Jesus as Friend

This morning we will talk about Jesus as Friend. Throughout the Bible, God is described as having many of the characteristics of a friend, but Jesus is described explicitly in the Gospels as a friend. Jesus describes Himself as a friend of His followers, and others described Him as being a friend of sinners.

So first we will look at Friend of Followers. Please read with me John 15:9-17

9 “As the Father has loved me, I have also loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.

11 “I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.

12 “This is my command: Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.

17 “This is what I command you: Love one another.

In this passage Jesus is describing three types of relationships: Master-Servant. Teacher-Student, and Friend-Friend. Jesus says He will not describe their relationship as master and servant (up high and down low). He also implies that their prior relationship of Rabbi-disciple, or Teacher-student is no longer correct since He has already shared with them fully the message of God to them. Again, Teacher is up high and student down low. But Jesus says that He will call them as friends. This suggests a more same level status. This doesn’t mean that Jesus is not higher than them. Rather it suggests how He wants to relate to them. It is reminiscent of Genesis 3 where it speaks of God, the Creator of the Universe, strolling around Paradise, the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve… as friends.

In addition to Jesus describing Himself as a friend to His followers, others describe Jesus as a friend of sinners. Please read with me Matthew 11:16-19

16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

17 “‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

Of course as we read this it is pretty evident that when some people call Jesus a friend of tax collectors and sinners, they are trying to insult Him. But is it true? We often think of God as one who is angry at sin and sinners. So how could it be that Jesus was a friend of sinners. I won’t try to totally answer this yet but perhaps we can first consider a few characteristics of friendship.

1. Friendship has an aspect of love to it. The Bible uses two words in the New Testament that point towards the love associated with friendship. At the Valentine seminar we talked a bit about this. One of these is Storge— this is affection or the love between friends. Another term is Phileo. This term is much broader but it includes the idea of brotherly love or the love between friends.

Jesus supports this idea in John 15. He said, Love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.

The greater the friendship, the greater the love.

2. Friendship is a choice.

I am from the United States, and we have a saying there, Blood is thicker than water

For years I thought that meant that family is more important than friendship. Blood means family, and water means… I don’t know something else. That was how I was taught it. I was surprised to find out that originally, the saying Blood is thicker than water meant exactly the opposite. To be brothers or sisters from the same family, meant to be brothers and sisters by water… meaning birth. To be brothers or sisters by friendship or choice was to be “blood brothers” or “blood sisters.”

Extremely close friends would often make a blood covenant. Some would prick their skin on the finger or palm or wrist and then bring them together with another to say, we are brothers (or sisters). We share the same blood. In the Middle East in ancient times some would even go further and drink each other’s blood. By the way, the Bible says don’t do that. When the Bible says not to eat blood, it is not really talking about Dinuguan, it was talking about drinking living blood— especially as a ritual.

The point is that we love our families because we kind of have to. We are required to, but also we it is actually built into us. But friendship is a choice. Jesus says in John 15, I chose you.

3. Friendship demonstrates itself in Mutual Service

Friends help each other out. Jesus says, You are my friends if you do what I command you. This sounds strange— more like a master-servant relationship, but Jesus goes on to explain to the effect that “You do what I ask NOT because of fear or duty like a servant, but because of friendship.”

Friends help each other out. They build each other up. They support each other. Friends make each other better.

As I noted, service is mutual. With friends, service is not lopsided. Jesus did not just say that they would serve Him. He also said He would serve them. In John 15, He hints that later He would do the ultimate act of services for them by laying down His life for them. He also would later model such service by washing the feet of His disciples.

As Paul said in Philippians 2

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,

Jesus came not just to be served, but to serve.

Mutuality is a two-way street. We love one another. We serve one another. We forgive one another. We bear one another’s burdens. We submit one to another.

All Biblical relationships, all godly relationships in the Bible, as far as I can see are built on mutuality. People are suppose to serve the king, but the king is also supposed to serve the people. Paul says in Ephesians 5 that wives are to submit to and serve the husband as the church submits to and serves Christ. But he also states that the husband is to submit to and serve the wife as Christ loves and sacrifices for the church.

A friendship that is one directional— is not a friendship.

