What Would Jesus Do... for a Friend?
What would you do for a friend? Here are some things people do for their friends: spend time with them ("hang out" together), help them move, buy them a coffee, make them supper, buy them lunch, write to them, call them up, listen to them, encourage them, cry with them, laugh with them, go for a walk with them, play sports or board games with them, help them with homework, help them get a job, perhaps even risk their lives for them to rescue them from danger, take them to the hospital, visit them when they’re sick, send them a card, mind their kids, be there for them through a difficult time, comfort them in time of loss, pray for them, wait for them, stay up all night with them.
Jesus stayed up all night praying for His friends. He fed them. He made them breakfast (the "Lord's Breakfast" in John 21;1-14). He was there for them through difficult times. He listened to them. He encouraged them. He challenged them. He taught them. He gave them homework assignments. Jesus gave them rewarding jobs. He visited them when they were sick. He healed them. He comforted them in time of loss. He raised them from the dead: "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep" (John 11:11). He forgave them: Seeing their faith, He said, 'Friend, your sins are forgiven you' (Luke 5:20). He risked His reputation and overlooked their faults to bring them the hope of heaven: "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds" (Matthew 11:19). He shared His joy with them: "He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. So this joy of mine has been made full" (John 3:29).
Friendship is so important to Jesus that His followers became known as friends as John calls them in verse 15 of his third letter: "Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends by name." Friendship is one way to describe the close relationship between God and His people: "and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'and Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,' and he was called the friend of God" (James 2:23). As Job reflects on his life, He remembers: "As I was in the prime of my days, When the friendship of God was over my tent" (29 & 4 and context).
In a familiar and special passage Jesus calls His disciples friends and shows the extent of His love for them: "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). Jesus speaks with an emphatic "I" when He says, "You are My friends if you do what I command you" (vs. what others command; John 15:14). Jesus' friends know what He is doing and what He has heard from our Father: "No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15).
Of all the ways that Jesus proved His love for His friends perhaps the most powerful is this: He gave up His life for His friends. He suffered and died in our place. He took our punishment. The reality and the pain of being nailed to a cross even for a minute is hard to imagine. Jesus knew this pain and endured if for us.
How long would Jesus wait, how long would He suffer for His friends? It is amazing that for His friends He would allow Himself to be nailed to a cross and to wait there for six hours. His disciples could hardly wait an hour in Gethsemane. Jesus waited six hours nailed to the cross.
The imprints of the nails were a turning point for one of Jesus' friends: "So the other disciples were saying to him (Thomas), 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe" (John 20:25 ). He saw and believed.
Jesus did this amazing thing for us. He paid the debts we owed to God: "having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14).
Jesus calls us, His disciples, friends. He died for us. God raised Him from the dead for us. He took away our debts. He feeds us spiritually by His Word and Spirit and with a most wonderful meal week by week in the Lord's Supper. He restores and heals our souls. He gives us things to do. He goes with us.
How long will Jesus wait for a friend? He waited six hours nailed to a cross. He is here with us today waiting before God as we do what He commands us to do. He waits in heaven eternally for His friends to come home. As Andrew brought Peter to Jesus (John 1:40-42), we can be a friend by bringing others to the best Friend of all. Heaven, and being God's friends, are possible for us because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. What a Friend we have in Jesus!