What a Friend We Have in Jesus
John and I went to Lenoir Rhyne University last night to hear a lecture by the Dean and Professor of New Testament and Preaching at Wake Forest University School of Divinity, Dr. Gail O'Day, on "Friendship and the Gospel of John: Love as Christian Practice."
It was really interesting and I always love how people can pull so many different things out of a book or even just a passage. To me that just shows that the Word really is living and breathing.
Dr. O’Day used John 15:12-15 12 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. 15 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.
This is right in the middle of Jesus’ farewell discourse, which falls in John 13 – 17It takes place right after the last supper and before the arrest. And we see not only from His words here, but His entire life that friendship, to Christ, is the ultimate relationship with God and one another.
Therefore it should be a model for Christian practice.
Friendship was very popular in ancient Greece and Rome. It was how you built a good society. And it was broken down into 3 aspects.
1. It was a relationship between equals that contributed to the city state. Aristotle said that the definition of a friend is one who would lay down his life for the other. Jesus wasn’t saying something they hadn’t heard before. The difference is, the philosophers talked about it and Jesus did it!
Dr. O’Day brought up Christ's parable of the Good Shepherd from John 10 about how a shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. She said Jesus’ arrest has echoes of this. He led His disciples into an enclosed garden (like a sheep pen) and a thief (Judas) was there. In John, Jesus stepped forward. In the other 3 Gospels Judas came up to show which one Jesus was. But John made a point that Jesus lay His life down willingly.
2. Friendship in antiquity was also boldness of speech. A willingness of the friend to speak freely. A friend would tell the truth. They didn’t flatter and they didn’t hold back. In John 15:15 Jesus says “I do not call you servants any longer.” The disciples were now His friends because He spoke to them openly and told them everything from the Father.
3. Friends have all things in common. Luke used this in Acts when talking about how the church was formed. How people shared everything they owned. John 16 says, “All that the Father has is mine and will declare it to you.” And prayed that, “they may be one as we are one.” Jesus said He told them everything and the Greek word for everything is all things. All in common. He also invited them to be one of heart. To “love as I have loved.”
They weren’t commanded to do this to make Jesus their friend, but because they were His friends. He was the model for them, but He was also the source. By speaking openly and having all things in common.
The mark of friendship with Jesus is what we do for Him. We can use the well known phrase What Would Jesus Do? Because He is our guide to decision making. For John though there is no point in asking what would Jesus do because Jesus has already done! He gave His life in love.
John would ask, “What would friends of Jesus do?” And the answer would be to love one another as He has loved us. Give love freely and generously without counting the cost.