I want to you to think about your best friend this morning. How do you define a friend? One of the online dictionaries define “friend” as follows
“a person who you like and enjoy being with
a person who helps or supports someone or something”
You would also have your own definitions of friendship. One of the commonly used phrase is “a friend in need is a friend indeed”.
Now listen to and think about the following descriptions of friend that I have found while researching on it last night. (I am going to use the masculine gender here. We all know that women are better, right??)
1. He sticks with his friends till, DEBT DO THEM PART.
2. He is always around - WHEN HE NEEDS YOU.
3. He only likes you, if.. YOU DISLIKE THE SAME PEOPLE HE DISLIKES.
4. He remembers what he gives, and FORGETS WHAT HE GETS.
5. You can always depend on him, TO DEPEND ON YOU.
6. If he went to visit all his friends in the city, HE WOULD BE BACK IN A FEW MINUTES.
7. He uses his friends as a drawing account, BUT HE NEGLECTS TO MAKE DEPOSITS.
8. If you have him for a friend, YOU DON'T NEED ANY ENEMIES.
Do you have friends who fit the above descriptions? What do you call them? They are called “fair weather friends” friends who stick with you when things go all right, but flee when things go wrong, or when you are in trouble. Do you have a fair weather friend? Have you been a fair weather friend to some one?
We are looking into the aspect of people around the cross. I have been asked to speak about the disciples. First my thought was, hey this is simple. There was only one disciple near the cross. Actually the Gospels of Mathew, Mark and Luke do not say anything about any of the disciples being anywhere near the cross. Only the Gospel of John records that the “beloved Disciple” was near the cross at the time of crucifixion. No explicit mention of the presence of any other disciples near him while he was on the cross. Sermon over….Happy? You can all go home early today…
But I cannot disappoint the Pastor. After all, he asked me to preach on the disciples. So, where were all the so called disciples? If you read through the gospels, you will reach the conclusion that all of them literally ran away. They were hiding in fear of being arrested themselves. Mark 14:50 puts it simply “Then they all forsook Him and fled.”. And then we go on to read about Peter’s denial of Jesus.
When we actually study this, our first reaction is to judge the disciples and call them “fair weather friends”, friends who stick with you as long as things are going good and who vanish once you start having troubles. Were the disciples really that bad? After all Jesus himself had commended the disciples as people who stuck with Him in his trials. In Luke 22:28 (NKJV) He tells them, “But you are those who have continued with Me in My trials.”
Why were they so much afraid? Did Jesus not warn them that He will die? Mark 9:31 (NKJV) clearly states that “For He taught His disciples and said to them, "The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day." So why did they flee when He was arrested? One reason is the fact that they did not understand the implication of what Jesus was saying, and they were afraid to ask him. Mark 9:32 (NKJV) But they did not understand this saying, and were afraid to ask Him. Why were they afraid to ask him? It was not because he was stern or he was a difficult man to approach. They probably thought it was some mystical thing that Jesus is talking about, or they did not really want to know the truth. They thought that Jesus might chide them, make fun of them if they asked the real meaning of what He was talking about.
The other reason could be that they were disappointed with the arrest of Jesus. They were hoping for a new kingdom to be established. They were hoping to be released from the Roman rule. All those hopes vanished with the arrest. They were unsure about their future. They were filled with fear as to what would happen to them.
The fact is that you and I would probably have done the same thing if we were in that position. How often do we avoid confronting others for fear of hurting them? How often we move away from trouble spots so that we don’t get drawn into the trouble ourselves? How often do we get disappointed in our friends, when they do not behave in a manner that we expect, or we had hoped for? More importantly, how often are we tempted to deny Jesus in our lives? How often we become “fair weather friends” of Jesus, praising Him when things go right and questioning Him when things go wrong? How often we ourselves do not ask the right questions to understand the full truth? How often we shy away from knowing the full truth, because it is inconvenient for us? Most importantly, do we live our lives trusting that the Lord will return one day, or we think it is some mystical truth, like the disciples thought, when He spoke about his earthly death? These are questions for us to ponder over this Good Friday.
But more importantly, what did Jesus do with His “fair weather friends”? Did He abandon them? Did He judge them? You know the answer. No, No, NOOOO!! When Jesus said “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”, I am sure He included his “fair weather friends” in that appeal.
It is also interesting to note that the very first words that Jesus uttered after the resurrection pertained to those same “fair weather friends” of His. Matthew 28:9-10 (NKJV) And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice!" So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me." He continued calling them his “brethren”!! Not sure if you remember my last sermon here. Jesus is someone who is not ashamed to call us “brethren” even when we are His “fair weather friends”. Jesus chose to have his first post resurrection meal with the same “fair weather friends” with whom He had His last meal pre crucifixion!! (Luke 24: 41-43, John 21: 4-13)). He redeems Peter specially using the three fold redemption and builds His church on that rock!! (John 21:15-19)
And we know the impact of such a redemption!!We don’t have to go anywhere else to find out that there is hope for all “fair weather friends”. After the resurrection and the Pentecost, once empowered by the Holy Sprit, the same apostles become outrageously courageous. The same Peter who denied Jesus three times, stands up and preaches to multitudes. Fear is the last thing in the minds of the apostles as they bravely take the good news to different parts of the world, cheerfully accepting persecution, beatings, beheading, skinning alive, stoned to death etc.
So this Good Friday, while we focus on the Cross, let us believe it is truly a Good Friday. There is redemption at the cross for all of us, even for us as fair weather friends, even for our fair weather friends. Let us believe in the Jesus that Apostle John saw in Revelation. Let us hear His words and be comforted. Revelation 1:17-18 (NKJV) And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.