Lazarus: Jesus' Good Friend

My name is Lazarus. I live in Bethany with my two sisters, Martha, who is two years older, and Mary, who is two years younger. As a child I attended school at the synagogue. I studied hard because my parents believed that education was important. My mother schooled Martha and Mary at home. When I came home from class, I would share parts of the day's lessons with my sisters.

As an older boy, I worked in the family trading business. At age fifteen, I began to travel to the cities of Galilee where my father was expanding the business outside of Judea. Capernaum was chosen as my home away from home since it is a trading center. Every two months I would make the one hundred mile journey home to Bethany where I would stay for two weeks before returning to Galilee.

In Bethany I had spent time in the synagogue reading the scrolls just for the pleasure of it, so it was natural for me to go to the synagogue in Capernaum. A teacher from Nazareth named Jesus had moved to Capernaum and would frequently teach in the synagogue. I had just been seated one evening when a friendly man approached me and said, "My name is Andrew. May I sit beside you?."

"Yes. My name is Lazarus. My home is in Bethany, but I am in Capernaum most of the time to expand my family's trading business."

Jesus read from the prophets and then told stories that illustrated God's instructions for us. Jesus was warm and friendly but, at the same time, so incisive in His explanation of the Scriptures. I could not help but admire Him. After Jesus had finished speaking, Andrew asked, "Would you like to meet Jesus?"

"Oh, I would like that very much."

We waited together until the group clustered about Jesus began to thin out before Andrew approached Jesus and said, "This is Lazarus from Bethany. He spends time in Capernaum as a trader in his family's business."

"Welcome to Capernaum, Lazarus. Come back to our meetings anytime you can. There is so much to learn about God and His Word."

Each time Jesus spoke, I would stay around afterwards to talk with Him. He clarified many questions I had about the Scriptures. Eventually it was time for Him to move on to other cities, so I invited Jesus to visit Martha, Mary, and me in Bethany whenever He was in Jerusalem.

I was in Bethany when my sisters and I received the message of the death of our parents at the hands of robbers on the road to Jericho. This sad news spread across Bethany and into Jerusalem. Jesus was staying in Jerusalem at the time and graciously came to the funeral. He was an immense comfort to all three of us and became a very close friend of the family.

In the meantime, I hired a man to take over the accounts in Galilee so I could call on my father's customers in Judea. I was glad that Jesus had come to Judea to continue the ministry which He had started in Galilee. He had shared with me privately that He hoped the Jewish people of Jerusalem would accept Him as their Messiah.

I had enjoyed good health all of my life, so I was not prepared when sickness struck me suddenly. I can recall the onset of a high fever followed by the peace of being with the Lord. Then all at once I heard the voice of Jesus calling to me, "Lazarus, come forth!"

I was totally disoriented when I heard His voice and didn't know where I was. I could tell I was in a dark, dank place which I finally decided was my family's tomb. My hands and feet were wrapped in burial cloths and my face covered with a burial napkin. I felt a little faint, but I stood up and started walking towards Jesus' voice. It wasn't long until the darkness turned to light as someone pulled off the napkin and began to unwind the burial cloths. At first the shapes of people were blurred, but after a few moments I could see that Martha and Mary were the ones freeing me from my death wraps. Behind them stood my powerful friend, Jesus. His face was wet with tears.

Several weeks later, six days before Passover, Jesus came to our house for a banquet. Andrew, the disciple who first introduced me to Him, said, "Jesus told us that He must be killed and then be raised from the dead."

"How could anyone do such a dreadful thing to a man who has been so good to others?"

"John thinks Jesus' death and resurrection are required to save each of us from our sins because Jesus once said, 'Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit.'"

What Andrew said ended up being true, and Jesus was killed soon after. His death was a gruesome sight. The miracle of His resurrection made believers of many who had questioned Jesus' claim that He was the Son of God. My family and I were not surprised by Jesus' being raised from the dead since we had already experienced my own resurrection and had concluded that Jesus was indeed the Son of God.

During the weeks that followed His death, Martha talked with Mary and me saying, "We must do our part to honor Jesus. Let's make our home available so that believers may have a place to meet and worship Him." And so we did.

From then until now, I have never again feared death and know that when my day comes I will face it with full confidence knowing that to be absent from my body is to be present with the Lord.

Based on John 11 and 12; Matthew 18:20.

Copyright 1997 by John C. Westervelt

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