The Friendliness of the Lord Jesus

John 11

Lord, behold he whom Thou lovest is sick.”

With the exception of the Crucifixion and Resurrection chapters no chapter in the four Gospels is more instructive and blessed than this 11th chapter of John. In it God and His Son are glorified. As the story unfold, the love and wisdom and power of the Lord shine forth most clearly, and the greatest of these is love. Love is His nature, and wisdom and power are great attributes that dwell in Him and are the servants of His love.

But one thing that stands out in the chapter and arrests by its attractiveness is the friendliness of our Lord and the wisdom of that friendliness. There was a circle at Bethany where He was free and at home, it was He who said, “Our friend Lazarus,” not your friend, or My friend, but “our friend.” The disciples were included in that happy circle. Where friendship is true and real there is no restraint and a friend may be better than a brother. Certainly this “Friend who loves at all times” “sticks closer than a brother.” We do not reveal our secrets to strangers, but to a friend whom we love and trust we tell our inmost thoughts and unburden our cares. The basis of friendship is confidence and love.

Now this true friendship prevailed at Bethany. Jesus was the Centre of it and bound them all together in its blessed bonds. He was the Friend of them all, so that when Lazarus fell sick the sisters did not delay, they sent to Him at once. They did not send to Peter or to John to plead with the Lord on their behalf, but to Himself direct. They had no question in their hearts as to His interest in them—He was their Friend, they could tell Him of their trouble, and were sure of His sympathy. It may be that they expected His immediate aid. Certainly He was a long way off, at least two days’ journey, but He had been just as far away from the nobleman’s dying son in Galilee, and had spoken the word only, and from that hour the fever left him and he began to mend (ch. 4); and he was a stranger, while Lazarus was His friend.

These sisters addressed Him with the greatest reverence. He was their Lord, yet that fact did not lessen, but enhanced the blessedness of the friendship. He had power and authority such as no other had, and they believed He would use these to relieve them in their distress. Their confidence in Him honoured Him and must have been most gratifying to Him. It may be that Peter remembered these sisters and their trouble when he wrote, “Casting all your care upon Him: for He careth for you.” Yet this story seems to reveal something even deeper than that; there is in it a flow of trustfulness on the one hand, and of sympathy and love and wisdom on the other that is inexpressible in words.

Now notice the ground upon which they based their confidence in the Lord’s intervention. They said, “Lord, behold, he whom Thou lovest is sick.” It was not their love for the Lord or the love of Lazarus for Him that they pleaded, but His love. His love was sure. It could not be questioned; it had flowed out to them without stint, they knew it and had experienced it. It was the cause and the strength of their confidence in Him. It had made them His friends, as it had most surely shown them that He was their Friend. These sisters of the sick man were wise women when they pleaded His love and not theirs.

Yet, strange it must have seemed to them, when He had received their message, “He abode two days still in the same place where He was.” He did not move. He waited until the sickness had done its work and Lazarus lay dead. What a test that must have been to their confidence in Him. We may be sure that the devil was not far away from them, as those days passed by with leaden steps he would suggest that their trust had been misplaced, and that Jesus was unable to deal with that special sort of sickness, or, worse still, that He had ceased to care. It was then that we have the significant comment by the Holy Spirit, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” It was not the lack or loss of love that kept Him from them; it was not indifference that made Him delay; it was the perfection of His love, the wisdom of it. He had something in store for them which was infinitely better than the best they had expected of Him. And His love for them was an impartial love; their characters and temperaments were different, but that made no difference to His love. Speaking from our view of things they may not have been equally loveable, but His thoughts are not as our thoughts, and His love, unlike ours finds its motives for loving in itself rather than in the objects of it. Each one of them had an equal place in His heart.

At length He said to his disciples, “Lazarus is dead and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there to the intent that ye might believe nevertheless let us go unto him” The news of His coming went before Him and Martha went out to meet Him with her burden of sorrow. Was there reproach in her words to Him, “Lord, If Thou hadst been here my brother had not died”? Did she mean ‘You are too late, why did you delay?’ It may be so, yet what measure of faith she had in Him was not shaken. “But I know” she added, “that even now, whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee”; and again, “Yea, Lord, I believe that Thou art the Christ the Son of God that should come into the world.” But what a revelation of Himself her limited faith in Him brought out. I am the resurrection and the life … whoso liveth and believes in Me, shall never die.” O bereaved and sorrowing heart lay hold of that. There is a life, eternal life, and he who has it through faith in the Son of God shall never die. Death may sever natural ties, life on earth may cease, but no power on earth or in hell can sever a soul from the Son of God, or dissolve the life that is in Him. They shall never perish neither shall any pluck them from His hand.

