‘Tis the look that melted Peter,
‘Tis the face that Stephen saw,
‘Tis the heart that wept with Mary,
Can alone from idols draw.
In Revise Us Again, I made the statement that as high as God is going to elevate you is as deep as He digs to lay the foundation.
Sometimes the brightest light comes from the darkest places. And what doesn’t destroy you ends up defining you in some significant way.
These truths boldly emerge in this narrative.
The raising of Lazarus from the dead is regarded by many Bible students as the crowning gem of Jesus’ miracles, the climax of the seven signs of John’s gospel.
The raising of Lazarus also foreshadowed the Lord’s own resurrection, which was closely at hand.
Interestingly, Lazarus is the shortened form of a name that means “God helps.”
We don’t know what Lazarus’ illness was. Since it’s not named, it was probably unremarkable. Common terminal diseases in the ancient world were scabies, smallpox, tuberculosis, various eye diseases (opthumla), dysentery, leprosy, and malaria.
Some scholars speculate that Lazarus was inflicted with the eastern fever.
In John 11, we are told that Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, and that they were His friends.1
In John 15:15, the Lord said to His disciples, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
Love and friendship. These two words sum up the heart of Bethany.
Bethany is the place where Jesus loves His own, and His own love Him. It is also a place of friendship … friendship with the living God.
Jesus desires friends, not servants. He desires love, not servitude.
In the cold temple of Jerusalem, God was merely served. But in the warmth of the Bethany home, He was befriended and cherished.
When I read John 11, I see a Lord who is saying, “I didn’t come to this earth to be served. I came to have friends. I came to love and be loved. I came to take a people into My heart. I came to unveil the secrets of My heart to My friends.”
But what do love and friendship look like according to Jesus?
Think about this: Jesus allowed Lazarus to suffer illness. He allowed Mary and Martha to experience the agony of watching their brother fade away.
Even worse, Jesus allowed Lazarus to die. And in so doing, He allowed two precious women to lose their only brother.
And all the while, Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary, and Martha and regarded them as His friends.
Keep this in mind the next time you get sick, lose a loved one, or face a crisis or tragedy.
The Lord allows painful things to happen to those He loves. He allows tragedy to befall His friends. Yet He loves you while you’re sick. And He loves you even after you die.
by Frank Viola author, adapted from one of his books.