From Praying The Names of Jesus Week Sixteen, Day Three
Jesus is not only Lord and Master but the greatest of all friends, who willingly proved his friendship by his death on the cross. By this costly gesture he has won the friendship of millions of men and women from every tongue and tribe and nation. When you pray to Jesus your Friend, you are praying to the One who loved you before you were loveable and who links you together with his many friends throughout the world.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. John 15:13
Praying the Name
Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick."
When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it." Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. John 11:1-6
Reflect On: John 11:1-44.
Praise God: For revealing himself not only as Master but also as Friend.
Offer Thanks: Because Christ has set his affection on you.
Confess: Your need for greater confidence that Jesus remains your Friend despite the circumstances.
Ask God: To help you keep faith even when his friendship seems in doubt.
The man lay on his bed, his face shining with sweat. He fell in and out of dreams. He was standing at the edge of a great fire. The whole mountain was burning. Then two stone tablets came crashing down the cliff, heading his way. He covered his head, about to be crushed. The scene shifted. Now he lay on his back in the middle of a road in some God-forsaken place, unable to move, barely able to breathe. A stranger bent over him, lifted his head, and pressed a flask to his lips.
But nothing came out. The sick man choked back his disappointment, his head falling onto the bed. Sitting next to him, clutching his hand, his sister Mary made calming noises, trying to hush away his fears, her own hand trembling as it pressed a cold rag against his forehead. "Where was their great friend, she wondered, the one who had healed so many people in Israel?" Surely he would come. But it had been two days since she and Martha had sent an urgent message to Jesus about their brother, Lazarus. And he had not even bothered to reply; he sent no one to explain his absence.
It isn't hard to imagine Mary and Martha wrestling with all that was not happening in response to their plea for help. They had counted on Jesus' friendship to save their brother. But he had let them down — or so it seemed.
Sometimes it's like that in our own lives. Jesus seems to fail the test of friendship. He isn't there when we need him. He doesn't answer our prayers. We feel confused and disappointed as our children step into roads of their own making and are run over, as our spouses stray, as our churches split. We feel abandoned. At such times I wonder if we relate to God more as an enemy than a friend. He asks such hard things of us. Surely he can't literally mean that we take up our cross and follow him. He can't mean that we turn our cheeks for yet another blow. He can't mean that the only way to life is through death.
But what if he does? How do we respond? How do we embrace the friendship of a man who, when his own friend lay dying, deliberately waited two days to be certain that his friend would in fact die? We do the only thing we can do. We hold on, we endure, we keep praying. And we remember how the story ends for Lazarus — and presumably for us. And in the midst of our journey of faith we begin to realize that we are not just making friends with a man but with God, with someone whose thoughts are not our thoughts and whose ways are not our ways.
Aristotle once remarked that a friend is a single soul in two bodies, meaning that friendship is based on a unity of mind and heart between two people.
If this is so, it is we and not God who must change before the two can become one. And this truth is at the root of our discomfort. Because Jesus is both our greatest friend and our worst enemy — he hates our sins but loves our souls. Fortunately his love is the ultimate tool he uses to overcome our sins, for "greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13).
Today as you think of Jesus, let his greater love shape your response to every disappointment and to every fearful thought. Let it transform you as it transformed Mary and Martha and Lazarus and every single person who, for the last two thousand years, has been invited to call God "Friend."
Two of Ann Spangler's most-loved books have been released in paperback: Praying the Names of God and Praying the Names of Jesus.
These books help us understand the biblical context in which these names and titles were revealed, and help us gain a more intimate knowledge of the Father and of the Son.