If Jesus were on Facebook, would he “friend” you? And if he would, would he still be friends with you; or have you by now given him reason to “unfriend” you? Which I do not mean simply hypothetically. Because of all the questions in this beautiful and uncertain life, there is none that is more important than whether Christ is your friend or not. And if he is your friend, he means for that to sweeten all your friendships.
Now, Jesus knows how to be a good friend, as he once said to his disciples, “I no longer call you servants…instead I have called you friends.” (John 15:15) He knows how to be a good friend. Do you? One sign of a being a good friend is that you let your friends show you their friendship in their own way.
So there was this woman, she was Jewish. And given the times in which she lived, one thing that was very important was to be a good hostess when you had guests. Immaculately clean house, comfortable bedding, big meals. Very important. But one day she gets sick. High fever, and you know how awful and achy and, well, sick you feel when you have a serious fever. And you also know how, as soon as mom is sick, the second law of thermodynamics begins to manifest itself and the house starts to spiral towards greater and greater chaos. And what does her son-in-law, whose name is Peter, which means “rock”, and sometimes that describes what is brain is like, what does he do? He invites guests to her house. But one of those guests is Jesus. And Jesus knows how Peter’s mother-in-law would feel about that. And when he finds out about her fever, Jesus does what good friends do—he shows his friendship in his unique way. He takes her by the hand (such a beautiful detail, you know how important human contact is) and uses his almighty power to get rid of whatever is making Peter’s mother-in-law sick. Because Jesus is not just a human being, he also is God, true almighty God, in one person, God and man in one, like fire is one with metal when it is glowing red hot.
This was a great thing Jesus did for Peter’s mother-in-law. And she responds to his friendship by showing friendship back. In the way that fits her vocation and talents. Her vocation was mom and her talent was hospitality. So what does she immediately do now that she is feeling better? Gets up, hustling and bustling about, getting a meal ready, beds ready, straightening up. Ten minutes ago she was a sick as a dog. Now she is whirlwind of cleaning and cooking.
That’s how she was showing friendship to Jesus who had shown friendship to her. And here’s the thing you want to especially notice–Jesus is happy with what she is doing. He doesn’t say, “My REAL friends go on mission trips to places like Haiti.” Doesn’t say that. He doesn’t say, “My REAL friends teach Sunday School, help the homeless, knock on doors in your neighborhood and hand out fliers.” Doesn’t say that. Now, these are good things, don’t misunderstand. And they make Jesus happy, too. But Jesus knows how to be a good friend. And he lets us show our friendship to him in our own vocation, as we try to show love, genuine love, not the fake stuff of this world, genuine love, the kind described by the 10 Commandments. And to do it not necessarily like everyone else does, but with our own skills, and interests,…and limitations. And he is happy about that. So it is, for example, at one for coming Wednesday night Lenten suppers, he is equally happy with the shy Christian who hardly talks with anyone but helps serve the meal as he is with the bubbly, talkative person who helps serve the meal. And tonight, he is equally happy with the Christian who, being thankful to Jesus for a chance to kick back, relaxes and watches the Super Bowl as he is with the Christian who instead uses that time to “get something done.” Jesus knows how to be a good friend. He lets us show our friendship to him in our own vocation, as we try to show love, genuine love, not the fake stuff of this world, genuine love, the kind described by the 10 Commandments. And to do it not necessarily like everyone else does, but with our own skills, and interests,…and limitations.
But do you do the same in return? Or are you one of those fake friends of Jesus, who wants Jesus to be different than he is? Like the person who thinks, “Jesus, why don’t you do a miracle for me when I’m sick and have prayed for healing?” Instead of letting Jesus show his friendship to you his way, the way he chooses to, healing you in his time and way. Or the kind of fake friend who thinks, “Everyone knows from science that a Big Bang started this world and it’s all millions of years old.” Instead of letting Jesus show his friendship to you his way, by telling you, I was there and what really happened is what I wrote in Genesis 1. Or the kind of fake friend who thinks, “Religion is OK for Sunday but not during the week.” As if Jesus has no right to speak to you about what you do at work, or at school, or on-line, or in your car, or in your bedroom. Are you one of those fake friends of Jesus, who wants him to be different than he is? Change this or that doctrine in his Word? Because he can smell that on a person. And if you don’t want Jesus and his Word around, well, there’s a roaring lion who always has his eye on you, and on me, and he’s always hungry. And you and I look like a tasty morsel to him.
