Easter 6 – St. John 15:7-19
According to the current social media statistics, I am friends with LCMS President Matt Harrison; as well as several seminary and college professors, and other LCMS higher-ups. Pretty impressive company if I do say so myself.
I am sure some of you can say the same: is KU coach Bill Self your friend? Or how about K-State coach Bill Schneider? What about Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer of the Royals?
It is nice to have such famous friends that you can call on and share your ideas and opinions with about things going on in the world, and know that they might have the ear of the Governor or even the President to enact the changes that you would like to see.
Of course, they are not really your friends are they?
I am sure if they met you, came to your house, rode in the car with you, they might be your friend, or just as likely, you both might come to the conclusion that you are not really friends after all.
In this time of graduation, there is the promise made between friends that they will stay in touch forever. How many actually do? When the annual get together of alumni occurs, how many of those friends will you find that you have not kept in touch with as you once thought you would?
As it turns out, not all friends are created equal.
Some friends are strictly virtual, you have met them only briefly, if at all. Other friends are temporary, only around when there is a common cause, or common experience that draws you together. Some friends are of the family variety; siblings, or cousins, or even parents can transcend the bond of blood and become not just relatives, but friends.
And then there are those still other friends, special friends that extend beyond the connections of internet and phone lines; they are there from the day you meet until the day you die. Sometimes they are the friends who will not go away, other times they are the friends who cannot come fast enough.
What kind of friend then is Jesus?
On the surface, you immediately say that Jesus is a different friend entirely from all of the other friends you have in your life. And yet, is that true?
How often is Jesus only a virtual friend? You are more than willing to pass along emails and pictures that demand others do the same, if they are truly Jesus friend; and yet, when the invitation is extended by our Lord to come to His house and to offer prayer and praise, when He offers the gifts of forgiveness and His body and blood to you, well, then maybe Jesus is not that good of a friend, as invitations from other friends to do other things take precedence.
After all, Jesus is a friend, but when you go to His house, He tends to have a lot of things to say about how you live your life; and according to the rules of friends, friends are not supposed to judge.
Which tends to make Jesus a long lost friend. You were great friends with Jesus for years, you did everything together: confirmation, youth group, Sunday School, even adult Bible class, LWML, and voters. But then life got busy, school and a car and other opportunities came along. The new kids in town had newer and cooler toys; there was money to be made; and you discovered this magical thing called sleeping in.
You saw Jesus years later, perhaps at a wedding, or baptism, or maybe even on Christmas Eve or Easter; and He looked the same. And you asked yourself, how come you grew up and improved so much, and yet Jesus did not change at all? Jesus still had the same Bible, the same hymnal, even the same message you remember from years ago. What is up with Jesus?
Which tends to make Jesus a family friend, like a cousin or sibling or parent. You are connected to your family by blood; like it or not, and you cannot get away from them. You love them, you desire what is best for them; but sometimes you have family that you would not have connected with in any other fashion were it not for family reunions.
And that ends up being the same with Jesus: you were baptized, so you have a connection to Jesus, and when you visit family, they pray before meals, and so you are tied to Jesus in a way that you would otherwise never be. Jesus is that relative that you occasionally see, who you would probably rather not see.
Such is the power of sin; taking a bond formed between you and Jesus that should be forever, and twisting and distorting it beyond measure, so that when you look at Jesus, sometimes you wonder how you ever became friends in the first place, let alone why you do not just un-friend Him right now.
The reality is that you are not really the best of friends to Jesus.
But what about the reverse; what kind of friend is Jesus to you?
Is He a virtual friend who has some blurry connection to you? Is He a long lost friend who randomly sent you a Christmas card one year? Or is He a family friend, who really wishes He was not your friend at all?
As it turns out, Jesus is none of those friends; instead, as we noted earlier: Jesus is a very different type of friend indeed.
Jesus is a friend who dies for you.
How many of your friends can you say that about? How many would say it about you?
The answer is probably none on both accounts; and yet you do have one friend who did give His life for you.
For your friend Jesus saw that you were trapped in a cycle of sin and death; a cycle that you could not escape on your own; a cycle that no other friend could save you from, and in fact a cycle that some friends were pulling you deeper into. And so your friend Jesus, left His place of honor and glory and power, and came to earth to bear the full punishment of suffering and death that was rightfully yours, so that you might have what is rightfully His: a place forever in eternal life.
That is the type of friend that Jesus is to you.
For Jesus is a friend that does not just show up when you need something; Jesus was there when the world was created.
Jesus is not just a friend that you hope will come bail you out when you get in trouble; Jesus is a friend who stands before His Father in heaven, pointing to the holes in His hands feet and side, pleading for your forgiveness.
Jesus is not just a friend who once a year sends you a birthday wish; instead Jesus is a friend who comes to you each and every Lord’s Day, offering you His body and blood to nourish you and refresh you for life in this world.
Jesus is not just a friend that will keep you in mind when things are going rough; for Jesus hears all of your prayers, and He walks with you through those times when you feel that you are all alone.
And finally, Jesus is not just a friend who does this today, nor is He just a friend who does this for a short period of time in your life. Jesus does this every day for your entire life; and He has promised to do so even in eternal life. For Jesus does not just want to be friends for high school, or friends until something better comes along; Jesus wants to be your friend for all eternity in His kingdom that never ends.
That is the type of friend that Jesus is to you.
Jesus is a different kind of friend from all those other virtual friends, school friends and family friends you have made along the way. Jesus is a friend that you want to tell all of your other friends about; for Jesus is the best friend you could ever have, for Jesus is a friend that saves you and grants you eternal life.