“What draws Muslims to become followers of Jesus as Lord and Saviour?” I asked someone who was working in the heartlands of Islam. He had told me how more and more Muslims in his area of the Middle East are being drawn to faith in Jesus in spite of the extreme danger of conversion in this strongly Muslim country. “Islam is a rigidly authoritarian and legalistic religion”, he replied, “They are drawn to Jesus by the reality of his love for us and our love for each other”.
The story of Lazarus’ raising from the dead strongly emphasizes Jesus’ love. We have seen in earlier blogs how John stresses the relationship of Jesus and the Father by the Spirit. It then shows the wonder of our relationship with Jesus and through him to the Father. The next step is that we as followers of Jesus love one another. So John 11 shows us Jesus’ wonderful love.
Already in John 11.3 Lazarus is called “the one you love” and in 11.5 it becomes clear that Jesus not only loved Lazarus, but also his two sisters Martha and Mary. So when Jesus sees Mary’s distress at the death of her much-loved brother, he was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” (11.33). Indeed he wept (11.35), so that people observed “see how he loved him!”.
It is remarkable how Jesus seems to have had different levels of love and intimacy with his followers. Evidently he had a special love for this little family, for the three leading disciples and particularly for John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13.23 and 19.26). But he also deeply loved the other disciples and indeed everyone who believed in him. All of us too as his followers will have some who are particularly close to us, while others remain less intimate although we are called to love them too as our brothers and sisters in Christ.
This love between Christians is a clear mark of our having become God’s beloved children – “we know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers” (1 John 3.14). I remember God’s Spirit working in me when I first became a committed Christian. I just longed to meet other Christians and I loved them. Still today after many years as a Christian I love to meet up with fellow believers in Jesus, my sisters and brothers.
So let us rejoice in the glorious fact that Jesus and his heavenly Father love us. What a mind-boggling truth! And let God’s love for us overflow by his Spirit in love for our fellow Christians.