Friendship is personal

There is a song called “He knows my name.” Talking about God, the song says,

I have a Father
He calls me His own
He'll never leave me
No matter where I go

He knows my name
He knows my every thought
He sees each tear that falls
And He hears me when I call

The phrase, “He knows my name” suggests that the relationship is personal. Jesus said don’t just think of God as Creator or as Lord, but as Father, a personal expression. Don’t just think of me as Savior, Lord, Teacher, Master, but as friend.

I teach in a seminary. The smallest class I have ever had was 1 student. The largest class was 55 students. My connection with them varies. One or two students I did not like. I did not like them because they were lazy, or cheated, or did not take their studies seriously. The rest I liked well enough. However, some of them would come up to me years later and say Hello to me and I would say Hello back, but I don’t remember them. Or more commonly, I recognize them but I can’t remember their name. But there are others I definitely remember their names, and some of these I would consider friends. I am happy to see them. I want to know what is going on in their lives. I am happy to help if there is need. As a teacher, I have many students, but most are not friends. Jesus wanted His students, His disciples, to have a relationship as friends.

Friendship shows itself in socialization. Friends spend time together.

The enemies of Jesus called Him a friend of sinners because He spent time eating and drinking with them. In fact, a number of times in the Gospels, Jesus is described as spending time, eating and drinking with many people— including those who were considered sinners. Friends invite each other to their homes, welcoming each other, spending time with each other.

It has been part of long-standing catholic tradition to never show the pope eating or drinking with others. I don’t really know why that is. I assume that everyone knows that the pope eats and drinks. I suspect it is because not being seen eating and drinking adds social distance… and that makes the pope seem more separated or, perhaps, holy.

But Jesus rejected that. He connected to others and demonstrated that by spending time with others, including eating and drinking with them.

One of the great verses in the Bible to me at least is Revelation 3:20. Jesus is talking to the church of Laodicea. That church was not fully dead, but not really alive either. Maybe it was a group of believers that just went through the motions of being a church. Jesus says to them:

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

Jesus is saying to the church. You are gathering as a church. You are singing, you are preaching, you are praying, but you forgot about me. Here I am outside and I am calling out to you. I want to be with you… and if I am invited into your home … we will eat together… as friends. This is part of the reason I like to call our gatherings where we eat “Love Feasts.” It is a spiritual activity… a gathering of Jesus’s friends… eating, drinking, socializing.

So I believe that these things help us understand friendship:

Friendship is driven by Love

Friendship is a relationship of Choice

Friendship is identified in mutual service

Friendship is Personal

Friendship is Social

If we wanted to turn this into one sentence, Friendship is a Voluntary, Personal Relationship based on love that shows itself in mutual help and support and positive social interaction.

But that brings us to the question I put off before. Jesus is a Friend to His Followers… but is it true that He is a friend of sinners?

#1. Yes. Jesus loves sinners. John 3:16 says that God loves the entire world. That includes sinners.

#5. Yes Jesus is happy to socialize with sinners. That was exactly what the enemies of Jesus were complaining about. That Jesus would spend time with sinners.

#2. Yes, Jesus seeks out sinners by choice. John 15 says that Jesus chose the disciples. He chose them as sinners. They were not perfect any more than you or I are perfect. In another passage when the enemies of Jesus complained that he ate with sinners, Jesus said that He did not come to seek the righteous, but to seek sinners.

#4. I believe that Jesus reaching out is always personal. When Zacchaeus, a tax collector and generally considered a sinner was trying to see Jesus, Jesus called him out by name and said that He wanted to go to his house. I believe that Jesus always reaches out personally.

#3. Jesus serves sinners. John 3:16 it says that Jesus sacrificed Himself for sinners. In Romans 5:8 it says that while we were still sinners, Jesus died for us.

But it is on #3, where there are some differences. Jesus said in John 15 I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.

Earlier it said that the disciples, friends of Jesus do as He commanded. So it seems to be that there are limitations. His followers can ask of God in His name. His followers, His friends obey Jesus… follow Jesus. So while Jesus does serve sinners (As in those not followers of Jesus) it is not fully mutual, and it is limited.

So I think I would say, that Jesus is Friends of His Followers… those who seek to follow Christ, obey His teachings, have accected His act of sacrifice for them.

And Jesus SEEKS to be friends of sinners. He acts as a friend would for them… in hopes that they will choose to follow Him and be a real friend.

Jesus is the Savior of the World. He is the Son of God. He is Lord and King. But He also seeks to have a personal, social relationship with us. To be our true friend who never fails.