Discover a Friend Worth Following: A Close Look at Jesus' Friendships
Friends rub off on you. Stick around them long enough and their likes, dislikes, perspectives, and priorities will influence your own. Depending on the quality of your friends, this is a good thing.
Usually when we think of Jesus' last days before the Cross, we remember His agony. But tucked away in the Passion Week are also snapshots of Jesus with His dearest friends. He loved these people, and they loved Him back. He leaned hard on them for support during His last days.
Just six days before Passover, Jesus' best friends - Mary, Martha, and Lazarus — threw a dinner in His honor (John 12:1-8). In usual fashion, Martha worked and Lazarus played host. Only Mary realized this was His "going away" party. She heard His words and believed the impossible — He was going to die. While the others lived in denial, Mary did what only a friend could do; she grieved.
Taking fragrant burial oil worth a full year's salary, Mary lavished it on Jesus' feet. Her sacrifice seemed small in light of what she knew He was about to do for her. She would not always have Him there, so she did all she could for Him at this difficult time. Days later, Jesus would be stripped of everything except for the fragrance of Mary's friendship, still clinging to Him as He hung on the cross.
Jesus' friendship with Peter probably kept Jesus smiling. He knew what was ahead for His friend. So when Peter denied, Jesus prayed. When Peter failed, Jesus forgave. And when Jesus suffered, Peter followed...from a distance, for sure, but he followed. That faithfulness, born from Jesus' forgiveness, would set the pattern of his life.
Of course, Jesus had many more snapshots in His album from that last week: His friend John, who stood with His mother by the side of the cross (John 19:26-27). Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who took down His broken body from the cross (John 19:38-40). Mary Magdalene, who came so early on the first day to bury His body (John 20:1). And the of course, there were Peter and John, Jesus' closest friends, who ran at full speed to get to Jesus' empty tomb that first Easter morning (John 20:2-4). They came to protect their Friend's body, yet they left in awe upon realizing the miracle of His resurrection. John later writes of their experience in his gospel:
Simon Peter therefore also came, following him [John], and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth, which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself...[They] saw and believed. (John 20:6-8, emphasis added)
Each friend responded to Jesus, not out of religious obligation, but out of committed love. Jesus had rubbed off on them. A few weeks later, after Jesus' ascension, Acts 4:13 says the following of the men in the temple,
When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (NIV)
So the question remains: Has Jesus' life rubbed off on you? Just as the men in the temple noticed a difference in Peter and John, will your friends notice a difference when you've spent time with Jesus?
Want to Be a Godly Friend?
Ask yourself the following questions in regard to your relationship with one of your friends.
- Is your love for your friend stronger now than it was a few months ago? (John 13:34)
- Do you sincerely consider your friend's need to be more urgent than your own? (Philippians 2:3-4)
- Do you readily forgive your friend when he or she irritates or offends you? (Colossians 3:13)
- Do you challenge your friend in a positive way to live a pure, holy, and obedient life? (Romans 14:19, Hebrews 3:13)
- Do you pray for your friend? (Ephesians 6:18, James 5:16)
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34)
From Insights Vol. 10, No. 4. April 2000.
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