The Mennonite evangelist, Myron Augsburger, tells the story of a time he was walking through the city and sat beside a man on park bench. In the course of their conversation the man asked the evangelist if he was a preacher. He said he was. Then the man asked, rather flippantly, “What difference does it make to me that 2000 years ago God came to earth and died upon the cross?”
Augsburger thought for a moment and then asked the man if he had any friends. The man said he did. “What happens if one of your friends got sick, would you stop being his friend?” The man said, “No. Of course not.” The evangelist pressed the question further and said, “But what if he gets really sick, do you leave him then?” Growing agitated, again the man said, “No! It’s all the more reason to be his friend!” Yet once more the evangelist asked, “How sick does your friend have to get before you leave him?” And this time the man became angry. “Man, if you’re really his friend you’ll never leave him! You’ll do what you can to help!”
And then the evangelist said, “That’s why it matters Jesus came to earth!”
God saw our need. He saw the loneliness of our independence; the brokenness of our pursuits; our sin-sickened condition. And as a true friend would, He came to help. Just as we were gasping for our last breath, dangling from a cliff holding on by our last finger, the eternal God stepped out of the glories of heaven and into human flesh to give us a way out. He came to us in the person of Jesus Christ to give a friend when we needed a friend the most (John 1:14).
The prophet Isaiah said it this way, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).
I am made to think of the words to the familiar hymn:
What a Friend We Have in Jesus
What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer!
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy-laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer;
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He'll take and shield thee, thou wilt find a solace there.
On this Good Friday, may we give thanks for such a Friend!
Prayer: Lord, you saw my need. You heard my cry. You came to my aid. I am thankful that I have in you a friend who will never leave me, not even in my darkest hour.