Friend to the End
The term Friend is defined as, “a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.”
True friends are few and far between, lifetime friends are downright rare. In the journey of life, friends seem to come and go. Even those closest and best childhood friends, the ones we grew up with, the ones we thought would be there forever don’t always last. They may still be “friends,” but often by title only. We grow up, get married, move away, follow a career or have kids, whatever the circumstance, we aren’t as close as we used to be. Maybe it’s a phone call a couple times a year, or a random text message here and there, or maybe a class reunion every ten years or so that we are basing their title of friend on. But not exactly a friend as defined above or even someone who has a day-to-day impact in our lives. Friends we make as adults are good as well, but typically there isn’t that soul string attachment like the ones from childhood or college. Often by the time we’re adults, we consider our spouse our best friend, and that’s a real blessing to have someone we can rely on and do life with. However, a spouse falls outside of the definition above as well. That true bond as defined above is rare. To me a friend is someone I choose to associate with, someone I choose to serve and love with no expectations, conditions or obligations.
When we think of Jesus we may not think of Him as a “real” friend, after all, it is a lot of one-way conversations. Plus, how can I think of Jesus, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, as my personal friend. Its more feasible to see Jesus as a close friend in the Bible to the people He was with. He was walking and talking and literally there with them in the flesh, doing life with them. Guys like Peter and John, we can see the close friendship there. It’s much more difficult for us to have those same feelings of close friendship when we haven’t seen or conversed with Jesus face to face. Many people hear about this “relationship with Christ” thing and don’t get it. Sometimes they may even end up just going through the motions, doing what they think they are supposed to do to be in relationship with Christ. Someone can accept Christ as Savior, they can be baptized, even pray and go to Church but none of those things mean they truly know Jesus as a friend. It’s amazing to think, Jesus is my Lord, my Savior, my God, and ultimately the one I will answer to at the judgement seat, but He’s also my friend. And He wants to be my friend to the end. We tend to separate friendship from authority, but Jesus doesn’t. If we begin to feel far from Christ, its because we are moving away from Him, He’s not moving away from us. His desire for us doesn’t change over time or wear thin, He’s forever seeking us. But the key is that we have to choose to BELIEVE and RECEIVE His love and friendship. Jesus is the friend of sinners, He’s the friend of anyone who will receive His offer of friendship.
Jeremiah 29:11-14 says,
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the Lord. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes.
This concept isn’t limited to certain people, it’s all inclusive. We have to take that promise at face value, Jesus wants a relationship with you, with me, with the inmate, with the adulterer, with the murderer, with the LBGT community, with the born and unborn, the thief, the rapist, the pedophile, EVERYONE. There is no one outside of Jesus Christs parameters, there is no limit to the people Jesus wants. And He wants us all for one simple reason, to make us HIS. The idea isn’t to come to Jesus and stay the same, the idea is to come to Jesus and get freed from all the stuff that held us in bondage. The idea is true freedom in Jesus Christ that can be found nowhere else. The only prerequisite is that we must want it as well.
Those who have known Christ and feel distant from Him, He still wants you too. Jesus doesn’t get tired of us. He never gets bored with us. We can’t exhaust Him with our same ole stories, problems or sins, He’s not impatient with us, or looking to move on to someone more exciting or more deserving of Him. Even when we try to manipulate Him or deceive Him, He’s still ready to take us back at the moment we are willing.
If we want to truly see Jesus as a friend to the end, we can look at the relationships He had with the disciples especially during His arrest, trial and crucifixion. In John 13 we see Jesus and the disciples before the Passover celebration, during the last supper in the upper room. The Book of John is the only Gospel record that mentions this teaching.
Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” “No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!” Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.” Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!” Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.” After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.
We see Christ going around the room, serving each disciple personally. Jesus says, in verse 13, “And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.” As we discussed last week, Jesus is the greatest servant of all. If we want to be in Christ we must follow the example He set and serve others well. Jesus is the friend of sinners, so He served sinners, now He is asking us to do the same, all the people Christ wants to reach with His love are people we should be looking for opportunities to serve, the ones I listed above.
