Sunday 7th March 2021

Who’ll Be There for You?

John 11:17–36 I.

The truth is, that all of us, desperately need close friends. No one knew this better than the apostle Paul. Time and again Paul’s friends came to his aid when he desperately needed them. One time they had to hide him in a huge basket and let him down over the wall of the city by night so he could escape the authorities (Acts 9:25).Another time the friends of Paul were there for him when he was stoned and left for dead (Acts 14:19–20). In the conclusion of his letter to the Romans, Paul mentions Phoebe, his benefactor, and Priscilla and Aquilla, “who risked their necks” for his life” (Rom. 16:1–4).All of us need good, devoted friends who will be there for us when life is hard. Good friends constitute one of the greatest gifts of God.
Who are we going to call when the family is in trouble?
Who are we going to call when that report from the doctor turns out to be bad news?
Who are we going to call when we have good news to share—that we just got engaged, or that we’re going to have a baby, or we got a new job?
Friends, of course……….. It has been observed that friendship is the great mathematician: it doubles our joy and divides our grief. All of us need friends who will be there for us. Sometimes there are friends who are closer than our own relatives. The wise writer of Proverbs says, “A true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin” ( Prov. 18:24).It is possible to have a friend with whom you can share the most intimate concerns of your life. Jesus had friends like this— friends who were closer than his own family. In John, chapter 11, Jesus’ good friend Lazarus had died. Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus were friends of Jesus. Jesus visited their home often. The Scripture says, “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (11:5).One day Jesus got word that his dear friend Lazarus was deathly sick. When Jesus and his disciples arrived in Bethany, they learned that Lazarus had already been pronounced dead. Mary and Martha were grieving. “When Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. . . .Jesus began to weep.” So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” (11:33, 35–36).”John’s purpose in including this story in his Gospel is to show that Jesus is the Resurrection and the life. But another point of the story is the great importance that Jesus placed on human friendships. One of the best places to make friends is in the church Family. A Group—done a survey a few years ago on the main places where adults say they would go to make new friends. Some of the figures are interesting: 3 percent said they would go to a supermarket, shopping centre, or store;4 percent cited a bar, dance club, or party;12 percent said they would look for friends in their neighbourhood. At the top of the list—49 percent said they would go to church in search of friends. It may not be so high a percentage today but the church and Christians are still here to offer friendship. Although we cannot go into the Building we can still meet and see friends on zoom or by phone calls. The other side of the coin is just as true: When people start visiting a new church, if they do not establish meaningful friendships within the first few weeks, they will likely not come back. If we don’t go out of our way to make sure they find friendship, they will not return. The church is a Group of people for us to make and cherish meaningful Christian friendships. It is also a place for us to be a friend to newcomers—to include them in our fellowship time, as well as seek opportunities outside the church to spend time together all be it on zoom or by phone.

Who’ll be there for you? The friends of the church will be—or at least they should be. Let us celebrate God’s great gift of friendship. Let us thank God for every good friend that we have. And let us recommit ourselves to the friendship principle, determining to be a friend of the highest order.

Amen.

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