Open Your Bible

John 11:1-18, John 11:28-44, 1 Corinthians 15:12-18, 1 Corinthians 15:55

Lately, I’ve been considering how necessary it is to have friends. Long distance friends are great, of course. It’s crazy that we live in a world where we can pick up a device and have a real-time conversation while living on another continent, or even a mile away. But there’s something essential about the everyday friends you can text last minute when your car engine dies. Friends you can grab ice cream with on the hardest of days. Friends who don’t mind lingering in the living room because you both just really need to talk—about that one guy or interview or the latest book you bought on Amazon.

Christians often say that all we need is Jesus. While I understand where this sentiment comes from regarding Jesus, Scripture all tells us that our Triune, relational God created us for relationship (Genesis 1:26; 2:18), calls us His friends (John 15:15), and asks us to be His own hands and feet (1 Corinthians 12:4–12, 27). So, although it’s true that “Jesus and…” doesn’t accurately reflect how salvation works, it does reflect how community works. Even Jesus didn’t choose to minister in isolation. He allowed people to provide Him with food and relational support. Even Jesus had His own set of friends, one of them being Lazarus.

We don’t learn much about Lazarus firsthand from Scripture. We never “hear” him speak. Instead, we learn about him through the words and emotional responses of his sisters and his friends. “Lord, the one you love is sick,” said Mary and Martha in a concerned message about their brother (John 11:3). Jesus is equally troubled when he hears that his close friend has died. His emotional reaction gives away the depth of His affection, as the Jews watch tears fall from Christ’s face (vv.33–36).

You see, the centerpiece of this story isn’t Lazarus—it’s Jesus. The whole story is funneled through the lens of Christ’s love. Our Savior, the One who gave up life itself for three days, first experienced what it was like to give up His own friend. He was well-acquainted with loss, an experience that allowed Him to sympathize with us on a visceral, human level.

Revisiting the sentiment “All we need is Jesus,” maybe a better way to look at it is this: “Jesus is the only way to salvation, but we need each other to flourish in our God-given identity.” It’s not as snappy, but at least it’s true.

Remember that Jesus calls you His friend. You know that one person who will sit with you in your pain until you’ve exhausted every word in the English language? Or the one you can steal away to your favorite hiking spot with? Not only is Jesus your High Priest and Redeemer, but He is also that sort of friend.

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68 thoughts on "Lazarus"

  1. Jennifer Anapol says:

    I definitely have some friends who I can count on and who have been with my through life’s ups and downs, but our relationship is different than it used to be. I think a big part of this is because I am married now and am a mom. Having a little baby takes up a lot of time, sometimes it’s hard to find the time to hang out with friends. I try to prioritize my female relations as much as possible though, since I know how important these relationships are. I do long to have more opportunities to really do life with other young couples with kids.

  2. Amber Upton says:

    I am praying for this for you now Shay. I was the same way for a long time and have finally found this kind of friendship. Keep fighting for it!

  3. Shay Duling says:

    I am not very good at keeping friends. I had friends who I thought would last or be around for forever but that showed to be not true. I have a lot of acquaintances that I can talk too. However friendship like discussed in the devotional I don’t have. I wish to have great close accountability friends.

    1. Amber Upton says:

      I am praying for this for you now Shay. I was the same way for a long time and have finally found this kind of friendship. Keep fighting for it!

  4. Laurie Crary says:

    To all you sweet sisters who need a friend, I will be your friend!!!! I am not as faithful as Jesus, but I am a good friend.

    1. Shay Duling says:

      Thank you!!

  5. Alexis Padilla says:

    I struggle with making friends especially friends of faith. I tend to guard myself with people. This has shown me to be a little less guarded and more open to making friends. I pray that god will help me to develop friendships in the season that I am in and I pray that god will guide me in being open.
    God is good! ❤️

  6. Lehua K. says:

    Thank you to everyone for the prayers for my husband. I pray for those of you who shared similar struggles (Blessedbutterfly, Diana, Beth Ann) as well as those who shared prayer requests. Traci, praying for healing for your son. Clare, praying that God will speak to your heart in your dilemma. Hope, praying you will be able to persevere in God’s calling for you.

    My heart goes out to those of you who also shared struggles in connecting with others and finding lifelong connections. I have been there and please know there is hope for you. And there is nothing wrong with you, and if you hear those thoughts they are from the enemy. Do not believe it.

    Shannon, thank you for your thoughts on friendships and relationships.. I saved it to my journal as a reminder that we are still worthy because God loves us even if it’s a challenge sometimes to find and maintain deep, safe friendships here on Earth.

    Kirstyn, that’s a good point.. I believe Jesus is the finest example of empathy. He weeps when we weep. Thank you for sharing that.

    I agree, Erin B, that just because we live in these times of COVID-19, we don’t need to socially distance… Physically distance, yes. But we don’t need to distance the depth of our connections and our love for one another. Even for strangers and those we do not know. We all are struggling in some way during this time and season, whether personally or seeing loved ones go through struggle. In times like these, we should be standing with hearts united together, instead of our hearts standing apart in differences.

    Churchmouse, what a beautiful prayer. I saved it to my journal, thank you for always sharing your gift of words and reflection with us.

    Tina, thank you for the reminder of that hymn! And Maura thank you as well for that song reminder. Friends are Friends Forever is often used as a graduation song here, since there is a Hawaiian-style cover of that song. (I actually didn’t know the original was by Michael W. Smith until recently! Lol) Such sweet and melodious reminders of the blessings of friendship and community. Thank you all for being my spiritual community during this time. Blessings and love.

  7. Sarah says:

    Oops! My previous comment was in reply to Ashley P…not sure what happened!

  8. Sarah says:

    Thank you for sharing. I can relate to your situation…I think until I read what you wrote I subconsciously believed those lies too!