“And Herod with his soldiers treated him (Jesus) with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. And Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other. – Luke 23:11-12
It took unbelief, scoffing, and great abuse of the Son of God to bring two enemies together. They became friends over their common disbelief in the King of all Creation. Strange? Maybe not so much, as we see in our world the same behavior today. Jesus is the watershed point of civilization and culture. People determine their destiny based upon a belief or disbelief of who he is and what he he has said. He is the most popular swear word in the languages of the world; he and his Father. What he created and made sacred for mankind is the second biggest vulgarity. Friends who are his enemies talk the same language. They are comfortable with similar things which come from their mouths. Antipathy for him creates friendships, just as genuine love for him binds others together in an indissoluble fellowship.
Herod and Pilate at first had not a bit of affection for each other. They actually were at each other’s throats. But the trial of Jesus, and their like treatment of him inspired friendship, the Scriptures tell us. We see the same activity in the sons of men. Scoffers of Jesus or those who give little conscious thought of him, ignoring him and his words, find they have a lot in common. They enjoy the same coarse language, topics of conversation, similar desires in life, all the things that make for some sense of no awkwardness between them.
In life in general people who are characterized by similar goals, behavior, language, and appetites flock together out of a sense of comfortability. They do not feel judged in the presence of those who freely enter into their lifestyle minus criticism. The pursuit of their desires goes unchecked, even if such behavior proves to be harmful or result in fractured relationships. Many other like-minded unbelievers can be found with whom to consort. Such was the dynamic of wicked Herod and ethically- challenged Pilate. It is the nature of friendships of the world.
Living a Christ-like life isolates you from much of the world; living a Christ-less life endears you to a Godless society. Most of Jerusalem joined in calling for Jesus’ crucifixion, mocking and scoffing with the crowd joining with their fellows like lemmings. Jesus said in his most famous sermon, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Those who choose the narrow gate are drawn together in a close bond with the One who calls them, but those who choose the wide gate find a “fun” road encouraged and entertained by the one true enemy who hates Christ. It is a road that ends in destruction.
The crowd with which you relate most closely characterizes your beliefs and convictions. Your friendships reflect your hopes and personal confession; they influence powerfully how you live. The believer is “in the world, but not of the world.” He has friendships and acquaintances in the world for the purpose of sharing the good news, but not to live as they live. You could never become an intimate friend of a Herod or Pilate or of one of the crowd who called for Jesus’ execution. They chose the wrong side of the watershed which is Jesus. Some can be snatched from the fire by your witness of the gospel, but unless they are they will not be those who will take the narrow path with you.
Friendship with the world, to live as they live, is enmity with Jesus. Jesus was the friend of tax collectors and sinners to heal them from sin, not to join in a life of sin. And he said of those who chose to follow him and hang on his words, “They (the world) will know who you are because you have love for one another!” It is a love which does not characterize Herod’s and Pilate’s friendship. There is still a calculated tension between them even in friendship which seeks to serve themselves above all. There is not a self-sacrificial love.
Consider carefully your own “bedfellows”, your intimate friends. There are a variety of co-activities and topics of conversation which draw you to friends you have chosen, which cause you to seek out one another’s company. But ask yourself, do these friends draw you closer to Christ? Do they inject into your relationship a sanctification of your spirit? Do they strengthen your marriage? Make you a better parent? Draw your attention to the things of God? Friends certainly are to be enjoyed, but the best friends are those who move your heart closer to the source of your salvation, where real joy takes place. Herod and Pilate became friends in dastardly deeds. They furthered one another’s slide into a common enmity with Jesus Christ. They flowed the wrong direction from their fateful encounter with the King of the Jews, indeed, the King of Creation.
Everyday we move closer to our destiny with death and eternal life. We are in a crucible of testing in this present life, to be made fit for life in a new heavens and a new earth. Keep and make friendships with those in the world that you may share the good news with them, snatching them from the fire, but be sure you have those friends who are closer than a brother, who move your heart in the right direction, toward the best friend of all, the Lord Jesus.
“Jesus! What a Friend for sinners! Jesus! Lover of my soul; friends may fail me, foes assail me, he, my Savior, makes me whole. Hallelujah! What a Savior! Hallelujah! What a Friend! Saving, helping, keeping, loving, he is with me to the end.”
(1st verse of J. Wilbur Chapman’s hymn, “Jesus! What a Friend for Sinners!”,1910)
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