The place of crucifixion is a scene of torment and suffering. People who experienced this death through the Roman justice system could hang on a cross for several days. Who would want to be there? The politicians who made the decision to put Jesus on the cross were represented, if not there personally. The cynics were there to mock and ridicule. But there was a different group also there. They were some of the friends of Jesus. They were people whose lives had been changed by Jesus and they were His friend. Mathew 17:55 says “and many women were there…along with Mary, the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee”. Mark 15:40 says “… and there were some women…Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James the less, and Joses and Salome. Luke 23:48 says, “…and all of His acquaintances and the women who had accompanied Him from Galilee were standing at a distance…”. John 19:25 says “…But there was standing by the cross of Jesus, His Mother, and His mothers’ sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene”.

The mother of Jesus was there. She was perhaps 45 years old. Can you imagine the emotion this woman had been through? At Jesus dedication, many years before this, Simeon the prophet had taken Jesus in his arms and looked at Mary and said “…a sword shall pierce your soul’. Now she stands at the cross and watches this son she had birthed. The angel had said “He shall be called the Son of God”. I am sure Mary did not understand it all.

Salome was Mary’s sister. She was the aunt of Jesus. What can I say about Mary Magdalene? She was the woman who came to Jesus in such distress. Jesus had cast 7 devils out of her, and she became a devout follower of Jesus. John was also there. He was the one who was to take care of Jesus’ Mother, Mary. I ask, where were the rest of the Apostles? Only John is mentioned.

I call these, the friends of Jesus, who stayed with Him to the very end. There are four ingredients for friendship. If a friendship is going to be real friendship, there must be vulnerability. Others must be able to see the real me, that includes honesty.

In the mid-70’s, a miniseries was released on T.V. called “Roots”. It is the story of a slave, who traced his family history back to Gambia Africa. He then traces the family as they settled into the life of slavery. Kinta Kunta was the African prince who was caught and forced to come to America. He landed at Annapolis in Maryland where he was sold. Time passed and he married. His wife had a daughter whom they named “Kizzie”. Kizzie was raped by the plantation owner. Her son became known as “Chicken George”, because he became involved in game fighting with chickens. Years go by and “Kizzie” falls in love with an American born slave. His name was Sam. Ultimately she does not marry Sam and Chicken George asks his mamma why she did not marry Sam. Kizzie respond to her son, ‘Chicken George honey, Sam, he ‘merican, not African, an ifn you don know wheah you comes from, you can’t know wheah you agoin”. Very poor English but very good truth. If I do not know who I am, I cannot be truthful with you. Mary Magdalene had a sorry past. She brought who she was to Jesus, and Jesus re-arranged her life. She became a devoted follower. A friend.

A second thing required of a friendship is affirmation. This includes the ability to affirm others and to accept affirmation from some else. Has anyone ever greeted you by saying, “I’ve looked forward to meeting you – I’ve heard so many good things about you”. Or, “you look so nice today”, or, “you did such a wonderful job”. Jesus had given these women dignity, self-worth and hope. They were with Him to the very end. He had affirmed them.

A third ingredient in friendship is commitment. Commitment takes time, tenacity and integrity. It says, “I’m in this for the long haul”. We live in a very fluid society and it is so easy to let friends drift out of our lives. Thus, we live alone, out of contact and even fearful of developing friendships. I may even feel worthless, and that I am not worth anyone’s time. I live in my own little private world. Perhaps I find it hard to commit to someone because I have been rejected by others.

If I have a close friend, one of the things I can do is dream. Have you ever had a friend close enough that you could say, without fear of criticism, “I’ve dreamed that someday….”, and be secure enough in that friendship that you know that you would not be made fun of or criticized? That is what friends do. Jesus allows us to be real, and when we become real, we can become complete.

I was participating in a funeral with a colleague when I heard him tell this story. It so impressed me that I asked for a copy of it, and he sent it to me.
“When I was growing up, through high school, my father allowed me to play baseball. He never attended any game. He was so conservative, and he always wore a suit, tie and hat. In the spring of my senior year, we played well, and we made it to the championship game. I begged my father to come but he never committed himself. I walked out on the field and looked up into the stands to see if I could see him, and there, sitting with all the tank tops and shorts, was my father in his suit, tie and hat. We played our hearts out but by the time we got to the bottom of the 9th inning, we were behind 4-1. It was my turn to bat. I walked out to the plate, and the pitcher sent me a fast ball. I swung, missed, and I heard the umpire cry out ‘strike one’! The fast ball came again, I hesitated in my swing, and I heard again, ‘strike two’. The pitcher then threw 3 balls. The fast ball came again, and I swung. I connected hard as I heard the ball hit my bat. I had no idea where the ball was going but as I rounded 2nd, out of the corner of my eye I saw the ball bounce off the wall in center field. I approached 3rd base I heard a voice cry out in the crowd, ‘come home son, your gonna make it’! I ran for home plate and slid in as I heard the smack of the ball in the catchers mit. I made it! For the rest of my life, I will see my father standing and shouting in his suit, tie and hat, ‘come home’!”

Hebrews 12 says We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses all crying “come home”!

Sing an old gospel song with me:
“A friend of Jesus, oh what bliss
That one so weak as I; should ever have a friend like this to meet me in the skies.
Friendship with Jesus
Fellowship divine; O what blessed sweet communion,

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