John 15:9-17 New International Version (NIV)
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 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. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I 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. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good
things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such
love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above
all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we
can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
This is our 4th and last week of seeing Jesus in the common. The first week we learned about seeing Jesus in the broken bread, and how it is that we can understand Christ best in fellowship. Then we talked about seeing Jesus in the Good Shepherd and how he is with us in our deepest need and darkest moments. Last week we thought about seeing Jesus in the vine – and how that looks like sustenance and provision so that we can bear fruit.
This week as we close out this short series, we will talk about Jesus as a friend.
Did you know that Facebook limits the number of friends you can have? Yes, they have capped you to just 5000 people in your circle of influence.
It’s ridiculous of course to think you can have 5000 people that you are actually friends with. In fact, Oxford University has said that our brains actually limit us to 150 friends that we can keep actual tabs on, know things about, and the Dunbar number (that’s what that 150 is) is based on the idea that there are only so many people you can care about and contact (not just like a status) at least once a year.
If you actually tried to keep in touch with 5000 people in real life, you would not be able to do pretty much anything else. Facebook allows us to have more people we are loosely affiliated with in a specific way, without necessarily having to be deeply connected or actively engaged with on a regular basis – they give you a shout out for your birthday, you reciprocate – and unless you engage and talk with them on a regular basis, you can in this way “know” people you went to high school with, work with, and even sometimes go to church with.
When Jesus tells us he is our friend in this passage, he’s not talking about a Facebook friendship at all – he is talking about the kind of friend who is there for you, but who calls you out when you mess up, who supports you when things are dreary or wrong, but who also keeps you from drowning in self-pity. Scripture gives us pictures of what it means to be friends with God – from the Garden before the fall, when God would find Adam and Eve and walk with them in the cool of the evening. In Abraham’s wanderings, when God visited and told him of plans to eradicate Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as promising a son in his old age. In the story of David and Jonathan, we find a friendship deep and compelling – as one man’s father hunts to kill the other man, they sacrifice much and love each other like brothers. We see friendship even more clearly in the Gospels – in fact part of the Good News of the scripture is that our friendship with Jesus is rooted in the deep and powerful love he has for us. The love that brought him from heaven to earth to a cross and showed for us the victory over death that is represented by an empty grave in a garden.
One of the keys to real friendship is love – and unconditional love – but love that is reciprocal. So as we discuss our friendship with Jesus, the key question we will be working from is this: Is our friendship with Jesus a real one or a Facebook one?
I am using facebook as a picture of superficial friends – I’m sure you have REAL friends who are also facebook friends – but the fundamental difference between what I am calling real friends and facebook friends is the depth of the connection – the weight of that friendship.
Facebook friends will post pictures and you will like them, but you don’t know the truth of the story. You won’t see that three seconds before the selfie the toddler was biting his sister who was pulling mom’s hair who was screaming at dad who was looking at the cute blonde walking by – all you see is the snapshot of a family. From that you think you know them…but a REAL friend knows that they are struggling. A real friend is invited into that moment and soothes the baby, reminds the couple of their love for each other, and scolds the toddler. That kind of friend is engaged and the family is not afraid to show that friend who they are – because they are friends. That is the kind of friend Jesus is – one who knows our struggles, but not only that, one who wants us to show him our struggles. We can be vulnerable with Jesus, we can be transparent with him – and he will walk with us in that moment.
Facebook friends have a lot of opinions, hopefully some that our different than ours, hopefully some that make us think about our own positions. Facebook friends share fake news. Facebook friends give us information based on their experiences, but don’t necessarily care if that experience matches what we need or want or can use at that moment.
A real friend tells us what we need to know. A real friend is invested in truth – truth that instructs and builds and helps. Jesus IS truth – his truth is that his love and grace and mercy are bigger than our hates and sins and doubts and fears. His truth is available to us – but if we are truly friends – how often do we give our truth to him and let him transform it. How often do we recognize our limits and weaknesses and sins and give them to him? How often do we really let his truth become ours, how often do we allow his truth to invade our hearts and minds in such a way that it becomes embodied in us.
Facebook friends are those who we may know in real life, but most are not the ones that we are intentional about spending time with. Facebook friendships are built on clicking reacts or posting a gif: they have no substance, no depth, no relationship.
A real friend comes over for dinner. They are part of our lives in real ways – they eat with us, live their lives with us. Real friends are active and vital parts of our actual reality on a regular basis.
Jesus, too, invites us to his table – it’s why we celebrate it every week – but we have to also invite him to ours. Being a friend of Jesus requires us to allow him to be a part of what we are doing all week, not just on Sunday. In Acts, Paul says of God as he speaks to a group of philosophers: “In him we move and breathe and find our being, we are his offspring” This is very different than a casual interaction. This is more than a Sunday morning go-to-meeting relationship – it is instead a deep and full relationship that requires our daily interaction with each other. There is a reason God uses marriage and parent/child relationships as metaphors for our relationship with Jesus – because we are to be the best kind of friends, the kind of friends who talk every day, who whisper I love you in the dark and know that our friend has heard. The kind who walk together in the joys and sorrows and who forgive and who lean in. The kind where Jesus gave his life for ours. The kind where abundance is found in trusting and loving and seeing Jesus closely and beautifully and wonderfully.
As we come to the table today, we come in celebration of this friendship. We come recognizing how magnificent and wonderful it is that this friendship is not just Jesus loving us, but us loving Jesus enough to live in relationship with him, too.
We come to the table knowing there is room for us to love deeper and to live more fully as friends of Jesus – this Jesus who gave us his very body and blood in exchange for our abundant lives.