We’ve all heard that friendships are experienced at a variety of levels.  At the bottom of the friendship pile are the friends we claim on Facebook.  Of those “friends,” we honestly can’t figure out how some of them know us, or if we ever really met.

From the nethermost friends of Facebook we move up to acquaintances, good friends, a best friend or two, and then perhaps that rare soul mate.

I was reading in Matthew 8 this morning.  I stumbled on what I believe to be a defining characteristic of true friendship.  Let me know if you agree with my theory…

This is the context: Jesus has been healing and speaking and leading.  He wrapped up what we now know as one of the most famous sermons in history – the Sermon on the Mount – recorded in chapters 5-7.  After finishing His message (without an altar call…), Jesus launches out with huge crowds pressing in, healing the sick and challenging wannabe disciples with the hard truth of what it takes to be a true Follower.  And then he gets into a boat with His closest friends – not his Facebook friends from the following masses – with His really good friends.  True friends.

Why do I think these select few were his closest friends?

Not because He spent the most time with them.  Not because they helped Him fulfill His mission.  Not because they were the real encouraging type of “yes men” that made Jesus feel good about Himself.  Not because they had a lot of money and could help Him live at the level to which He had grown accustomed.

Here is how I know that Jesus considered them true, close friends:

He fell asleep in their presence.

Jesus and His friends board a boat and push away from the shore.  Next thing you know, Jesus has fallen asleep.

Think about it… I don’t know about you but I have many friends that I will meet for a cup of coffee.  I have a few others who I will go out with for a meal.  And an even smaller circle with whom I would invite to break bread within my own home.

But it is a small number of friends indeed with whom I feel so comfortable, so relaxed that I could fall asleep in front of them.

In Matthew 8, Jesus didn’t simply collapse from exhaustion and burnout (although I’d understand why, given all He was doing).  Instead, I get the impression that Jesus CHOSE to sleep in their midst because He felt comfortable doing so.

I have some friends that, quite honestly, I feel that I must be “performing” in front of.  If I’m not doing something practical or helpful, they may not follow me or stick around.  Those are exhausting friendships that cause me to collapse in bed at night, which is VERY different from those friendships that I’m so comfortable with that I can choose to rest in their presence.

Jesus found the rare and close friendship where He didn’t have to “do” – He could just “be.”

The other night Beth and I played host to another couple for dinner in our home.  After we ate and talked for a bit, the two wives went out for a bit, and my friend and I stayed at the house.  I call him “friend” because this is what happened: We talked for quite a while – at least an hour or more.  And then I said, “Dude, I’m tired.”

Then I fell asleep.

Later that night the wives walked in and found me asleep in my favorite corner of our sectional sofa.

I gotta say that I am blessed with a lot of friends, but my theory regarding friendship is that there are only a very few friends that you can comfortably fall asleep in their presence without it being considered rude or having to apologize for it later.

How about you?  Think about the many friendships you have.  How many of those people would you feel relaxed enough in their presence to fall asleep?