God wants to be your friend. That seems strange in a way because people of different social, educational, or economic levels seldom become close friends. Presidents don’t generally pal with peasants. Research scholars don’t normally fraternize with grade-school dropouts. Seven-figure executives don’t ordinarily socialize with the homeless. There are refreshing exceptions, but we usually form friendship with those who are like us.
If the bank president and the cleaning person seldom become close friends, it seems unlikely that God, who created the world, owns it and keeps it ticking would want to hang out with a gal who can’t balance her checkbook or a guy who can’t fix a leaky faucet. If well-heeled residents of SoHo shun down-and-out tenants of South Bronx, it seems doubtful that a flawless God would want to hobnob with a shabby sinner.
Doubts notwithstanding, God wants to be your friend.
He knew that would be a stretch: knew we would find it hard to feel close to someone so superior—and seemingly so far away. So he took an astounding step to bridge the gap. Since we couldn’t become like him and go to where he is, he became like us and came to where we are. He stepped down from his throne, took off his robe, changed into his work clothes, and moved into our neighborhood. Philippians 2:7 tells us “he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like man and appeared in human likeness.”
He wanted us to know that he knows how we feel. So he went through everything we experience: birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood. Just like us.
He got hungry, thirsty, tired, lonely. Just like us.
He walked in our shoes and went nose-to-nose with the same temptations that we tangle with. Hebrews 4:15 says, “Our High Priest is not one who cannot feel sympathy for our weaknesses. On the contrary, we have a High Priest who was tempted in every way that we are.”
Everyone felt the sincerity of his friendship. Tiny tots and senile seniors. Winners and losers. Top guns and wayward sons. Crooks and cripples. Prostitutes and puritans.
He was called a friend of sinners (Mt 11:19). And he was that. He was, in fact, the ultimate friend. He said, “The greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).
And then he did just that—laid down his life for us, his friends. “He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8).
The cross! The final blow. The end. When the last nail was set, his enemies thought they’d done him in. It sure seemed that way.
But they were wrong! This was his doing, not theirs. He chose to live—and die—for his friends. For me. For you.
It was his way of saying, “Let’s be friends. Best friends.”
Lloyd Ogilvie, Chaplain of the United States Senate from 1995-2003, told about an eight-year-old girl in a Pennsylvania orphanage who had been unimaginably abused. She was understandably distant and defensive. Shunned and bullied, she had no friends, not one.
One of the residents told a supervisor that she’d seen the little girl write a note to someone and hide it in a tree outside the stone wall surrounding the campus.
The suspicious supervisor retrieved it, read it, hung her head and wept. The note, scrawled with a crayon, said: “To whoever finds this, I love you.” She so desperately wanted to connect with someone who would love her that she went outside the walls of the institution and left that note on a tree: “To whoever finds this, I love you.”
The enemies of Jesus took him outside the walls of Jerusalem and nailed him to a tree. A note on that tree has your name on it: “To whoever finds this, I love you.”