While Jesus was upon the earth, he developed close relationships with many people such as when he selected his twelve apostles (Matthew 10:2-4). Time was spent with them such as in the case of Peter (Matthew 8:14-16), performing miracles in their presence (Matthew 14:22-33), healing people of illnesses (Matthew 14:34-36), and exposing the error of the religious leaders (Matthew 15:1-20). The apostles were with Jesus on the night that he instituted the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-30), and they went with him to the Mount of Olives and Garden of Gethsemane where he prayed before going to the cross (Matthew 26:30,36-46). Jesus treasured the relationship that he had with his apostles.
In addition to having a close relationship with his apostles Jesus also had close friends such as Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. On one occasion Jesus visited their home and evidently spent time teaching and even having a meal with them. The Scripture says that “Martha welcomed him into her house, and she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard his word” (Luke 10:38-39). Both Mary and Martha listened to Jesus’ teaching and were blessed by it and their fellowship with him. As Luke relates Jesus’ visit with them “Martha was distracted with much serving…” (Luke 10:40). Jesus enjoyed being with people of life mind and faith in God such as Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Sometime later Lazarus passed away and Jesus arrived to the place of his tomb some four days later, and John wrote that “Jesus wept” (John 11:36, 38-39). Even though Jesus wept he knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead and “He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth’” (John 11:43).
What joy and happiness they must have felt to see Lazarus who had been dead for four days come from the tomb alive. Many of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus’ friends had come to give comfort, but they were witnesses of his resurrection as John wrote, “Then many of the Jews…had seen the things Jesus did and believed in him” (John 11:45).
However, the religious leaders had a far different attitude even though they knew that Jesus had performed miracles. John wrote, “But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did…” (John 11:46) and they reasoned “If we let him alone like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation” (John 11:48). The chief priests and the Pharisees were more concerned about their place and nation than they were about truth and the kingdom of God.
The place that they did not want to lose was having power over the people. Jesus said, “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matthew 23:4). They did not want to lose that power and believing in Jesus was one step toward losing it. The people of God had become a great nation in the Old Testament and the Jews longed for the days when they would again be that nation. For the moment they were under Roman rule, although still having some religious independence. The truth was that they were not concerned for their nation than for the kingdom of God. Jesus was preaching of the coming of a kingdom that would be far superior to Roman rule or even the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, but they were not concerned about that.
There is still the danger among the people of God of having their sights set upon the earthly and the material instead of the spiritual. Quite often more prayers are offered for the material nation than the spiritual kingdom. Quite often more of life is given for the material place than the eternal place. Let’s “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33).