In John 15, Jesus refers to Himself as “the vine” and calls His followers “the branches” (5). The purpose for this is clear (5b-6). A relationship to Christ must be maintained and fruit must be produced.
Jesus could have stopped there. But, He wants the connection to be more than this. In John 15:9-15, He talks of love and friendship. These verses suggest some wonderful thoughts.
First, we see evidence of His friendship. His friendship would be demonstrated in a dramatic way. He would lay down His life for His friends (13). In doing so, He would prove His love. Rom. 5:6-8 reminds us that His death was for those who were “still sinners” (6). It was not forced upon Him. He said, “I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:15) and “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself” (10:18).
Second, we see the expectation of His friendship. “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). No one can really call Jesus his/her friend unless they obey His will. Earlier Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commands” (John 14:15). Failure to obey Jesus denies both friendship and love.
Third, we see the elevation of His friendship. Earlier, Jesus called His followers “servants” (John 12:26, 13:13-16). But, Jesus wanted more than that. He wanted true friendship. This involves a new dignity. He wants the relationship with His friends to involve assurance, guidance, and victory over death. How we should thrill to read Rom. 8:37-39. We are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (37).
When you sing those words, “what a friend we have in Jesus,” be sure it comes from your heart. It would be an honor just to be His slave. But, He wants to be our Friend!