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Faithful Friends - John 11

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. - Proverbs 17:9

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. - Proverbs 18:24

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. - 1 Peter 4:8-10

Our study continues in the 11th chapter of the Gospel of John.  In this chapter we read the story of the death and resurrection of Lazarus.  Lazarus' sisters called for help from Jesus because Lazarus was ill.  Jesus waited a couple of days and then told his disciples that it was time to go visit Lazarus.  Some of them objected because the people there were trying to kill Jesus, but Jesus insisted.  At this point Thomas said something that I want to come back to. He said "Let us also go, that we may die with him."  Jesus and the disciples went and Lazarus was already dead when they arrived.  Jesus showed empathy for Lazarus' sisters and mourned the death of his friend, but then he prayed for God to raise him and called for the people to roll the stone away.  They objected because his friend had already been dead long enough to smell, but again Jesus insisted.  After they rolled the stone away Jesus called to his friend and Lazarus came out of the tomb, alive again.  After this, the plot to kill Jesus only increased because the spiritual leaders were worried that Jesus would ignite a revolution that would start a war with Rome.    

There is much to unpack in this amazing story, but for this week let's focus on this often ignored comment from Thomas.  Thomas gets a bad reputation for his doubt.  We rarely hear his name spoken without the well known label "doubting Thomas".   This is the same Thomas who later in the narrative will refuse to believe in the resurrection of Jesus until he is able to touch the wounds.  Despite his reputation for doubt, he is doing something remarkably faithful here.  The disciples are concerned that the people in Bethany are trying to kill Jesus, so they discourage him from visiting.  When Jesus makes it clear that he intends to visit Thomas stands up and says something like: "let's go with him, if he dies we shall die with him!".  

Imagine yourself in this situation.  Your friend and mentor is loosing someone very close to them to a terrible illness and he wants to visit, but this person lives in a dangerous place where your friend will likely be killed if he goes.  In your friend's grief they decide to go, despite the danger.  What do you do?

If this is a good friend, there is a chance you will go with them, even if it is a risk for you as well.  This is what we would call a faithful friend.  Thomas did not believe that Lazarus would get well, nor did he have faith that Jesus could heal him.  He did not have faith that they could avoid danger, he had a lot of doubts and anxieties.  Despite these doubts, he was a deeply faithful friend that would risk his life for nothing beyond the desire to be a companion for his friend through grief.

We short change this Saint far too often, thinking less of him because he doubted a miracle and forgetting that while he may have had doubts when it came to miracles that broke logic, he had no shortage of faithfulness as a friend a follower of Christ.  

May we each be blessed with friends that would walk through the valley of the shadow of death with us in our grief.  May we each bless others with our own faithful friendship.  May we have company in our times of grieving and may we look past the doubts our friends have in us to instead see the faithfulness they have with us.   Amen.  


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