As a hospice nurse, my sister Beth cares for people at the end of their lives, ministering God’s grace as she tends to their bodily needs, shows care and empathy, and manages their pain.
In contrast, I couldn’t enter the nursing profession—for one thing, I don’t have Beth’s patience. Nor would Beth want to speak to groups of people about God’s love, like I enjoy doing.
We may be different, but we love each other. My sister is also my friend.
Probably the best-known sisters in the Bible also exemplify a loving friendship—Martha and Mary. Today they’ve been turned into types: “Are you a Martha or a Mary?” (Luke 10.)
But as we read their three gospel accounts (also John 11 and 12), we understand that they are fully orbed characters—women who love and grieve and question and serve.
They support each other, and their friendship with Jesus transforms them. For instance, consider how Martha lovingly calls Mary to their friend Jesus after their brother dies, and how Jesus responds.
As background, Jesus delayed coming to the sisters after they sent word that their brother was sick. We know now that he did so to bring glory to God, demonstrating that he is the resurrection and the life by raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43). But the sisters, as they wait for Jesus, feel betrayed and unseen by the One who loves them.
Forthright Martha, when she hears that Jesus has arrived outside the village, rushes to meet him. Through conversation he calls her out of her grief, affirming her statement of faith that he is the Messiah.
Martha then returns home to her grieving sister, who seems to have lost all hope. Drawing Mary aside from the other mourners, she gently shares that Jesus asks after her.
She’s deeply concerned for her, longing for her younger sister to enjoy the love that she’s received from Jesus.
Mary goes to him at once, throwing herself at his feet as she releases her deep sorrow over the death of her brother. And Jesus shares her grief in the shortest sentence in the Bible: “Jesus weeps” (John 11:35).
He then moves to the grave, where he raises Lazarus from the dead—an extreme act of love and restoration. In doing so, he fuels the anger of the religious leaders, who want him eliminated.
Jesus loves both the sisters and ministers to them differently in their grief. Just as he loves each of us individually, caring for us in the ways we need most.
I hope you can believe that Jesus will meet you where you are today, whatever your needs. Know that you can come to him with your most heart-wrenching statements, as the sisters did: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21).
You can dialog with him as Martha did (John 11:21–27). You can shower him with love like Mary did when she anointed him with pure nard (John 12:3).
In all the moments of your day, Jesus wants to be your friend.
As you consider your friendship with God, you might also want to ponder any sibling relationships you have. How could you pray for your sister or brother—or a beloved cousin or friend?
Jesus, as he pours out his love on you, might also want to love someone through you today. Know that he delights in you and will never leave you.
He will be your best friend.
*For further reflection, listen to John 11.
- John 11
Adapted from Transforming Love: How Friendship with Jesus Changes Us (Our Daily Bread Publishing, 2023).