Summary: Find out how Jesus is our friend and why.
Joseph Scriven, the man who wrote the hymn we just sang (What A Friend We Have In Jesus), was born in 1819 in Ireland. Things seemed to go well in his life until he became engaged. The evening before the wedding, his bride drowned. Scriven moved to Port Hope, Ontario where he became engaged again. But tragedy struck once more when his bride became ill and died just before the wedding. When in 1855 his mother in Ireland became sick Scriven wrote the words of “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.”
Why would Scriven write such a hymn when his life as an adult had been marred by tragedy? Had Jesus really been a friend to him? Has Jesus been a friend to you? It might not always feel like it but through the words of our text we’ll see the many ways in which Jesus is a friend to us.
Jesus spoke the words of our text the night before he was crucified for our sins. The crucifixion alone shows what a friend we have in Jesus. Jesus himself said in our text: “13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Any time someone sacrifices his life for a friend, that act makes front-page news. What makes Jesus’ sacrifice so much more amazing is that he gave up his life to save people who by nature were not his friends. Think of how the people Jesus came to help often pushed him away. For example when Jesus went to his hometown of Nazareth to tell the people there that he was the Messiah, what was their reaction? They tried throwing Jesus off a cliff (Luke 4:14 ff.)! We do the same when Jesus speaks to us about the way he would have us honor marriage, our governing officials, our parents, and our teachers but instead of obeying Jesus we tell him to take a flying leap! What a friend we have in Jesus that he would give up his life to pay for these sins we commit against him. Imagine diving into a burning garbage dump to save mildew that had been scraped out of the corners of your bathroom. That’s what Jesus did when he died on the cross; he gave up his life to save musty old sinners.
Jesus’ friendship doesn’t stop with his saving us. Jesus went on to tell his disciples, “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” (John 15:15). What would it be like to have a friend in the Prime Minister’s office? You would be the first to learn of the kind of decisions the leaders of our country are making, decisions that can affect everyday life. Well when Jesus says that he has made known to us everything the Father made known to him, he’s saying that we have inside knowledge of the kind of things that affect not only everyday life, but also eternal life. For example we have knowledge of how the Father has planned to work everything, even sadness and pain, for the good of believers. We also know what he has planned for the end of the world. Sure, we might not know when the end will come but we do know how we can be ready for the end – by being friends with Jesus.
Those who have friends in high places not only know what’s going on, they have access to power and influence. With Jesus as our friend we have that blessing. Jesus said: “…the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name” (John 15:16c). What exactly does it mean that the Father will do whatever we ask “in Jesus’ name”? It does not mean that the Father will do whatever we demand of him. Do you remember the public service announcement: “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk”? True friends will do what is best for us, no matter what it is we demand from them. Someone who has had too much to drink may still want to drive home, but a friend will know that that’s a bad idea and won’t give his friend the keys to his car no matter how much he pleads, whines, or threatens. In the same way, we can be sure that our heavenly Father will only give us that which is good for us no matter what we demand from him. So we may demand relief from our pain. We may demand a better paycheck. The Father will give us those things only if it will help us grow in our friendship with Jesus. If it will harm that friendship, he will withhold those things from us. We can be certain, however, that when we ask for spiritual blessings like forgiveness or a stronger faith, our heavenly Father will give us these blessings for Jesus’ sake. What a friend we have in Jesus that he causes the heavenly Father to listen to and answer our prayers!