But that’s not what Christ wants to see happen. He desires friendship. With sinners, like you and me. And he knows how to be a good friend.
Now, if one sign of a being a good friend is that you let your friends show you their friendship in their own way—then the other sign that goes hand-in-glove with that is a good friend tells you the truth.
In 1983, an anti-drunk driving campaign was launched that proved to be so successful, it is still being used today, 35 years later. I think it was so successful because it has this basic truth at its core. That friends, if they are true friends, tell you the truth. Like when you should or should not get behind the wheel. Maybe you recognize the slogan launched in 1983, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”
And if that is something a decent sinful friend would do, how much more so of Jesus, the sinless Son of God. That’s why Jesus, after a long evening of healing and caring and helping, and a short night of sleep, Jesus gets up early to talk to the Father and the Spirit in prayer. Which is something that works best alone. It is difficult to talk to God about your personal issues when other people are around. It works best when it is just you, a Bible and God.
And everyone is looking for Jesus. I suppose it is because he was doing miracles of healing. When Peter, who is all hot and bothered, finds Jesus he blurts out, “Everyone’s looking for you!” , Jesus says the strangest thing. He is Mr. Popular, and everyone wants him, so he decides to…go away? He says, No. No more healing right now. Now is the time for telling the truth. He says, “Let us go somewhere else, to the nearby villages, so I can preach. That is why I have come.” It was time to preach and in so doing, to tell the truth. Because that is something true friends do. Tell you the truth.
Which is what Christ is doing right now, too, through preaching and his Word. He tells us the truth. Tells us in his Word that we are fools if we think we are good people. That the truth is that we sin so much every hour that we aren’t even aware of how many sins we commit, like a boy who is unaware of how many germs are on that wad of gum he’s picked up off the ground. That the truth is there something terribly wrong with us. That deep down we resent God acting like he is God and we are not; acting like he has the right to tell us what our morals must be and what we must believe. That the truth is that we all naturally would rather use God than love God; rather have God’s stuff than have him, as a friend. That is what is wrong with us. And that’s the truth. Anyone who denies it is suffering from a terrible form of blindness. And when such people face God, and they will, everyone has to, it will be a terrifying experience that has eternal consequences. And that’s the truth.
It is also true that Jesus is the friend of sinners like this, like us. It is true that he came to this world to live the kind of life a true blue friend of God would live, and to do it for us because we can’t. It is true that when it came time to die and he was in anguish as he faced it, horrified at the incredible suffering he would have to endure, he still chose to go to the cross and suffer and die. Because he did what true friends do—he decided that if somebody had to suffer and pay, that it would be him instead of us. That instead of making us pay the horrible price for our sin, he would pay it for us. And then he rose from the dead to prove he had done it all. And now every sinner who repents and trusts in this Jesus and his Word can call him “friend.” And Jesus will raise all his friends on the last day and take them to a place so incredible we can only call it “heaven.” To be with him and all believers, where life will be absolutely perfect. And that’s the truth. And until then, he promises to keep his eyes on you all day and all night, looking out for you the way a friend looks out for a friend. And that’s the truth.
Because Jesus knows how to be a good friend. He lets us show our friendship to him in our own vocation, as we try to show love, genuine love, not the fake stuff of this world, genuine love, the kind described by the 10 Commandments. And to do it not necessarily like everyone else does, but with our own skills, and interests,…and limitations. Because he’s a good friend. And he does the other thing a true friend does–tells us the truth, in his Word.
Which is just what good friends. And Jesus most of all. For he is the best Friend a sinner can have. Amen.