February 12, 2017


             Four words in our Gospel reading jumped out of the page at me, and those four words are so moving, so powerful, that I don’t think even the Philharmonic Orchestra playing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah could lift my soul as much as those four words.  Do you know which words I am referring to?  Did they move you also?  “You are my friends…” (John 15:14).  These words weren’t spoken by a politician speaking to his campaign supporters.  They weren’t used in a post on facebook referring to people who don’t scroll over your post but instead share it with 10 more people, or at least put a ‘like’ on it.  They weren’t even spoken by someone at a class reunion, or birthday party, or any other type of social gathering.  These words were spoken by Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, the creator of the universe!  He called his disciples at the time, and all disciples from that time forward, friends. 

          Now most of us have friends, and most of us even have a best friend, sometimes called our “bestie”.  My “bestie” is my husband, Ed.  To me that is the ideal, when your spouse is also your best friend.  The jewelry industry has even picked up on that, with their latest pitch (which naturally they advertise heavily right before Valentine’s Day), for the “Ever Us” ring.  “One diamond for your best friend.  One diamond for your true love.”  But my best friend, who is also my true love, didn’t go to Jared; because he knows that instead of another ring I would rather have a neon sign in the shape of a cross that says “Jesus Saves”, which is what he got me for Valentine’s Day.  He knows how much my faith means to me, and how much it means to me to be able to share it with others.  He also knows that no matter how much I love him and he loves me, it still cannot compare to how much Jesus loves both of us. 

          Many people never find a spouse as wonderful as mine.  Some people do, but then are grief-stricken when they lose that person.  Or they have a brother or sister, or close friend that they have known since childhood, or one they made at school, at church, or at work perhaps -  only to have them move away or get married - and they drift apart. 

          Then there are people that maybe don’t have any close human companions, but instead they have an animal companion.  Perhaps a dog, or a cat (or several), that to them is as much of a friend as a spouse or best friend is to others.  Such companions are often more loyal, more faithful, more loving than many people.  They love with an unconditional love.  They don’t care what you wear, or what kind of mood you are in, if you burnt the dinner, or if your sermon wasn’t what they wanted to hear that day.  They are always thrilled to see you, and to sit by you (or on you).  Last week when I did a service for the Alzheimer patients at Evenglow Inn, I asked them if they used to have a pet.  Their faces lit up.  One by one they would tell me in detail about a dog or cat they had many years ago.  They never forgot their names or what they looked like.  And by the smiles on their faces, you could tell how much happiness their pets had given them.  Yes, I believe the good Lord blessed us with these wonderful companion animals to teach us about unconditional love.  The kind of love that our Lord Himself loves us with. 

          So back to our Gospel reading (John 15:9-17).  Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  (verse 13).  And that is exactly what He did for us.  He willingly came to earth in order to die an excruciating death on the cross, and then defeat death through His resurrection, so that we could live eternally in heaven with Him.  He even went on ahead of us to prepare a special place there for each of His friends (John 14:2)   

        But that doesn’t mean He isn’t here with us as well.  In fact, there is no better friend to have while we are still on this earth.  Were any of you ever bullied in school?  I know I was.  I know Ed was.  So what do you do if you are faced with a bully that is bigger and badder than you?  You make friends with someone that is even bigger and badder than the bully!  There was a movie made back in 1980 called “My Bodyguard” about a teenager that did just that.  And throughout our lives there will always be one bully that loves to trip us up, make us miserable, and do everything possible to completely drain us of courage, joy, and hope for the future.  That bully is satan.  But Jesus is that friend that is bigger and badder.  Satan cringes at the name of Jesus!

        But Jesus isn’t just our spiritual bodyguard.  He is also a friend that is with us 24/7; one we can talk to any time of day or night, and He will listen without pulling out his cellphone or checking his watch.  Sometimes all it takes to help you through a tough situation is someone who is willing to listen.  Or if you ask Him a question such as what to do or what to say or even just “why?”, He will answer you.  Maybe not audibly, but through His Word or through His Spirit speaking within you, or sometimes even through a sign of some sorts that you will know was sent specifically as an answer.  And His answers are always spot-on; even better than Google or Wikipedia. 

        Or maybe you need a really big favor.  You’ve probably seen the commercial for Xfinity where a man is calling all of his friends to see if they can help him move, but it seems as though everyone has an excuse. From being all wrapped up in seaweed to buried in the sand, nobody has time.  Jesus always has time.  Ed used to say he doesn’t want to bother God with too many prayers because God is so busy.  But the truth is that Jesus is not bound by the dimension of time as we are.  He can do an infinite number of things at once, and yet devote Himself to each one of them individually as well.  So He gives us His full attention every time we pray, even if every other person on earth is praying at the same time.  And He has promised His friends that He will answer those prayers, no matter what it is they are asking.  I bet Randy is thinking, “Well, I still don’t have that check for a million dollars that I asked for.”  Sorry Randy.  But He will reward you for all of the service you have done in His name, and I know you do much for Him, so therefore your reward will be great someday.  There are times we might not think Jesus has heard and answered our prayers; but remember, while we don’t always give our children exactly what they ask for, we do take all of their wishes into consideration, and give them what we know is best for them (or at least we should).  Often we ask the Lord for things that would ultimately do us harm, or someone else harm, whether physically or spiritually.  Jesus knows the future and can see the end result of whatever it is we are asking for, and He bases His response to our prayer based on that, and His perfect love for us.  

        In conclusion, we also must not forget what comes after those four words I quoted at the beginning of this message - those four glorious words, “You are my friends…”  Jesus said “You are my friends if you do what I command.”  And then in verse 17 He says, “This is my command: Love each other.”  So if you want Jesus to be your best friend for now and for all eternity, to always be there to defend you, to listen, to answer, and provide for your needs, then in turn you must love each other as He loves you.   Then He will truly be your best friend.  And what a friend we have in Jesus!  Amen.