The Friendship of Christ
12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17This is my command: Love each other.
A Sunday School teacher was concerned that her students not be disturbed by a new girl with a partial arm amputation or treat her in an ugly manner. "We want Renee to feel natural and not have attention put on her disability", the teacher told the children. – On the first Sunday with Renee there, things went well between the children, but the teacher had the class close with the familiar hand exercise: "This is the church, and this is the steeple; Open the doors and see all the people!" Realizing too late what she had done, the teacher cast an anxious glance at Renee. Her eyes welled up with sentimental tears as she saw that a boy was weaving his fingers between those on Renee's one hand.
That's the kind of life episode that gives everyone a glowing warm feeling and makes us want to be kinder and friendlier to those around us. It certainly is needful for human relationships! As Christian people, though, we don't merely want to give others an impression that we're nothing but "sentimental fools" or that Christianity is just a sharing of warm emotions. We want to be yielded as God's instruments to effectively assist others in coming to a full relationship with Jesus Christ; something that goes far beyond just nice feelings! We want people to know Christ's personal friendship for them, as we ourselves have received it from Him.
Today the aim will be to consider certain characteristics of the friendship Christ has extended to us and for the world, and realizing those truths, be encouraged and emboldened ourselves to extend that friendship to others:
THREE CHARACTERISTICS OF CHRIST'S FRIENDSHIP
It begins with Him
The first characteristic to note about the friendship of Christ, or God, is that any person's relationship with God is always begun from His side. Jesus told His followers "You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you."
Luther's Catechism accurately summarizes the Bible's true teaching when it states that human beings are by nature, at birth, "spiritually blind, dead and enemies of God." Not only do we engage in sinful behavior in our thoughts and words and deeds, but from Adam we all inherited what Scripture identifies as being "dead in trespasses and sin" We have an inherent condition, in other words, as well as participating in actual sins. This nature in us hates, distrusts and is afraid of God! That's the polar opposite of any inner-attitude that would sincerely seek after God as our Ally or Friend.
"That which is born of the flesh is flesh" and cannot, does not, will not make itself spiritual. Friendship with God is always initiated by Him!
Some Bible scholars think that Abraham's father was an idol-maker. That would mean that Abraham was a heathen when his first contact with the real God was made. - It was in fact God who made first contact and simply chose by grace for Abraham to receive His promise and blessing, and then through Abraham to bless others. The friendship of God, or Christ, begins with Him!
He Shares Himself Intimately
second aspect of Christ's friendship is that it includes sharing important information. The Text says: "The servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you 'friends,' for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you." There Jesus was talking about sharing or imparting intimate kinds of things that you ordinarily don't do with just anybody! He was hinting at a high level of respect and trust.
The friendship of Jesus does entrust to His friends the deepest details and His own most intimate feelings, which also show the heart of God the Father! His friendship reveals to people real knowledge of God!
Exodus Chapter 33 shows how this was a rather restricted privilege in former times. "The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face as a man speaks to a friend", it says.
As God began working out His special covenant with Abraham, there was this episode in Genesis 18: "The Lord said, 'Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do (to Sodom)...? No, for I have known him'". It gave Abraham the opportunity to intercede on behalf of the city's inhabitants.
"I know My own, and My own know Me", Jesus said. The friendship of Jesus means being privileged to look right into the very heart of Almighty God!
He Gave the Highest Form of Friendship
Christ's friendship, thirdly, included His commitment to exhibiting friendship's highest expression. "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends," Jesus teaches us.
All humanity realizes what a "heavy" concept that is, whether knowing it as a quote from Jesus or not. When we hear it, we may instinctively look inside ourselves and wonder, "Could I do that?" "What kind of situation could come about that I might be put to that test? "Will I ever face a time that needs so great a love from me?"
What we remember about Jesus, of course, is that HEdidn't just teach or claim the need, but laid down His own life! – What an expression of love that He took on human flesh in the first place! Just to have become one of us was incredible, but that wasn't enough for Him to show us His friendship. He came to practice what He taught to the uttermost extreme!
Laying down His life was no accident or suddenly pressed decision with no time to think. It was a committed, deliberate, calculated action of Christ's friendship for all. – Not mushy sentiment, but a slow, humiliating, torturous death on a cross of rough hewn wood, where He not only gave up physical life, but alone suffered the eternal sum of all God's wrath at sin!
Christ's friendship is beyond our ability or understanding; dying and suffering hell because of our sin and rebellion, yet also doing it on our behalf! – After His body laid in a stone cave for three days, though, He was restored to His full, complete and now glorified life in the body. He wants YOU to share with Him in that Life too! – He surely promises it to you, as you trust Him for forgiveness through His having laid down His life. No sin is too great or low-down for Him. He already took on Himself the whole world's punishment and the "Living Hope" of Easter is what it all finally comes down to.
Share Christ's Friendship - The reason
Jesus now requires, "Love one another as I have loved you. You are My friends if you do what I command you. Go and bear fruit. This I command you, to love one another." – We can't discount history's record of wars and violence committed in the Name of Christ. People understandably develop a false impression of Christ and His friendship when His Name is invoked as a sponsor of such acts. It doesn't follow, though, that Jesus shouldn't be introduced to others at all!
Receiving Christ's friendship and love for ourselves leaves no option about it. Our lives are redirected, laying down all our self-serving ambitions and goals for the one all important purpose of bringing other people to know and grow in this unearned friendship that we ourselves have already received by grace. – On the same night Jesus spoke the words of the Text, He prayed that we be so enveloped in the friendship He gave us from the Father that, "the world may believe that Thou has sent Me." He seeks to be the Friend of SINNERS!
It seems apparent in case after case that people who begin a new and active church-life (where they had none before) do so simply because a friend invited them to church. That requires no deep, planned theological presentation, or even any explaining at all(!). Just a simple invitation to come to church! – Would you consider asking God for the strength to help you identify someone and at the least, do that much to extend Christ's friendship? The insert in today's bulletin is intended to assist in that effort. May I ask you to show what Christ is worth to you by prayerfully using that insert and planning to invite others to church here?
Please know that inviting others is a concern and encouragement that, Lord willing, I intend to bring up again from time to time as God leads us into the future together! Amen.