Then came Mary, and she came to Him with her sister’s words upon her lips. How often they must have said to each other, “If only the Lord had been here, our brother had not died.” So she said it to Him and then fell down at His feet and was silent. Her sorrow was too deep for words—it could only be expressed in tears.


Those words must stand together and alone. There are none others like them, except those that tell us that Jesus bled. He had no words for Mary, only tears. Those tears spoke more eloquently than words of the heart that beat in His bosom and of the sympathy that filled that heart. Here was a Friend indeed! Well as Mary had known Him, she had not really known Him at all until that moment when she looked up through her tears into His face and saw Him weeping. Then she knew Him then all doubt of Him was driven from her heart, and throughout eternity she will never forget His tears, ages of glory will never blot out that memory, or efface from her soul that experience. Precious tears, crystal drops that flowed from the deep ocean of God’s compassion. Precious tears revealing a love and a friendship that fully entered into the sorrow that sin and death had brought into the world, and that felt the sorrow more even than the bereaved themselves. Then said the Jews, “Behold how He loved him.”

Then He spoke, first to His Father, for all the works that He did were His Father’s works, and they were done in full unison with His Father and He would have those that stood by to know that He was in their midst as the Father’s Sent One, doing the Father’s works, for He sought no glory for Himself, but lived always on account of the Father. Then with a loud voice He summoned Lazarus from the dead. The answer was immediate, for He is Master of the unseen world, and all that are in the graves must answer when He calls. “Marvel not at this; for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the grave shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation” (John 5:28-29).

So those sisters received their beloved brother alive from the dead, and their perplexity and sorrow were turned into wonder and joy. But that was not the end of the story, there was a most blessed sequel, given to us in the following chapter. That family of three made Him a supper. There were others admitted to it, but they made it for Him. And there He sat at their table—the Resurrection and the Life, the Master of death, and mightier than the grave, their Lord, and yet their Friend and their Guest. He sat there as one of themselves, so gracious was He, He found His joy in their company, such was His love. And Lazarus sat with Him, saying nothing as far as is recorded, silent in the joy of communion. And Martha served not now with question and scolding, no longer excited and cumbered, but with a quiet grace that blended well with that feast. “Then took Mary a pound of ointment—very costly.” It was the most precious thing in the house, and she had prized it and kept it. She loved her brother and she might have poured it upon him when death laid him low, and so have preserved his body from corruption for a while, but she did not. She had kept it for the supreme hour of her life, and that hour had come. She did not pour it on herself, self was eclipsed and forgotten in His presence who had wept with her in her sorrow. Upon His feet and upon Him alone it was poured out, her heart’s tribute to Him, her soul’s adoration of Him who was more to her than sister and brother and self. With a spiritual intuition that none shared with her she realised what lay ahead of Him, and He knew what was in her innermost heart when He said, “Against the day of My burying has she kept this.”

Now let us apply this wonderful story. It has been recorded by the Holy Spirit that we might learn and understand the heart and ways of our Lord. We may surely turn to Him in times of stress and sorrow; we may know and treat Him as our Friend in just such times as these are. He waits for us to confide in Him, and if He does not immediately answer our pleadings we may be sure that He is not indifferent to our need, but waits and keeps us waiting because He has some better thing for us than that which we have asked for. It is His will that we should make our requests known to Him and unburden our hearts at His feet; and if the trial through which we are called to pass increases in its intensity, and the sorrow deepens and runs its course, He would have us know that it is not because He loves us less than we thought He did, but more He would have us learn that His love is wiser and truer than our highest thought of it; that it passes knowledge and has our eternal good in view. If we are allowed to pass through trial and to suffer, we may have Mary’s portion, we may know the sympathy of His love which is greater than the greatest sorrow that we could know. It is confiding trust on our part that pleases Him; and it is His love, His sympathy, His friendship, that sustains as in trial and danger. And to this learning of Him there may be a sequel as great in our lives as that recorded of this well-loved family. The knowledge of Him, learned in sorrow and trial, will change us from the self-centred beings we are by nature into such as give Him the supreme place in our thoughts, and lose all thought of self in occupation with Him. If He who was greater than death went into death for us, it would not be a thing to be wondered at if we laid our all in a full surrender at His feet. The wonder, indeed, is that we are so slow in doing it!

It is interesting and instructive to see that John closes his final Epistle with this salutation, “Our friends salute Thee. Greet the friends by name.” These are they who are friends of Jeans, who know Him as their Friend, who consequently are friends of one another, and may make Him a feast, while they wonder, serve and adore.

J. T. Mawson