Seeing Jesus in a Sitcom Friendship

After coming home exhausted from a conference last week, I spent two days on the couch watching the Netflix series Alexa & Katie. This kids’ sitcom revolves around the friendship between Alexa, a fifteen-year-old girl with cancer, and her best friend Katie, as they start high school together.

In the first episode Alexa discovers that chemotherapy is starting to make her hair fall out. Terrified to start school looking like that, she pulls a stunt that gets her and Katie suspended. When Katie finds out, instead of being angry with Alexa she shaves off her own hair so that her friend doesn’t have to face the humiliation alone.

All throughout the series, Alexa and Katie are there for each other. When Katie makes a stupid mistake that costs her the money she needs for a school trip to London, Alexa gives up her dream sweet sixteen party and gives the money to Katie. When a flu outbreak makes it too risky for Alexa to attend their first high school dance, Katie rallies the entire school to wear face masks so that Alexa is able to go. They’re right by each other’s side during breakups, failures, and hospital check-ups.

Limitations of Human Friendships

This show is designed to portray a near-perfect friendship. It certainly helped me to see how I can be a better friend to people in my life. But there are also dangers in this kind of show for people like myself who have struggled with idolising friendships. There were times I was jealous of Katie and Alexa’s bond, and the history they shared together.

Yet as I watched, the cracks began to form. I saw the limitations of even the best earthly friendships.

They don’t fix everything

In one episode, we see flashbacks to Alexa at the worst point of her sickness. She sits in her bed for days on end, staring at a spot on the wall to keep nausea from overwhelming her. We see her family and Katie coming in at different points to bring food, read to her, or just sit with Alexa in her pain.

Katie could be there for her friend during her cancer treatment but couldn’t actually enter into the pain with her. She couldn’t choose to bear it in Alexa’s stead. There are limits to what we can do for each other.

Not so with Jesus:

“Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4–6)

They don’t last forever

Human friendships always end in one way or another. Even though Alexa and Katie have been best friends since childhood, there’s no guarantee things will stay that way.

They’ll be there for each other through thick and thin—until they’re not. Alexa survives her leukemia, but for a long time there was the possibility she could have died. Even after recovering she has to be monitored regularly to make sure the cancer doesn’t come back. The spectre of death lurks a little closer than it does for most friends. More ordinary things could get in the way too—conflict, college, and life circumstances have made many friends drift apart.

This isn’t to devalue our friendships. They are wonderful blessings from God, and some of them will indeed endure for a lifetime. We should enjoy them and not panic at the first sign of distance. Our happiness can’t depend on one person or even a group of friends.

In Jesus, we have the certainty that no earthly friendships bring. When Katie shaved her head, she said: “As long as you’re my best friend, you’re never going through anything alone.” Compare that with what the Bible promises us:

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39)

There are no conditions, exceptions, or doubts there. Jesus will be our beloved friend for eternity.

Superior Friendship With Our Saviour

The best parts of earthly friendship point to what Jesus has done for us. They are shadows of a greater reality.

When Katie shaved her head so her friend wouldn’t be alone, I was reminded of how Jesus stepped down from the glory of heaven to enter our humiliation:

“…though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6–8)

Jesus did this so we could be reconciled to God, and enjoy a perfect relationship with our Creator forever.

While Alexa pays for Katie to attend the school trip, even though it was Katie’s own fault, Jesus does far more. We aren’t teenagers who make silly mistakes—we are rebels, committing treason against our king. Instead of leaving us to the consequences of our actions, Jesus takes on the full punishment for our sins himself so that we don’t have to bear it.

Jesus gives me far more than any best friend could. He is with me all the time, he knows my needs and meets them—even when I don’t know what I actually need. He knows me perfectly, and never disappoints me. Placing this kind of expectation on a human friendship would be crippling, but Jesus is our steadiest friend.

Watching Katie & Alexa made me grateful for the friends God has given me, who have stood by me through suffering and sacrificed for me. But when I was tempted to covet, God reminded me that I’m looking for security and significance in the wrong place. In my longing I was driven to the fullness we find in Christ.

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