John 11: 1-3; 5; 11; 35-36
Now a man named Lazarus was ill. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay ill, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is ill.’
…..Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus….
...‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep…’
… Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’
Luke 7: 34
The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, “Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.”
Imagine having Jesus as your best friend. I know he’s a friend to all of us, but what I mean is having him physically, visibly, literally as your best friend here on earth. I wonder what you would chat about? What would make him chuckle? I have to be honest, if Jesus was my best friend, I wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to ‘name drop’ just a little bit: “My friend Jesus stayed over again last night…he’s always popping in for a bite…have you met my friend Jesus yet?”
In a world where we have Facebook friends and Instagram followers, we need to continually define the meaning of true friendship. Real friends aren’t those who only like your photos on social media; they are the people who are actually in the pictures beside you. They walk through life with you. They rejoice in your achievements and weep with you when you are in pain.
The good news is, from the world’s point of view, Jesus didn’t seem very picky about His friendships. He hung out with the lowest of the low - the despised, the forgotten, and the unnoticed. One of the accusations levelled against him was that he was ‘a friend of tax collectors and sinners’. For the most part, that accusation was true. Jesus seemed far more interested in the sincerity of a heart than the perfection of a life and He found many sincere seekers among those whom the religious elite had written off as hopeless cases. You didn’t have to perform or measure up to some religious standard to be Jesus’s friend. You simply had to accept what He had to offer.
It’s interesting to note that in the Greek language there are two distinct words for ‘friend’ - philos and hetairos. The first word, philos, is the term Jesus used when He called Lazarus ‘our friend’ in verse 11. It denotes “someone dearly loved (prized) in a personal, intimate way; a trusted confidant, held dear in a close bond of personal affection.” (Strongs) This was the term Jesus used when speaking of His own disciples in John 15:15:
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends [philous], for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
The second term used in the Greek, hetairos, can be translated “comrade or companion,” but it refers to a darker kind of relationship. According to scholars “hetaíros refers to comrades or companions who were mostly followers of a chief. They were not necessarily companions for the sake of helping the chief, but for getting whatever advantage they could.… The verb hetaíré basically means to keep company with or to establish and maintain a pretentious, ostentatious, deceptive, and misleading friendship.”
In other words, hetairos friends are those who simply want to use the relationship to further their own agenda. It’s a superficial and surface level friendship. When Judas betrayed Jesus in Gethsemane, Jesus responded with these amazing words: “Friend, do what you came for.” (Matt 26:50) ‘Friend’ seems a strange word to call someone who is set on betraying you, until you understand that Jesus was using the Greek word hetairos. Jesus was calling Judas exactly what he had proven himself to be – a selfish, opportunist, unfaithful, deceptive friend.
In a world where many people claim His name, Jesus still longs for genuine friendship. Real, true, dependable, ‘no matter what happens’ kind of friends. Friends who care about what He cares about, who love him and who long to bring joy to His heart. With no strings attached and no hidden agendas.
Lazarus or Judas - philos or hetairos - which one will you be? In the end, it’s up to you.
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