We’ve been talking about why different people came to Jesus. We’ve been looking at the Gospels at the stories of why different people decided to begin following Jesus: reasons like calling, forgiveness, answers, and healing. I love these stories because they’re so real. We’ve been applying some of these reasons to today: people today choose to follow Jesus for the same reasons.
Today we’re looking at another reason why people began to follow Jesus. Some people follow Jesus because they’re looking for a friend. They don’t always express it that way, and sometimes they’re not even aware that it’s happening. But a lot of people come to Jesus because they need someone to be their friend. Jesus is the friend who never lets you down.
The amazing thing is that when Jesus came to earth, Jesus became actual friends with certain people. Imagine what it would be like to be friends with Jesus – to have him over for dinner; to chat with him at length about your problems; to be able to kick back and relax and enjoy his company. A lot of people had relationships with Jesus, but a few people were really close to him. John 11:5 says, “Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.” They were his friends who lived in a place called Bethany, not too far from Jerusalem. Whenever Jesus had a chance, he would stop by and visit with them, and stay for a few days. When Lazarus died, Jesus cried with grief. Jesus was good friends with this family, and he loved to visit them, just as you might love to pack up your car and stay with some good friends for a weekend. That was the sort of relationship that Jesus enjoyed with them.
Not long before he died, Jesus told his disciples, “You are my friends” (John 15:5). Imagine what it would have been like to hear Jesus say, “Hey, you’re my friend. You’re my pal.” But even among the disciples, Jesus had three closer friends: Peter, James, and John. When Jesus was in need, or when Jesus wanted to just get away with his closest friends, these would be the three that he would take with them. But even among this group, Jesus had a close friend. This was the person in the Bible who’s called “one of Jesus’ disciples, the one Jesus loved” (John 13:23). Jesus was like all of us. He was drawn to certain people. There were some people that he turned to when he wanted to be alone with his good friends, to be relationally recharged, to be with his close friends. Jesus was God but he was also fully human, and he had the same relational needs that we all have.
As you look at the Bible, it’s fascinating to see how Jesus related to people. Jesus knew how to be a friend. And the amazing thing is that Jesus doesn’t limit himself to the amount of friends that he has today. Two thousand years ago, he was limited. He couldn’t be friends with everyone. There was just a limit – he only had so much time, and so much energy. But today, Jesus has opened himself up to friendship with everyone. We can be friends with Jesus. He is the type of friend who will never let you down.
Luke 2:52 says, “So Jesus grew both in height and in wisdom, and he was loved by God and by all who knew him.” Jesus was an absolute expert at relationships. The Bible says that Jesus grew in his relationship with others. He grew in his ability to touch other people’s lives; to love others; to make a difference in who people were.
In fact, if you open your Bible to one of the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – you’ll find that Jesus spent his life with people. Look on any page, and you see Jesus relating to people. If Jesus had a Day Timer, it would be full of people. His life was filled with touching people’s lives, of meeting their needs. That’s the kind of person that he was. Jesus wasn’t friends with all of those people – he couldn’t be. But he cared about them. He cares about you.
What I find amazing in the Bible is all of the people who wanted to be around Jesus. You read of crowds of up to 10,000 or more people coming to see him. You see people inviting Jesus over for dinner, coming up to him, asking him questions. You see little kids wanting to hang around Jesus. What made people want to hang around Jesus? What made him the kind of person that people want to be with?
Why did Jesus attract people so? I want to look at some of the qualities that made Jesus a good friend two thousand years ago. Remember, Jesus was limited in how many friendships he could have back then, but he isn’t anymore. Jesus can be your friend today. What are the qualities that make Jesus a good friend? Five of them:
1. JESUS PUTS OTHERS FIRST
One of the qualities that makes Jesus a good friend is that Jesus is puts others first. Nobody likes to be around a person who is selfish or self-centered. We can’t stand when others are like this – we can’t even stand ourselves when we’re selfish. Have you ever been around someone who talks about themselves, but never asks about you? They’re self-centered. They’re obnoxious. But Jesus wasn’t like this. Jesus had every right to be self-centered, because he is the center. He is God. He had every right to be self-centered, but he wasn’t. Jesus always put others first.
Jesus once said, “I, the Son of Man, came here not to be served but to serve others” (Matthew 20:28). There’s one qualification for being a servant: you’ve got to put others first. When you’re a servant, you ignore your own needs and desires and focus on the needs of others. You do what they don’t want to do. You put them first. Jesus was like this. He could have demanded that others serve him. After all, he’s God. But Jesus never did this. Jesus instead chose to serve others. He chose to put them first.
One of the worst jobs I had was working at a kid’s shoe store. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a chance to work with kids’ smelly feet. Kids really aren’t into hygiene in their extremities. They come in with sweaty socks, muddy feet, the works. The worst thing is, the kids know that they’ve got you. They know that you don’t want to even touch their feet. But you’re there, you’ve got to measure them up, you’ve got to try on the shoes.
Back in Jesus’ day, when you arrived at someone’s house, the household servant would come out and wash everyone’s feet. The roads were dusty, and it was common courtesy. As you can imagine, this job usually got passed to the lowliest household servant – the one with the least seniority. This was the lowest, most demeaning service that could be required of any person.
