Jesus the Friend of Sinners

by Travis Fentiman

 

 

Is there a sense in which Jesus is friendly to those who will ultimately perish forever?  The Bible says Yes.  

David was a figure of Christ.  In Ps. 35:14 he says of the ungodly:

“I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother…”

Thus when the greater than David came, Jesus, He was a friend to the unconverted.  He talked freely with them, entered into their homes, dined with them, and fellowshipped with them.  This was so well known that his opponents used it against Him.  Matt 11:19,

“The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold… a friend of publicans and sinners.”

In one instance, Mark 3:20-21 relates:

“And the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread.  And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on Him: for they said, He is beside himself.”

Jesus even held the one who betrayed Him (who was a reprobate) as his close friend.  Jesus, speaking as the Messiah in the Ps 35:14, says:

“Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

When Judas came to betray Jesus, Jesus said (Matt 26:50), 

Friend, wherefore art thou come?  Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus and took Him.”

Judas pretended to show affection to Jesus with a kiss at the same time he was betraying Him.  Jesus, though, called him a friend, and meant it.  Judas was insincere, but Jesus was sincere.

Thus, the heart wrenching lament of the Messiah in Zech. 13:6:

“And one shall say unto Him, What are these wounds in your hands?  Then He shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.”

Those that killed Jesus were not only his friends, but were also his brothers by race, nation, and closeness in the Kingdom of God.  Thus, the Messiah says in Ps. 22:22 that the assembly of God’s people, not the elect, but the visible church, are his brothers:

“I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee.”

In Acts 2, the apostle Peter addresses a multitude of Jews that, “by wicked hands have crucified and slain” Jesus, as “brothers” (Acts 2:29).  These are not the words of Peter only, but of the Risen Jesus that speaks through his ministers (1 Pet. 3:19,20; Eph. 2:13,17; Ps. 40:9; 2 Cor. 5:20).  Jesus plead from heaven by his Spirit to his brothers that killed Him that they would “repent, and be baptized every one… for the remission of sins.” (Acts 2:38)

May we be as friendly to the unconverted as Christ is!

This is not all, but on the Last Day, the reprobate will hear the gracious words of Jesus calling them friend before they are cast into outer darkness.  Matt 22:12-13,

“And He said unto him, Friend, how did you come in here not having a wedding garment?  And he was speechless.  Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Oh! How terrible would it be to be so close to Jesus, to be a friend of his, but then to be cast into outer darkness forever!

We all have some people that we are very close friends with, that we take the greatest delight and satisfaction in, and others that we take little or no satisfaction in, but are friendly to only out of respect and the goodness of our character.  Our friendship with them is not for anything in them, but because we are friendly.  So Jesus’ friendship with unbelievers is one that is distant and limited, one due not to anything in them, but because He is good, and a friend to sinners.

While Jesus’ friendship to unbelievers does not give us any security or grounds for presumption, it does give us hope.  It is because Jesus is friendly to the unconverted, that we should be drawn by his friendly invitation to know Him further and become a close friend of his, in order to delight in Him and He in us.  To do this, we must do what He says and trust Him to save us from our sins.  John 14:14-15,

Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.  Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his lord does: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”

 

 

Article

‘Sin Our Enemy and God our Friend’, 1842, anonymous, published by The Presbyterian Board of Publication, from Presbyterian Tracts: A Series of Tracts on the Doctrines, Order and Polity of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America Embracing Several on Practical Subjects

           

 

Quotes

** – denotes a Westminster divine

 

Jerome  (347-420)

The Westminster Annotations, 3rd edition, 1657, the words below are those of John Ley **

Matt 22:11-12 – “And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, ‘Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?’  And he was speechless.”

‘Friend, how’He calls him friend, because He had invited him to the wedding, [so says] Jerome;

 

John Calvin

Commentary on Luke 7:40, see Lk. 7:38-42 for the context of Christ speaking to sinners indiscriminately

‘And Jesus answering said’. By this reply Christ shows how egregiously Simon was mistaken… Nor was it only on Simon’s account that this was done, but in order to assure every one of us, that we have no reason to fear lest any sinner be rejected by him, who not only gives them kind and friendly invitations, but is prepared with equal liberality, and—as we might say—with outstretched arms, to receive them all.

 

 

John Ley **

[The Westminster Annotations, 3rd edition, 1658]

Matt 22:11 – “And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.”

