by Russell Brownworth
15Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; John 15:15 (NASB)
There is a picture which haunts my mind; it is of the last supper, where John, the beloved friend of Jesus is leaning against the Lord as they celebrate the Passover. Judas can be seen in the background, leaving the room to betray Him.
“Friend” is a word Jesus extended to even Judas at the Last Supper. “Philos” is the word; it means dear, and carries with it the idea of affection, a friend;
Jesus knew Judas would betray him, yet he loved him.
Later, in Gethsemane, when Judas led the soldiers to Jesus with a kiss, even then Jesus called Judas “friend”. In fact he used a word which means comrade, or clansman.
The betrayer had worked out a sign with them: “The one I kiss, that’s the one—seize him.” He went straight to Jesus, greeted him, “How are you, Rabbi?” and kissed him. Jesus said, “Friend, why this charade?” Matthew 26:50 (TMNT)
When it came to choosing friends, I don’t think we would have chosen Judas. Then, again, consider some of the friends that God has had who are listed in the Bible:
David’s armor didn’t fit.
John Mark was rejected by Paul.
Timothy had ulcers.
Hosea’s wife was a prostitute.
Amos’ only training was in the school of fig-tree pruning.
Jacob was a liar.
David had an affair.
Solomon was too rich.
Abraham was too old.
David was too young.
Peter was afraid of death.
Lazarus was dead.
John was self-righteous.
Naomi was a widow.
Paul was murderer. So was Moses.
Jonah ran from God.
Miriam was a gossip.
Jeremiah was depressed and suicidal.
John the Baptist did not dress well.
Gideon and Thomas both doubted.
Elijah was burned out.
Martha was a worry-wart.
Mary was lazy.
Samson had long hair.
Noah got drunk.
Did I mention that Moses had a short fuse? So did Peter, as well as Paul… well lots of folks have that problem.
The Passion of the Christ film showed us the extreme pain and suffering Jesus went through in order to forgive the sins of people like that; people like us. Yet, with all the cost of being the Savior and Lord over sin, Jesus still calls us friends. It is a most strange thing that Adonai, the Lord God should want us as friends.
Our daughter Carrie and her husband Shannon have a dog; rather he is a small horse. He is called Coltrane. Cole does not realize he weighs 150 pounds. He also does not realize he has “drooling issues”. (Now that may be caused by the fact that my wife brings hot dogs to the house whenever we visit…the dogs are for the dogs…Cole starts drooling when we turn on their street. The sound of our car’s engine is like music to his ears!)
Whenever we visit Cole comes charging; he has only two gears, wide-open and stopped (on top of your chest, after you’ve been slammed to the ground). The hound is not going to miss hot dog call!
Coltrane eats before saying “hello”. (Got his priorities straight, that dog does!) Once the Ball Park dogs are inside the dog (is that an “inside-the-park-dog”?), then comes a gregarious welcome. The welcome always includes generous portions of “slime”. A 150-pound Rottweiler who has just consumed 18 hot dogs can produce impressive amounts of saliva!
Needless to say, I have learned to wear my yard clothes when we visit.
This is for two reasons —
1. I can’t afford to buy clothes as often as we are at Cole’s place.
2. I love the dog…even the way he says “hello”.
When that hound comes to me, everything living (or that which wants to stay living) has to get out of the way. He is going to get his ears scratched and his tummy rubbed. In fact, if you rub his belly long enough, he just slides down to one side, flops-over and falls asleep while you “say hello”. “Keep rubbing…a little to the left…harder, that’s it….ahhhhh.”
This is so much like God’s acceptance of me. He wants me close to Him, even with all the goofy things I do, and the mess which I bring. He loves me and calls me friend, even with my sin and betrayal. He loves me and calls me friend, even though it meant taking on all my slime, my sin. He is still called, the Friend of Sinners!
Being a friend to the Friend of Sinners
Friendship goes in more than one direction. If all God had in mind was saving the world from sin, Jesus would have gotten up from the grave and returned to heaven. But, He hung around for forty days to teach the disciples what was next…relationship…friendship with God.
In spite of the fact that we tend to slip back into the slime of sin, God wants us for friends. It hardly seems like that would be possible, but it is the one reason this church (and all churches) exists; we are to introduce our best friend, Jesus to more friends.
Here are the major themes to friendship; they apply in your relationship to Jesus:
• Stay in Touch with your Friend
Being a friend is not the easiest thing in the world. I am not good at it. But, I am learning, and I’m better now than I used to be. Samuel Johnson said, “A man…should keep his friendships in constant repair.”
Friendship is strong, but it can be destroyed through carelessness. It almost need not be said that Jesus is never careless with our friendship; we are not in that class. Last week I missed my friend’s birthday. In February I missed my daughter-in-law’s birthday. I’m beginning to understand why Judas went out and hung himself.
Our earthly friendships are important and we should keep in touch. The heavenly relationship is no different – even more important. Keeping in touch is that daily devotional time of prayer and reading our Bibles.
• Trust your Friend
George Washington wrote: Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity.
When it comes to human friendships, George was right – there is nothing quite as devastating as trusting another person, only to have that person break your trust. On the other hand, friendship without trust is simply an acquaintance.
With Jesus, trust is the starting point. That’s the rub…we learn early to test before we trust. With Jesus, you don’t even enter the family until you trust Him.
• Be there for your Friend
When it comes to earthly friendships, there is a time when your friend will need you to stick with him. I am glad to say there are a few men who are my friends who have stuck with me in difficult times. I pray I will be there when they have need.
With Jesus our friendship should also be returned. He was there on the cross for us when we were still in our sins. His promise is that he will always be there:
…for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. Hebrews 13:5b