Some of our most stirring spiritual songs are those which have a message about Jesus being a friend to us, or vice versa. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” “There’s Not a Friend,” and “I’ll Be a Friend to Jesus” are three familiar hymns which come to mind.
For humans, it feels like having friends is a normal part of life. When Jesus lived on the earth, He had friends, too. The Bible says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5). Jesus loved all people, but there was a special bond between Him and those three siblings. When Jesus addressed the apostles, He spoke about “our friend Lazarus” (John 11:11). It is obvious that Jesus did not shy away from being friends with people.
Jesus counted His hand-picked apostles as His friends. He told them, “. . . I have called you friends” (John 15:15). Even when Judas came to betray Him, Jesus called him “friend” (Matthew 26:50). Some labeled Jesus as “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34), and that was an accurate description.
How did the Christ’s friends treat Him? John the Baptizer thought of himself as “the friend of the bridegroom” (John 3:29). John was a loyal friend to Jesus, showing no signs of jealousy or bitterness when he acknowledged this about Him: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). We see those two sisters, Martha and Mary, showing their friendship to Him. Martha served Him (John 12:2), while Mary attentively listened to His teaching Luke 10:39).
There were times when Jesus’ friends wavered in their loyalty. In one evening’s time, all the apostles forsook Him and fled (Mark 14:50), Peter denied Him three times (Luke 22:57-62), and Judas Iscariot betrayed Him, fulfilling the prophecy that the Messiah’s “own familiar friend” would eat bread with Him and lift up his heal against Him (Psalm 41:9). Other than the betrayer, after Jesus’ resurrection and the beginning of the church, the apostles are pictured as becoming stronger and remaining loyal to the Lord.
How did the Christ treat His friends? There is certainly much to learn from His wonderful example in this regard. For one thing, He was willing to befriend those who were counted as outcasts by many in society (Luke 15:1,2). He praised the good deeds of His friends, as in the case of John (Matthew 11:11).
Jesus received and enjoyed the association and hospitality of His friends, as in the case of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). He was understanding of their weaknesses and was patient with them, as He demonstrated with Peter (Luke 22:31,32). Another way in which the Christ showed Himself to be a true friend was by teaching His friends the truth (Mark 4:34; 8:31). Because He sincerely longed for them to do better, with kindness He pointed out their error(s) (Luke 10:40-42). When needed, He would strongly rebuke His friends for misspeaking or misbehaving (Matthew 16:23).
As a friend, Jesus shared in His friends’ sorrow (John 11:33-35). He prayed for His friends (John 17:6-19). The Master was loyal to His friends: “. . . having loved His own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). His loyal love caused Jesus to sacrifice for His friends, as He told the apostles, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). How much do you and I act like the kind of friend Jesus was to others?
When we read the Bible, we clearly see that not everyone wanted to be Jesus’ friend. Some were His open adversaries (Luke 13:17). There are only two possibilities for each person: either one is with the Christ, or he/she is against Him (Matthew 12:30). Well, what is required in order to be Jesus’ friend?
In order to be our Lord’s friend, one does not have to be wealthy, highly-educated, or from a certain race, nationality, or age group. In order to be Jesus’ friend, one must have a heart that is willing to obey Him. Jesus told His disciples, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). No one can be a faithful friend of Jesus without submitting to Him. What does one do who loves the Lord? He/she obeys His commands. Jesus said so (John 14:15).
Jesus will not force us to do it, but He wants you andmetobeHisloyalfriends…foraslongaswe live. If we will confess Him now, He will confess us before the angels of God (Luke 12:8).
— Roger D. Campbell