciples that their friend Lazarus had died. By the time they got to Bethany, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. Both Martha and Mary felt free to tell Jesus that if He’d been there, their brother would not have died. (They certainly knew He had the power to have intervened!) Moved with compassion at the sight of Mary’s weeping, Jesus also wept. Then, out of His love and as a demonstration of His power, Jesus had them roll back the stone from the stinky tomb and called Lazarus to come out. (See John 11:1-44 for the full story.)

The next time we see this family is six days before Passover. Even as the priests plotted to kill Him, Jesus was invited to dinner in Bethany. In Matthew’s version of the story, a woman entered and poured expensive oil on Jesus’ head while He sat at the table. The gospel of John puts Lazarus as one of those sitting at the table and identifies Mary as the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet with oil and wiped them with her hair. (Matthew 26:6-13; John 12:1-8) In both versions, some complained about the waste of money that could have been used for the poor, but Jesus recognized her extravagant gift as preparation for His burial. Evidence of love and worship. A fragrant reminder that must have lingered throughout his coming arrest, whipping, and crucifixtion.

In light of these meaningful encounters with his friends, Jesus’ own words during the Passover feast (or Last Supper) take on a deeper meaning.

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (John 15:13-14 NKJV)

Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus.

What about you? What friends do you think Jesus was talking about? Did His sacrifice include you? Have you understood what it really means to have Jesus as a friend?

What A Friend
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