Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 15:13 (Holman) “No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.”
The highest act of love is to die for another. It is the purest, most sacrificial form of human devotion. Life is our ultimate possession of Earth. When we give our life, we have held nothing back.
Some say love that dies for an enemy would be greater than a love which dies for friends. Jesus did die for His enemies. “While we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10).
Jesus used the word “friend” in our text because He was among friends. He was highlighting His relationship to them.
Jesus, who would soon die for the disciples, was emphasizing His love for the disciples, not theirs for Him. We Christ-followers never have any right to brag. We are Jesus’ friends not because of our merit, but as a result of God’s grace.
Due to our sins, we have all been enemies to God. Jesus’ amazing love has transformed His followers from foe to friend.
Had Jesus not died for us when we were His enemies, we would have never been able to become His friends. By a miracle of divine chemistry, Jesus’ shed blood changed our enmity into friendship.
Jesus laid down His life, yielded it completely on our behalf. He wants us, in return, to give our life to Him, to lay it all at His feet.
John 15:14 “You are My friends if you do what I command you.”
We prove we have laid down our life for the One who laid down His life for us by obeying His commandments. God’s condescending friendship toward us gives us no right to presume on His kindness.
The military would dishonorably discharge a General who dared to say, “Since the President is my personal friend, I will take advantage of our relationship and disregard his commands.” Christians, never presume on our friendship with Jesus. It does bring us privilege, but must also increase our resolve to do right.
John 15:15 “I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made
known to you everything I have heard from My Father.”
A master does not share his innermost thoughts with slaves. Since Jesus has brought us into the decision-making process of the Universe, we know we are His friends. He interacts with us, giving wisdom to us, and letting us pray to Him.
This does not mean Jesus tells us everything there is to know. This would be too painful for us. A friend knows when to be silent, as well as when to speak.
Jesus has faithfully revealed to us everything we need to know about the Father and holy living. To share more would harm, not help, us.
I’m glad a veil hid from my foreknowledge tragedies that would happen in my life. Enduring them one at a time has made life sustainable and winnable. To have known about them all in advance would have overwhelmed me.
Being Jesus’ friend entails at least three things. One, honor. A ruler’s closest advisors are called his friends. They have unlimited access to the king, including the right to enter his bedchamber if deemed necessary.
Parmenio was a gifted General, but his military fame is forgotten, overshadowed by the fact he was known as the friend of Alexander the Great. Others revered Alexander as a conqueror and monarch, but Parmenio loved him as a person. Alexander saw this, and relied heavily on his friend.
A King consults his friends before discussing matters of state with generals, leaders, statesmen, etc. Friends are his closest associates. David’s friend was Hushai the Archite (2 Samuel 15:37). Solomon’s friend was Zabud (1 Kings 4:5).
By calling us His friends, Jesus honors us. God called Abraham “My friend” (Isaiah 41:8). On His way to deal with Sodom, YHWH told Abraham, “Should I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” (GN 18:17). “The Lord spoke with Moses face to face, just as a man speaks with his friend” (EX 33:11).
The honor of having Jesus as our friend significantly blesses us. When Jonathan Edwards came to die, after saying good-bye to his family, he breathed his last words, “Now where is Jesus of Nazareth, my true and never failing Friend?”
The first Baptist missionary to Japan is buried at Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis, his grave marked by a small stone. Not much honor has come his way.
Near his grave a miniature medieval castle marks the grave of a man noted for wealth earned in unholy pursuits. This injustice upset me deeply. A godly man dishonored; an ungodly honored.
Ruth calmed me with a wise statement, “The ungodly man would now gladly trade places with the missionary.” Amen. Honor has been bestowed in a better world. The highest honor is to be Jesus’ friend.
Two, being Jesus’ friend entails hurt. We use the word “friend” too glibly, to describe anyone we know that we like. It is to us too often a shallow word, meaning little more than an enjoyable acquaintance.
The word meant more than this to Jesus. He was talking to men he had lived with for 3 years. The Old Testament said, “A friend loves at all times” (PR 17:17).
We come close to the term’s ideal meaning when we say a friend in need is a friend indeed. One who befriends us in our time of need is our real friend.
People become our friends not as much when we laugh together as when we cry together. Both are necessary, but our dearest friends are those who draw so close to us in our pain that it is impossible to know which one’s tears are flowing down our cheek. When our tears blend with someone else’s, friendship happens.
Do we hurt with Jesus? Do we feel what He feels? Is there a sadness in us caused by the lostness of people? Does the pain of humanity hurt us?
Three, being Jesus’ friend entails hostility. The fact the world crucified Jesus because He was good helps us understand the world’s attitude toward us.
The world’s dislike for Christians is caused more by our virtues than by our hypocrisies. The world howls about our failures, but its real fear is our successes.
The world hates our goodness much more than it disdains our failures. It actually loves our hypocrisies, and uses them for nails to hang its laughter on.
It is dangerous to be good, to practice a standard higher than the world’s. People are persecuted for working too hard or too long, much less for holiness.
The world dislikes people whose lives condemn theirs. Athens once had a citizen so good that people called him “Aristides the Just.”
In later years he was banished. One citizen, asked why he voted to banish Aristides, answered, “I am tired of hearing him always called the Just.”
Jack Waller was born in Virginia in 1714 into an honorable family. Brilliant, he studied law, but fell into evil, developing a mouth so vulgar that he was nicknamed Swearing Jack Waller. He was always causing trouble. People called him Satan’s adjutant in charge of mustering the Devil’s troops.
In addition to his other vices, he hated Baptists. On a grand jury that sought to indict Louis Craig for the crime of preaching, Swearing Jack Waller heard the preacher tell the jury, “I thank you for the honor you have done me. While I was wicked you took no notice of me, but since I have altered my course of life and endeavour to reform my neighbors, you concern yourselves much about me.”
Craig’s words struck Waller’s heart. He saw the folly of trying a man whose only crime was being better than he had ever been before. Understanding for the first time his hatred for Baptists was based on their goodness, Swearing Jack Waller followed Christ, was baptized, and became Preaching Jack Waller (The Story of Baptists in all Ages and Countries, by Rev. R.B. Cook, pp. 223-224).
It is goodness in God’s people that most stirs unbelievers. It either moves them toward liking God more or toward liking believers less. Is there enough holiness in us to move unbelievers one way or the other?
To be a friend of Jesus entails three things: honor, hurt, hostility. Are we Jesus’ friends?