Wilhelm Busch was a parson in Germany. One day he went to a very ill woman in a humble flat. Cancer had eroded part of her face. He asked her whether she wasn’t very lonely because she lay there all alone the whole day. She replied: “What are you talking about! I am never alone. On the chair on which you now sit, my Lord Jesus sits. I talk to Him about the past, about people whom I love, just about everything. Then He comforts me and grants his glorious peace for me to become so happy.” She had Jesus as her Friend and therefore she was never alone. He gave her peace.
Who are Jesus’ friends? And Levi (the tax collector) made him (Jesus) a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:29 – 32). It sounds as if Jesus tells the Pharisees and Scribes that they don’t need Him because they are on the right track – only the sinners need Him. But that is not what the text means. On occasion Jesus said to the chief priests and elders: “I tell you: the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the Kingdom of God ahead of you (Matt. 21:31). The Pharisees believed that they live according to God’s commandments and did not want to have anything to do with Jesus. The tax collectors and sinners listened to what Jesus said and realised that they needed Him.
The sinners for whom Jesus came were the murderers, the rapists, the prostitutes, the thieves, you and me, children, the elderly, everyone – because nobody can bring about his own salvation. You may choose to be part of the group who think that they don’t need Jesus: “The Pharisee stood apart by himself and prayed, ‘I thank you, God, that I am not greedy, dishonest, or an adulterer, like everybody else. I thank you that I am not like that tax collector over there” (Luke 18:11, 12). Or you may realise that you are just as guilty as the tax collector who called out: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). Then you are in the group who feast with Jesus. The choice is either for or against Jesus.
If we know Jesus and have surrendered our lives to Him, He will be the Friend who will always be with us, the One whom we may tell everything, in whose company we can laugh and also cry. He has compassion for those who suffer. The only son of a widow had died: When the Lord saw her, his heart was filled with pity for her, and he said to her, “Don’t cry” (Luke 7:13).
Jesus is the Friend who eats and drinks with us: Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if any hear my voice and open the door, I will come into their house and eat with them, and they will eat with me (Rev. 3:20). It is a feast for sinners who have accepted Jesus as their personal Saviour. Jesus restored our relationship with God. He turned us into God’s friends. Joseph Scriven, born in 1819, wrote the words of the song, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” after a very tragic experience.
Lord Jesus, thank you that we may sing: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. Amen.