Matt., xi. 19.
Christ Our Friend.
"The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous,
and a wine-bibber, a friend of publlcans and sinners."—Matt., xi. 19.
THIS is what wicked men said of our Lord in derision; but, although the first and second charges were utterly false, when they said He was a "Friend of publicans and sinners," they spoke the truth; and because He is the Friend of sinners, He is our Friend. Christ delighted to tell us He was the Friend of publicans and sinners.
If some of us were walking along the street, and a carriage came rolling up, with two splendid horses and servants finely dressed, and stopped just by us, and the owner of it stepped out to converse with us, how proud we should feel, and how anxious that many should notice! Every one likes to have a friend with influence or with a grand name; but, supposing a poor old woman, in a poor house garb, should accost us on our way, and detain us in conversation, should we delight to own her as our friend? Christ was not like many of His professed followers; He was a Friend to the poor.
Look at that poor man, who, while on his way to Jericho—fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half-dead. And by chance, there came down a certain priest that way; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise, a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him and passed by on the other side (Luke, x, 30-32).
These men liked rich friends, and courted the nobility, despising the poor and needy. "But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine." (verses 33, 34).
This is what Christ does for us when we are sick; He is our Friend and Physician. When we were lost, the Good Shepherd sought until He found us. I claim a friendship with the Son of God because I am a sinner. "There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." (Prov. xviii, 24). There is a limit to every friendship in this world; but there is One that sticketh, even Christ. Before I used to read my Bible, I was taught that I was to stick to Him—that I was to hold on, and not leave go. That was very good, but there is something I have found out since, and that is, that Christ sticketh to me. He will never leave me, neither shall any pluck me out of His hand. "A friend loveth at all times." (Prov. xvii. 17)
Before the foundation of the world, at the Cross, and now, Christ loves us. Some love us when we are rich, but not when we are in poverty. The father loved his prodigal son just as much when he was in a far country as he did before he left his home.
"My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger; thou art snared with the words of thy mouth." (Prov. vi. 1, 2). "He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it; and he that hateth suretyship is sure." (Prov. xi. 15).
Give to your friend all you can, but do not go surety for him. The command of God is against it. He who is surety, shall smart for it. I once stood surety for a friend of mine, who had borrowed a lot of money; and when the time came, my friend could not pay; and his creditors came to me, and I had to pay the money for which I stood surety. But, although God tells us we shall smart if we are surety, Christ became surety for us, and He smarted with the punishment of our sin. He knew He would smart; He had written it hundreds of years before. "Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted." (Isa. liii. 4). "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are My friends." (John xv. 13, 14). Greater love hath no man than this: He became our surety! "Faithful are the wounds of a friend." (Prov. xxvii. 6).
There is a kind of friendship in the world that is all flattery. It is not so with the Master. If we see a spot on a friend, we should tell him. I was about leaving a house the other evening, when an old gentleman called me, and told me I had some mud on my coat. Now, he did this in love, in order that he might brush it off, and I might walk home respectably. This is what we should all do. The devil throws mud on our backs, where we cannot see it, but every one else can; so come and tell one when the mud is there. Let us be true friends; let us wash one another's feet. Why is it we have so little of this now in the church? I often think those who see so much dirt on others' feet have dirty hands themselves; therefore, they could not wash another clean if they tried. And, there are too many who cannot stoop, and they can never wash a brother's feet without. Only great men can stoop. When I see a man who cannot stoop, I know he is nobody in particular. The greatest man is he who will stoop to take the lowest place. "Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart; so doth the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel." (Prov., xxvii, 9). The Master counsels us, "Do not forsake thy friend." The oftener we go to Him, the more like Him we shall be, for "iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" (Prov. xxvii. 17).
Take two knives that are rusty, and rub them together, and they not only get sharp, but bright also. Eat, O friends, drink, yea drink abundantly, O beloved! (Cant. v. 1). There is bread enough and to spare when we go to Christ for food; we may eat till we are satisfied, and there is still plenty for others. It is not His fault if we are starved. Whenever you see a miserable, dull, disagreeable Christian constantly complaining that the Church is going wrong, finding fault with the sermons, and looking in a general decline, you may know he is starving.
I met a lady in Ireland who had several little children, and these all looked very well and strong, except the youngest. I asked her if she knew why it was that this child was not healthy, like the rest; and she told me that she had always given the children new milk, but this one never would drink it, but liked tea instead; so it had not had the same nourishment. There are many Christians who live on tea, or artificial food, instead of the new milk of the Word.
"He saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep." (John xi. 11). Jesus did not say, "Our departed friend," "Our late friend," but "Our friend." He did not say, "My friend," but "Our friend." Nathaniel, Peter, John, "Our friend." The friends of Christ are our friends; and, though they sleep, they are still our friends; for He is coming for them Himself. He will not send an angel for them, but, He says, "I go," and I will come again. And He is coming to wake all our sleeping friends, and take us, His friends, to be with Him.