But that’s not the whole story here. Did you notice in John 13, Jesus stops to wash Judas Iscariots feet too? Judas is the perfect picture of a trader, a sinner, a guy you don’t want to associate with. We know that Judas was already planning to betray Jesus, in fact, the betrayal was already in motion at the time of the feet washing. Judas was basically just waiting for the right moment to pull the trigger on the plan, and Jesus knew it the whole time. He made several references to it during the meal, yet Jesus still washed Judas’ feet and served him. I can’t imagine it. If I knew one of you sitting at this table was going to have a hand in betraying and murdering me, I don’t know if I’d be able to serve you and love you the same as I would everyone else. Jesus is the perfect friend, I am not. No matter who we are or what we’ve done or what were planning to do, Jesus is committed to us, He passionate about pursuing us, and He’s always leaning towards us to capture our hearts. Even as wicked and evil as Judas was, Jesus stayed the same, He still loved him. His love knows no end, Jesus doesn’t just “do” love, He is love. He can’t stop loving because He can’t deny Himself. He pursues us even when His love has been betrayed.
The height of Judas’ evil only proves the depth of Jesus’ love. Judas’ scandalous betrayal only highlights Jesus’ scandalous grace. The Bible is full of examples of God pursuing people who didn’t deserve His love. He chased after people who committed the worst mistakes imaginable, because He is the friend of sinners and that’s what He does.
He pursued Moses with the burning bush, even after he murdered a man.
He pursued David with a prophet from God, even after he committed adultery and murder.
He pursued Jonah with a fish, even after he disobeyed the word of the Lord.
He pursued Lazarus with the resurrection power, even after he’d been in the tomb four days.
He pursued Peter with a breakfast on the beach, even after he had denied Him three times.
He pursued Thomas with nail holes in His hands, even after he had doubted Him.
He pursued Paul with a blinding light from Heaven, even after he had killed Jesus followers.
He pursued Judas by washing his feet, even as His love was being betrayed.
Can we realize the extent of Jesus’ love for us? Can we possibly comprehend how serious Jesus is about knowing us and loving us?
He is pursuing every person on the planet with the gift of salvation, even after we choose sin.
If we allow Jesus to tear down our walls of who deserves it and who doesn’t, we can be the ones Jesus uses to reach out to people. We can love and befriend them. We can tell them about His loving kindness to us. We can live our lives in a way that is noticeably different and more peaceful/joyful than the world.
While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him. Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.
A few hours after the last supper, Jesus was in the olive grove called Gethsemane with His disciple (Matthew 26:36-46). He knew His time had come to be arrested. Jesus bowed His head to the ground and prayed. He asked God to take the cup of suffering, then prayed that God have His will be done. As Jesus returned to the disciples, He saw Judas in the distance and said, “Look, my betrayer is here!”
A crowd of thugs and soldiers rushed in armed with swords and clubs. Judas steped forward and gave Jesus the kiss of betrayal. At that moment, Jesus said something that is almost impossible for me to comprehend. In verse 50, Jesus replied to Judas, “Do what you came for, friend.”
Friend? Why would Jesus choose that term? He knew the greed and evil in Judas’ heart. He knew the pain that was coming, He knew all of it, yet He still called Judas “FRIEND”? Can you imagine what Judas must have felt when he heard that? Jesus called the man who was in the middle of betraying Him, friend. Judas probably thought Jesus would hate him for this, and that may have made things easier for Judas. “Friend” would end up being the last thing Jesus ever said to Judas. Jesus loved him to the end. Less than 24 hours later Judas, overcome by guilt, committed suicide. Meanwhile Jesus was led to the cross to die for the sins of humanity. The ultimate proof of His friendship with sinners.
Jesus loves us with the same commitment, passion and consistency He loved Judas with, all the way to the end. Jesus’ message of unconditional friendship to sinners is the foundation of our walk with Him. I’m so glad our level of love for God doesn’t determine His level of love for us. Jesus is faithful, He came to us, He pursued us, He restored us, and He will never leave us or forget us. He is the friend of sinners, and when we accept His love, friendship and grace, we become friends for all of eternity.