When the disciples – Jesus’ followers – got together, there was a problem. There was no servant to do this menial task. They were all probably saying, “I’m not touching his feet. No way I’m going to do that job.” To wash the other’s feet would have been an admission of inferiority. But Jesus didn’t think this way. The Bible says, “Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God” (John 13:3). Jesus knew his place in the order of things. He wasn’t just the most superior person in that room; he was the person with the most authority in the universe. The next verse says, “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 and to wipe them with the towel he had around him” (John 13:4-5). That’s a beautiful picture of Jesus. He has every right not to be humble. He has every right not to serve others. But Jesus voluntarily chooses to put others first.
When you read the Bible, you see that Jesus talked to all kinds of people – children, homeless people, sick people, visible minorities, those who were marginalized. He also talked to those who were rich and powerful. Jesus treated them all the same. Jesus never looked down on any of them. He approached all of them exactly the same. The Bible says about Jesus, “He will not crush those who are weak, or quench the smallest hope” (Matthew 12:20). No wonder people love Jesus. Jesus is the ultimate servant. Even though Jesus is the King of Kings, he became a servant for you and for me. Eve n though he is first in the universe, he came to put our needs ahead of his own. That’s the first quality that makes Jesus such a good friend. There’s a second quality that makes Jesus such a good friend…
2. JESUS MAKES HIMSELF AVAILABLE
That’s one of the qualities of Jesus that has always amazed me. Jesus was never in a rush. There were times that Jesus got away from the crowds to be alone with God, but Jesus made himself available to people and their needs. The pages of the Bible are full of Jesus dealing with people’s needs – their physical needs, their emotional needs, their spiritual needs. Jesus makes himself available to the people that really need him.
Jesus didn’t see his contacts with people as interruptions. It’s embarrassing to me how often I see my contacts with people as interruptions. We’re even taught this in time management classes. How to get people off the phone. But not just at the office – even at home. We could be reading the paper or watching television or working on some important project, and when want our attention, we think it’s an interruption. We tell them to go away and we’ll deal with it later.
A few years ago, I went through a period in which I needed some friends. I called two of my friends up right away. I said, “I need your help. I really need to lean on you right now.” Both of my friends were busy. What if they had said, “We’re a little tied up right now. We have some time available next month. Do you think you could schedule your crisis then?” Do you think they’d still be my friends if they had said that? Not likely. When you go through a time of crisis, that’s when you need a friend available.
Jesus took time for people. A woman touched Jesus on the way to heal somebody. Jesus stopped and said, “Who touched me?” It’s one of those moments that all the disciples give each other the same look that your teenage kids give each other when you say something that doesn’t make sense to them. They say, “Master, this whole crowd is pressing up against you.” But Jesus says, “No, someone deliberately touched me, for I felt healing power go out from me” (Luke 8:45-46). Jesus knew there was a need that he addressed, and he took the time to stop and address it. Jesus made the time.
Another time, Jesus was walking and a blind man beside the road yelled out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Some of the people in the crowd yelled back at him, “Be quiet!” But when Jesus heard him, he said, “Tell him to come here,” and then he said to the man, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:47-51). And then Jesus healed him. He has the power to heal. He made the time to stop and to deal with a need, even though he was heading somewhere else.
Jesus often took time for those that others ignored – children, lepers, the blind, lame, beggars. Jesus made time for people that the others overlooked. When Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, he passed through Jericho and saw a short guy in the tree named Zacchaeus. He didn’t say, “Excuse me! I’m on my way to Jerusalem. I’ve got a really important appointment.” He said, “Zacchaeus! Quick, come down! For I must be a guest in your home today” (Luke 19:5). Jesus made time for people.
I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about the fact that Jesus is never hurried. He’s always available to you. Once he becomes your friend, he has said, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). Thousands of years ago, a prophet asked of another false god, “Perhaps he is deep in thought, or he is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip, or he is asleep and needs to be wakened!” (1 Kings 18:27) Jesus isn’t like that. He’s always available for us today. The Bible says that God never tires and never sleeps (Psalm 121:4). That’s one quality that makes Jesus such a good friend. Jesus makes himself available to those who need them.
There’s another quality that attracts people to Jesus:
3. JESUS PRAYS FOR HIS FRIENDS
That’s what makes Jesus a good friend. Jesus prays for other people. In Matthew 19:13, little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. The disciples tried to turn them away – “Jesus doesn’t have time for little kids!” But Jesus rebuked the disciples. He said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). He laid his hands on them and he blessed them. It was his priority. You can tell a lot about a person by how they treat children, or those that others think are a waste of time. Jesus had time for them. It was his priority to pray for them.
John 17 is a great chapter of the Bible. We usually call another prayer that Jesus gave the Lord’s Prayer. I think a better name for that prayer would be the Disciple’s Prayer, because Jesus gave it to his disciples (his followers) to pray. The real Lord’s Prayer is in John 17. It’s all a prayer of Jesus. The night before he dies, he takes a whole chapter and prays for people’s lives – for your lives. You’re even in that prayer. Jesus said, “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me because of their testimony” (John 17:20). Jesus prayed for others.
