In spite of the pressures of his mission and the fact that the crowds gave him very little breathing space, Jesus knew how to find time for what he wanted. Contact with his heavenly Father was vital, and Jesus often spent time in prayer.
But friendship was also important, and Jesus found it in the company of Martha, Mary and their brother, Lazarus. It was a friendship which was close and supportive, and gives us insights into the human side of Jesus.
From what the Gospels reveal, these three siblings were a well-placed Jewish family, living in Bethany, a short distance from Jerusalem. Jesus with his disciples was often a guest at their home.
One well known episode was when Mary, the younger sister, was found spending all her time chatting with Jesus, much to the annoyance of her elder sister, Martha, who resented Mary not helping in the kitchen. Hospitality at home was the woman’s prerogative, and Jesus understood Martha’s upset. “Martha, Martha ,” he teases, “You are concerned about many things. But one thing alone is important, and Mary knows what it is.” In a gentle way Jesus points out that friendship with him takes priority over a hundred other tasks performed for his sake.
When Lazarus falls ill, Martha sends word to Jesus to come soon, but Jesus deliberately tarries until the man dies. Later, when Jesus does arrive at their home, Martha reproaches him: “Sir, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” The conversation which follows is one of the classic passages where Jesus reveals who he really is. “I am the resurrection and I am life,” says Jesus. “Whoever has faith in me, even though he dies, he shall come to life again. Do you believe this ?” Martha replies, “Yes, Lord, I do. I believe that you are the Saviour, the Son of God, who has come into the world.”
In other words, Martha knows, as one friend to another, that Jesus will somehow restore her brother to her. She trusts him with her brother’s life.
Friendship with Jesus leads this ordinary Jewish woman to an astonishing act of faith. And because of her faith and her friendship, Jesus works the astounding miracle of raising Lazarus to life again.