Friend, howHe calls him friend, because He had invited him to the wedding, [so says] Jerome; yet has it the sense of a sharp reproof of him, that so unworthily requited God’s gracious calling, in that he, who had obtained so much favor in a friendly invitation, would so dishonor the company with an unseemly habit, that is, such impiety and wicked course of life, as became not the gospel.

 

Mark 10:21 – “Then Jesus beholding him loved him [the rich man], and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”

Loved him. [in Greek] Egapon autou, loved, kissed, or cheerfully and in a friendly manner received him, as truly pitying him who having with so much care outwardly kept the law of God, which many did not; yet did but deceive himself with a vain opinion of righteousness, as if he were perfect, or near thereto; when yet without faith in Christ, he could not possibly be saved.

 

Luke 7:34 – “ The Son of man is come eating and drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous man, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners!”

Eating and drinkingThat is, conversing friendly with men: John was a retired man: but Christ used a more gracious familiarity, and they, who then most professed sanctity and religion, calumniated both: and would not believe their preaching.

 

John Trapp

Commentary on Matt 22:12-13

“And He said unto him, Friend, how did you come in here not having a wedding garment?  And he was speechless.  Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

“Verse 12: Friend, how camest? etc.:  Not wretch, rebel, reprobate.  Hard reproofs administered in soft language break the bones.”

 

George Swinnock

The Sinners Last Sentence to Eternal Punishment for Sins of Omission, 1675, pp. 48-51.  This quote was compiled by Tony Byrne

6. It will much augment their anguish and misery to consider, who it is that passes so severe a doom upon them [on Judgment Day]…  And if Love prove their enemy, surely wrath will not be their friend.  And if Mercy be thus against them, surely Justice will not be for them.  Ah how sorely will it gall the sinner to consider, This dreadful doom is denounced against me not by an Enemy, or one that hated me, but by a Friend and Father, by one that loved me, and took my nature on Him, and suffered therein the Law’s Curse, to render me capable of escaping these torments which I now suffer, and partaking of those pleasures which yonder blessed souls enjoy.

 

Anthony Burgess  **

Spiritual Refining: or A Treatise of Grace and Assurance, 1652 (reprint edition: Ames, Iowa, 1990), Section 12, Sermon 108

Thirdly, Here is by this phrase implied: The great glory and honor that God would put on all those whom He calls.  He makes you his choice friend, and gives you this token of friendship; David expressing a friend, said, We ate bread together.  Haman, how did he boast when the King made a great feast for the Queen, And I am invited also, saith Haman.  And certainly we cannot be capable of greater honour, than to be called to this communion and fellowship with God, yea to this familiarity; hence all the faithful, as Abraham, are called God’s friends; Now were faith alive in men’s breasts, they would never refuse God’s calling, for is it not from slavery and bondage to an heavenly freedom? 

 

 John Bunyan

Works, 1:171-172

Are you deeply concerned about the greatness of the damage that will certainly overtake you forever, if you are accused before God without Him?  Have you told Him what is the matter and how things stand?  He desires to hear them from your own mouth.  ‘O’, says the soul, ‘Lord, I have come to you upon an earnest business!  I am arrested by Satan, my conscience convicts me, and I will be accused before the judgment seat of God… Lord, I am distressed, undertake for me!’  O consider your advocate a friend, and not an enemy!  You must open your heart to Him and reveal your whole cause unto Him.

 

 

Samuel Clark

Annotations on the New Testament, 1683, London

Matt 22:12 – “And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: And he saith unto him, ‘Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?’  And he was speechless.”

And he says unto him, Friend.  One whom I have dealt friendly withal in admitting to this wedding.

 

 

Thomas Boston

‘The Evil of Christ’s Friends Lifting up their Heel Against Him’, Sermon 19, on Ps. 41:9, in Works, vol. 3, p. 253

 

 

Edward Payson

The Complete Works of Edward Payson, 1846 edition, reprinted 1988 by Sprinkle Publications

That you, a malefactor, might live forever, the Lord of life and glory died as a malefactor on the cross.  And now He offers you, without money and without price, all that cost Him so dear.  He even beseeches you as a favor to accept it, and will consider the joy arising from your acceptance and salvation as a sufficient recompense for all that he suffered in procuring it.  Yet this is the being whom you complain that you cannot love.  This the friend, to whom you think it hard to be grateful. O, astonishingly blinding, besetting, stupefying influence of sin!

 

 

 

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