If you’ve been in the church for a while, no doubt you’ve heard a lot about Jesus as Savior, Lord, King, and Teacher. All these glorious truths are essential and should be held up. But there is a core reality of who Jesus is that doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. There is a benefit to the gospel and believing in Jesus even deeper than forgiveness. There is a key truth motivating our walk with Christ just as important as viewing Jesus as our Lord. And this wonderful biblical truth is that Jesus is our friend.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends.” (John 15:13–15)
Jesus wants you to think of your relationship to him not just in terms of servant and Lord, or sinner and Savior, but Jesus wants us to relate to him as friend to Friend. And not like a Facebook friend who’s really an acquaintance. Jesus invites us into a real, personal, meaningful, lifelong friendship.
“You were made for friendship with God. God does not just want us to know about him; he wants us to know him — and to experience his friendship…Friendship is in the deepest heart of Christ and it’s at the very center of the gospel.”
If you’ve trusted in him, you are forgiven. This means even though we remain sinners our whole life, Jesus’s first thought of you isn’t as a sinner but as a friend. Friendship, not forgiveness, is the goal of salvation. Forgiveness makes friendship possible. When he looks on you, the first thought across his mind isn’t your sin (since it’s covered and clothed) but that you are his beloved friend. His gut-response isn’t distancing himself from you or disappointment in you; it’s a love that draws near to you.
Three Privileges of Friendship with Jesus
While there are many benefits to friendship with Jesus, and many themes that speak into this (such as union with Christ or that he’s our Sympathetic High Priest), here are three from John 14-15.
Jesus sacrificially loves his friends
Friends put the needs of their friends even before their own. Sacrifice is one measure of true friendship. If someone’s willing to go to a Colts game with you, they might be a friend or they might just like football. But if someone is willing to give up a Saturday to help you move (the worst), their willingness to sacrifice for you indicates the kind of friend they are.
What would be the greatest act of friendship? What is the most selfless act that would prove how much a friend cared about you? It would have to be someone giving up their life for someone. Jesus demonstrates the kind of friend he is with the most selfless, sacrificial, and loving act when he gives up his life for his friends. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
The cross displays the depth of Jesus’ love; the love of a friend who sacrifices for the good of his friends.
Jesus wants good things for his friends
You want the best for your friends. In fact, we want good things for them so much that we’re willing to actively help make it happen if we can.
Jesus is a friend who wants the best of things for us. Jesus laid down his own life on a cruel, terrible cross to give us what we need most: forgiveness and friendship. But I want to quickly point out three other things Jesus mentions he wants for us. These help us see his kind heart toward us in only wanting our good.
“Let not your hearts be troubled…Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:1, 27)
When Jesus spoke these words, he knew he was about to die and physically leave his disciples. He knows the pain, confusion, and fear they’ll have when he’s arrested and crucified. And all of this moves Jesus. Our troubled heart troubles Jesus’ heart. His heart is moved to compassion when our heart is stirred with worry, fear, or discouragement. That’s the caring heart of a loving friend.
And notice Jesus offers it in himself. Jesus says my peace I give to you.
Like a true friend, Jesus wants our joy. That’s very different from teachers and leaders from other world religions. There are many things they want: committed followers, distinct living, and a belief system, but they don’t talk about their desire for their followers to have joy. But Jesus does.
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). This verse leads into the following section (15:12-15), connecting the dots between Jesus’ desire for our joy and how he gives us this kind of joy through friendship with him.
He gives us joy by uniting us with the Triune God, the source of eternal joy.
Jesus gives us joy by freeing us from the chains of our failures, regrets, and sins.
He gives joy through his promises to never push us away, never leave us nor forsake us, to work all things out for our good, and to walk with us through whatever we’re going through.
Jesus gives us joy as we rest in his sovereignty in all things.
He gives us joy by speaking truth to us that will combat the lies that threaten our joy.
He showers mercy, grace, and kindness over us by how he treats us.
And Jesus gives us joy through our friendship and fellowship with him.
Jesus wants us to experience love, namely, his all-sufficient and satisfying love. We’ve seen this throughout John, but Jesus specifically says so in John 15:9. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.”
Pastor Matt Chandler talks about how we often think these promises only apply to some future version of ourselves, the one with less sin and their act together. But that’s not what Jesus says. He loves us now. He loves the real you; the broken and messy you.
When Jesus befriends us, he does so knowing we’re unworthy of his friendship. He knows we will lack faith, stumble and stray. He knows our sin. But in kindness and grace, he makes the first move and befriends us. Jesus reminds us we didn’t choose him but he chose us (John 15:16). He set his love upon us, not when we were cleaned up or with rose-colored glasses on, but he did so fully aware of who we are.
Isn’t that genuine friendship? A true friend has seen you at your worst. They know the real you, and yet they stick with you. Friends are friends through thick-and-thin. Jesus loves us like that. He is a gracious friend who knows the real you and loves you anyways. His love isn’t based on how impressed or unimpressed he is; it’s based on his faithfulness as a friend. It’s not dependent on your goodness or worth; it flows freely from his grace and love.
Jesus invites us to abide in his love. Take time to soak it up, to experience it, and to dwell in it.
Jesus shares all things with his friends
You might think about the depth of your friendship by how much you hold back from someone versus how much you share with them. You give your “Facebook friends” minimal details. You let them know you visited a pumpkin patch this weekend. But if you meet over coffee with a close friend, you’re likely to share significant details on what’s going on and how you’re doing. The closer the friendship the more you share and open up. Transparency and disclosure is part of friendship.
A third way Jesus treats us as friends is he’s transparent with us. He doesn’t call us a friend but keep us in the dark. He invites us into the intimacy of friendship where he shares things with us. “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)
Jesus elevates our relationship beyond that of a master to servant or teacher to disciple and into the realm of friend to friend
An evidence of friendship with Jesus is how he shows us his heart. He tells us his plan and purposes. He tells us the good things he wants for us, what the Father is like, and how he feels about us and relates to us. He did this to the disciples as he walked with them and he does it to us through the Word. The Bible is God’s intimate self-disclosure to us so we might see him, know him, and love him.
What a friend we have in Jesus. Enjoy the many blessings and privileges we have with Jesus as our Friend. Let it change the way you relate to him, including approaching communion with him as a conversation where you listen to him through the Bible and you speak to him through prayer.
 Drew Hunter, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” 12/11/18, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-a-friend-we-have-in-jesus. See Drew’s excellent book Made for Friendship, especially chapter 7 on “The Great Friend.”