Jesus told his disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. 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 15:13-15)
Now I don’t know about you, but if someone told me that I could be their friend if I obeyed them I would not be too impressed. But given the context of Jesus’ statement, the countless hours he had spent with his disciples, and given the fact that He is the Son of God, this had to be received quite differently by his disciples. Of course you obey Jesus, but he is offering something more than a master/servant relationship. He is offering friendship.
We know that Jesus made special friendships among his disciples. The Apostle John has the boldness to call himself the disciple whom Jesus loved (see John 13:23; 19:26, et al). But he also had a special relationship with Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha. When Jesus hears that Lazarus is deathly ill he tells his disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” (John 11:11). Lazarus is a friend to all the disciples, but to Jesus as well. When the Jews observed Jesus weeping for Lazarus they remarked, “See how he loved him!” (11:36)
What does having a friend mean to you? For me it means having someone in my life who accepts me no matter what, but is also ready to challenge me to be better than ‘no matter what’. It means someone I can talk to about anything going on in my life. It means someone who is loyal to me and shares his or her life with me at the same level of transparency.
And this is what Jesus was offering his disciples in John 15. The master does not need to tell his servants his business, but a friend needs to tell a friend what is going on in his or her life. Jesus still wants that kind of relationship with us. He is our Lord, but he is also our friend. That means we can ask things of him that we would never think to ask of our boss. We can dialogue with him about what he is doing in our lives.
This doesn’t mean that he is obligated to tell us everything we want to know. It is impossible for us to receive some of the things Jesus knows (see Deuteronomy 29:29). And it might not be wise for us to know some things. But Jesus wants the intimate relationship with us that he has wanted with all his disciples. Am I willing to spend the time with him and be the friend that I must be to enjoy his friendship to the fullest?
A friend of Jesus! Oh, what bliss
That one so weak as I
Should ever have a Friend like this
To lead me to the sky!
Friendship with Jesus!
Oh, what blessed, sweet communion!
Jesus is a Friend of mine.
A Friend when other friendships cease,
A Friend when others fail,
A Friend who gives me joy and peace,
A Friend when foes assail!
A Friend when sickness lays me low,
A Friend when death draws near,
A Friend as through the vale I go,
A Friend to help and cheer!
A Friend when life’s short race is o’er
A Friend when earth is past,
A Friend to meet on Heaven’s shore,
A Friend when home at last!
Joseph C. Ludgate