“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” [Philippians 2:3-4]
I’ve been thinking about Jesus as the embodiment, the example and the power behind true friendship. I’ve been thinking about the kind of friend that Jesus was to those around Him. The kind of friend that Jesus continues to be towards us today. The kind of friend that Jesus calls and urges us to be. I believe that a great part of being Christ-like is to be the friend that Christ was towards those around Him. The following are just a few aspects of friendship that I’ve gleaned from my personal study on Jesus as a friend. Jesus was:
1. A Selfless Friend
He was a self-less friend, and he urges us to be such friends by considering ourselves less, and others better than us. In the miracle of the two fish and five loaves, I don’t recall any record of Jesus eating, but I recall a record of Him feeding the 5,000. I am not saying that He didn’t eat. But I am saying that He didn’t find it important to record. He considered others better than Himself. Furthermore, he had food that the disciples knew nothing of (John 4:32). Jesus is a self-sacrificing friend, and he urges us to be such friends by sacrificing our comfort, earthly positions and reputations for the sake of others. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” [John 15:13]
2. A Sinner’s Friend
Jesus is a friend of sinners. He visits them, washes their feet, dines with them, forgives them and even dies for them… for the glory of God. The Pharisees accused Jesus of being a friend of sinners, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” [Matthew 11:19]. If you are a Christian, you understand that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The pharisees were ignorant of this reality. In accusing Jesus of being a friend of sinners, they were revealing their own delusion that they thought of themselves as saints. But there is none righteous. The truth is that we are all sinners, and the truth about friendship is that we can only be friends to sinners, not saints. Jesus embodied this truth about friendships. He was a friend of sinners.
3. An Unconditional Friend
There’s something I find intriguing about the relationship between Jesus and Judas. Even though Judas hated Jesus and thought nothing but evil towards Him, Jesus loved Judas. His love for Judas is first displayed in the fact that Jesus washed the feet of his betrayer, and later on, he referred to his betrayer as a friend, “”Jesus replied, “Do what you came for, friend.” Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him.” [Matthew 26:50]. In this, we learn that even though Jesus was not a friend with the world, he was a friend to the world. And so should we. This is what it means to love unbelievers and those who are our enemies. Jesus didn’t just have church-buddies. He evangelized through friendships.
4. A Confiding Friend
An essential element in our friendships is trust. We all need a friend we can confide in without the fear of our precious secrets ever being exposed to the wolves, the dogs and the pigs in the world (Matthew 7:6). Jesus is such a friend. We can trust Him with our secrets. He trusted us with the most precious secret of all, the good news of salvation. Real friends talk to their friends about God. “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.” [John 15:15]
5. A Considerate Friend
Jesus is considerate, especially to those who have wronged him, betrayed his trust and even denied him at some point. He forgives the repentant. When the angel sent the women from the empty tomb to the disciples, he told them, “Go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'” [Mark 16:6]. Yes, Peter was one of the disciples, one of the twelve, one of their number. the angel did not need to emphasize his name. But Jesus knew that while the rest had simply deserted him, Peter had verbally and consciously denied him, three times! Jesus was considerate. he considered Peter’s grief, and He wanted to remind Peter that He still loved him despite his denial of him. He was still Peter’s friend.
6. A Closer than a Brother Friend
Outside of Christ, blood is thicker than water. But in Christ, water is thicker than blood. Through baptism, we signify that we are now friend of Jesus. Water baptism symbolizes our communion and eternal union with Jesus, our friend. By water, we have a friend who is even closer than a brother. A friend whose love for us makes our own loves and affections towards our blood brothers or parents almost seem like hate in comparison (Luke 14:26). “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” [Proverbs 18:24]. Jesus is that friend.
7. A Loving Friend
Finally, Jesus was the embodiment of the fruit of the Spirit. He was loving. And His love for His friends was illustrated, revealed and exemplified in His joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control towards His friends. And we are also called to be like wise, we are called, “as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” [Colossians 3:12-14]
Not only was Jesus loving. He embodied love. God is love. Jesus is God incarnate. Therefore Jesus is love incarnate. And the greatest expression of His love towards us was displayed on the Cross, for every sinner to behold, believe and live!
Are we weak and heavy laden,
cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge,
take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you?
Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you;
you will find a solace there.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son; so that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.”
In His service and for His glory,