What does it mean to be a friend of Jesus?
“You are My friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:14-15)
I find it amazing that on one hand Jesus said the greatest in heaven will be the servant of all and that He came not to be served but to serve and yet on the other that He told these disciples who walked with Him for only a short period of time that He no longer called them servants, but rather friends. They had graduated to something here, something so personal and intimate with the Lord Jesus. Imagine being a friend of Jesus. It was as if He was saying, “in the past you called me Lord and Master and that is the only relationship we had, but now I call you friends also”. He said, “now, I call you friends because you do what I command you. I call you friends because you know My business, I call you friend because you have become followers of my teaching.”
phílos, fee’-los; properly, dear, i.e. a friend; actively, fond. He who associates familiarity with another.
We can see in Luke’s gospel how Jesus taught his disciples that He was their Lord and Master and that they should focus on being humble servants that do their duty for God.
“Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? 8Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’? 9Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ” (Luke 11:7-10)
And yet, when we get to the latter part of the gospels, Jesus has an intimate meal with His disciples and sits down with them and breaks bread (the Last Supper). In John 13 He washes their feet. That is pretty intimate and personal. There is something profound going on where Jesus sees them as His friends. He has let them deeper into His life, not just His life as a Lord and King but also now as a brother and friend. He doesn’t just see them as servants any longer, He now also sees them as friends. He eagerly wanted to spend time with them too!
When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. (Luke 22:14)
In fact, not only did He want to spend time with them on earth, but His greater desire was that they would be with Him forever. That’s how much He loved them and treasured their friendship.
“My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am”. (John 14:2-3)
“Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:24-26)
What happened or changed in their relationship to bring about this friendship? They had spent time with Jesus, learning who He was, following Him in spite of the opposition or what other people thought (even probably against the will of their own families).
Jesus tells His disciples that they are His friends now because they know what He does. “a servant know not what his Lord doeth (John 15:14a KJV).” When we call someone our “best friend – BFF”, we are talking about that one person who knows us so well and has a connection with us that no one else does. These disciples were now intimately acquainted with Jesus, His mission, and His teaching, and they had made it their biggest priority. They had made His mission there’s. Jesus had let them into a deeper place in His life than really anyone else except the Father Himself. How many friends did Jesus really have? Many people hated Him. Others were leery of Him and were interested in Him only because of what He could do for them by feeding them.
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill”. (John 6:26)
Many people followed after Jesus not because of the desire to have a friendship or relationship with Him, but only to get their needs met. Then, once they got their fill, they went on their way. Jesus was a passing fad for them, a purveyor of miracles who had something they wanted.
But Jesus was a human being just as much as He was God. He had human needs also, like friendship and fellowship. Yes, He got His needs met by the Father and that was His most precious relationship, but He also was looking for disciples that would become His friends, not just followers of His principles. He was looking for men and women that would want an intimate relationship with Him, care about Him as a person, desire to be with Him, fall in love with Him. Christianity is about relationship, not just a belief system.
John 15:16 – “You did not choose Me but I chose you”. Jesus chooses His friends, just like we all do. We may find it hard to believe that out of all the people in the world that He chose these guys, but He did. He chose them not because they were just like Him or that they had a lot of prestige or talent or intelligence but because they would love Him and what He stood for – His teaching, His life, His mission, and His dedication to His Father. He chose those who in the end would choose Him above all others. Judas is here, too. Jesus chose him and called Him a friend, too, but in the end Judas chose to reject that friendship. There were also many others that were following Jesus and yet when things got a bit tough they walked away and proved that they weren’t really His friends. Jesus extends the hand of friendship to many, but they must choose to want it.
For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.” 66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” 70Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” 71(He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.) (John 6:64-70)
Jesus freely allow those who do not want to have that intimate relationship with Him and be His friend to leave. He wants true friends, not fakes, just like we all do.
Friendship with God was not a new concept in the time of Jesus. Long before Jesus came to earth to be born into our world, Abraham was called God’s friend.
And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. (James 2:23)
Why was Abraham called God’s friend? Because he believed God! It was his faith and trust in God and God’s promises to him (that God would fulfill them without fail) that made him God’s friend. God sees those that have faith and trust in Him and what He says as His friends. Faith brings friendship. We are His friends when we live to please Him. What pleases Him is our faith in Him and what He says.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Heb. 11:6)
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God… By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”[c] 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. (Heb.11:8-10; 17-19)
Abraham trusted God, even when he didn’t understand. He knew that God had his best interest in mind. That’s what friends do.
King Jehoshaphat, speaking by the Spirit, called Abraham God’s friend.
Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? (2 Chronicles 20:7)
God Himself, speaking through Isaiah the Prophet, calls Abraham “my friend”.
“But you, Israel, my servant,
Jacob, whom I have chosen,
you descendants of Abraham my friend,
9 I took you from the ends of the earth,
from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant’;
I have chosen you and have not rejected you. (Isaiah 41:8-9)
Now, saying that I am a friend of God and that Jesus calls me a friend does not mean that I am on equal footing with Him or on the same level as Him. He is the almighty God, my Creator, Lord, and Master. I shouldn’t think I can treat Him like a buddy or my counterpart. He is to be submitted to and obeyed and worshipped. But I am humbled that He would see me as a friend, too. I am honored. And it makes me want to please Him all the more and live for Him. It means that He wants me to hang out with Him and talk with Him and cherish our relationship above all others.
“You are My friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:4). There is an “if” in this statement. “If you do what I command You then you are My friends.” We prove to be friends of Jesus when we do what He commands us. What is His command?
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:12-14)
When we love each other we prove to be friends of Jesus. Faith in Him leads to love of God and one another because that’s what a friend of Jesus does. When I am your friend as a child of God and love you, then I prove to be His friend also.
The amazing thing is that Jesus was called a friend of sinners and tax collectors. He came to those that needed help and deliverance and loved them as His own. That’s what it means to be a true friend, one who seeks the lost and finds them and loves them just because they are human. He leaves the 99 to go after the 1 who is hurting and in need. That’s the kind of friend the world needs. That friend is Jesus Christ.
“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” (Matt. 11:10)
A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. (Prov. 17:17)
One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Prov. 18:24)
So, let’s sing this hymn together today as we remember 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!
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, 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.
Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright, unclouded,
There will be no need for prayer—
Rapture, praise, and endless worship
Will be our sweet portion there.