The amazing thing is that Jesus is still praying for us today. He’s praying for you. Hebrews 7:25 says, “He’s there from now to eternity to save everyone who comes to God through him, always on the job to speak up for them” (The Message). Romans 8:34 says of Jesus, “He is the one who died for us and was raised to life for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us.” Jesus is called our great High Priest. In the Old Testament, the High Priest used to go in the Temple and represent the people to God. Jesus is doing that for us every day.
That’s why people were drawn to Jesus – and why they’re still drawn to him today. Jesus puts others first. Jesus makes himself available to those who need him. He prays for his friends, and…
4. JESUS RELATES TO US AS FRIENDS
Have you ever met somebody who thinks they’re better than you? We all have. You meet them, they size you up, and then you get the impression that they’re talking down to you. They’re not relating to you as peers. They’re looking down on you.
When you think about it, Jesus could have done this and gotten away with it. After all, he did create the universe. The Bible says that he’s the image of the invisible God, and that he sustains the universe by his power. Jesus could look down on everyone else, but he didn’t. Jesus never talked down to people that he met.
Right before he died, Jesus said an incredible thing. Jesus looked at his disciples and said, “I no longer call you servants, because a master doesn’t confide in his servants. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me” (John 15:15). Jesus did an incredible thing. He elevated his relationship with these guys to a friendship. What’s the difference between a slave and a friend? A slave can’t ask questions. A slave has to obey no matter what. A friend is a confidant. When you’re friends, you share knowledge, you disclose your knowledge to them. Jesus wasn’t equal to the disciples, but he made them his friends.
Jesus went on to say something even more momentous. Jesus went on to say, “You didn’t choose me. I chose you” (John 15:16). It’s an incredible thing to realize that Jesus Christ – the one who created all things – has chosen us to be his friends. It’s even more amazing that given who Jesus is and given who we are, that Jesus chose us. We didn’t choose Jesus; Jesus chose us. Romans 5:8 says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” Jesus is Lord and Master, and he should relate to us as servants. But he doesn’t do this. Jesus calls us his friends.
God delights in us as his friends. He pursues a friendship with us. He doesn’t relate to us out of duty or status but out of love. Proverbs 18:24 says, “Friends come and friends go,
but a true friend sticks by you like fami ly” (The Message). Jesus is that kind of friend. Jesus invites you to enter into that friendship with him.
There’s one more quality that makes Jesus a good friend:
5. JESUS GAVE US HIS ALL
That’s another why people are attracted to Jesus. Jesus has given us his everything. In some marriage ceremonies, the vows include these words: “With all my worldly goods I thee endow.” In other words, “We’re getting married; what used to be mine is now yours.” In my case, that wasn’t a problem. I endowed my wife with a student desk and chair from Grand and Toy, a full motion waterbed, some books, and a student loan. But it was different for Charlene. She endowed me with a car and some savings. I got a much better deal than she did.
We appreciate others when they make sacrifices for us. When friends make sacrifices, we remember. It endears our friends to us.
In John 15:12-13, Jesus said, “I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you. And here is how to measure it-the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends.” It’s like that song that Ed taught us:
That’s why we praise him, that’s why we sing
That’s why we offer him our everything
That’s why we bow down and worship this King,
’cause he gave his everything.
The Statue of Liberty in the States has these words emblazed on it: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” But thousands of years ago, Jesus extended a similar invitation – a better invitation – to follow him; to become his friend. Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest…Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29). Jesus extends this offer to you.
If you read the story of Jesus, you read page after page of Jesus talking with people. You read of how Jesus became a servant and how he put others first, that he didn’t come to be served but to serve. You read of him undertaking the most menial, the most demeaning task in order to demonstrate his love.
We read in the Bible how he made himself available to people and their needs – how even today, he’s available. He’s always with us. We read of how he prays for us. He lifts us up before God.
We read of how the creator of this universe chose us, and called us his friends. And we read of how he proved this – he proved it by dying for us. He died in our place to take the punishment for the wrong things that we had done.
Out of all the messages that we’ve done in this series, this has been the most personal, the most meaningful to me. We’ve been thinking of why different people came to Jesus. When I came to the end of preparing this message in my office this week, I just had to stop and pause and worship God. I realized that I’m one of those people who came to God for friendship – and in doing so, I’ve received a friend that has never let me down.
If you have already begun to follow Jesus, then take some time today to thank him. He has called you his friend. He’s given you his everything. You need to spend some time and thank him.
If you haven’t come to Jesus for friendship today, you can. You can receive the best friend that you could ever imagine. Let’s pray.
Proverbs 18:24 says, “Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.” Jesus is that friend. He will stick with you no matter what you go through. Jesus will never let you down.
I want to thank you, Father, that you sent your Son to be our friend. Thank you that he makes that friendship available to all of us. Thank you that we can receive that friendship simply by asking for it, simply by saying, “Jesus, I want you to be my friend and my master. I give you my life. I want to follow you. Forgive me, I pray.” Thank you that Jesus is the friend who will never let us down.