Often Christians say something like, “Jesus is my friend”.
Sometimes we sing about it.
Jesus is my friend and Jesus is your friend. That is true. But if we aren’t careful, we can trivialize Jesus’ friendship.
Of course, we have different kinds of friends, don’t we?
Friends who don’t’ let friends drive drunk.
Friends we work out with.
Friends we party with.
Friends we hang out with.
So what kind of friend is Jesus?
John 15:12-15 is what many of us think of when we think of Jesus as friend.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing’ but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.
These verses are part of a larger section in John’s gospel, often called “The Farewell Discourse” (John 14:1-16:33) and are part of an extended discussion of love within the Farewell discourse.
One commentator explains these verses like this,
The word translated “friend” (philos) in vv. 13-15 is from the verb “to love” (phileo). The Fourth Gospel uses the two Greek verbs for “love” (agapao and phileo) interchangeably (cf.; e.g. 13:2 and 20:2; 5:20 and 10:17), so when Jesus speaks of friends here, he is really saying “those who are loved” (cf. the description of Lazarus at 11:3,11). The English noun “friend” does not fully convey the presence of love that undergirds the Johannine notion of friendship. Verse 14 makes it even clearer that Jesus is not simply appealing to the noble ideal of friendship in v 13, but to an understanding of friendship wholly grounded in Jesus’ particular love. ( “The Gospel of John:Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” by Gail R. O’Day in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX, (Abingdon Press: Nashville, 1995) page 758)
“those who are loved” To be a friend of Jesus means we are loved. Not that our friend Jesus fixes things for us, gets us concert tickets, or takes us to the movies. To be Jesus’ friend is not about doing, it is a state of being. Jesus isn’t our friend and we aren’t Jesus’ friends for what Jesus does for us or for what we do for Jesus.
The relationship of love comes first. Well at least it does for Jesus. Does it for us?