Christ And His Friends
( Originally Published 1895 )
"I have called you friends. "óJohn xv. 15.
THERE is no sweeter paragraph in the Bible, none with more honey in it for a pure heart, none that ought to be more attractive to the wanderer away from God, than this paragraph in which our text shines as a central gem. Xenophon tells us that when Cyrus gave Artabazus, one of his courtiers, a cup of gold, he gave Chrysanthus, his favorite, nothing but a kiss, which occasioned this speech from Artabazus to Cyrus : "Sir, the cup you gave me was not so good gold as the kiss you gave Chrysanthus." There is no gift in the universe so rich and precious as the friendship of Jesus Christ. The man in the Old Testament who had the grandest title of any was Abraham, who was known as "the friend of God." And you may go into those Eastern lands to-day, and the Bedouins of the desert talk about Abraham as "The Friend." Lord Brooke was so delighted with the friendship of Sir Philip Sidney, that he ordered to be engraved upon his tomb nothing but this : " Here lies the friend of Sir Philip Sidney." Mr. Spurgeon comments on this, that while there was great beauty in such a feeling, it is a very small thing compared with being able to say, " Here lives a friend of Jesus Christ."
The friendship of Jesus becomes the center about which cluster the friendships of those who love him. His friendship gives stability to all other friendships, and gives us the pledge that they shall be eternal.
Jesus was always looking on the bright side of the character. and conduct of his friends. Isn't that a sure indication of friendship? Many an ordinary acquaintance is willing to give ear to gossip or scandal, and believe reports that put the acquaintance in a bad light; but when you re-hearse anything that is detracting and injurious about a person to one of his true friends, you will find the friend very unwilling to believe it, and he will probably say right out, "I don't believe that is so. I know that man as well as anybody does. I believe him incapable of doing a mean thing. There is some explanation to all this. Anyhow, I shall not condemn him,. or even allow myself for a moment to think evil of him, until I know all the facts about this and give him a chance to explain it himself." How many times you have heard a conversation like that. That is a real test of friendship. And that is what the Lord Jesus Christ is always doing with his friends. He does not misjudge them because of outward appearances, and he makes the greatest allowance for their weakness and infirmities. This was beautifully illustrated on that last night which the Savior spent with his disciples, when Judas had gone away to lead the soldiery and the rabble to arrest the Lord Jesus, and when the feeling of loneliness and sorrow was heaviest to bear, when above all other times he needed and longed for friendly association, and he asked the disciples to wait and watch for him while he went apart a little to pray. In that hour of loneliness and darkness, our human nature which he shared and which he was bearing for our sakes longed to feel that they were sitting awake and watchful, full of sympathy and friendship for him, only a little apart from him there in the garden. And yet, for some cause, they could not keep awake, and to outward appearances it seemed as if they were in-different to his agony and entirely untouched by his entreaties, and were able to drop off to sleep as though nothing of interest to them was about to occur. One can imagine what fierce and biting sarcasm a man like Napoleon, or Thomas Carlyle, or almost any other famous worldly character, would have used on friends that had treated them with such seeming neglect. But oh, how gentle and tender are the words of the Lord Jesus ! The only word of complaint he utters is that little word of astonishment and appeal, " What ! could ye not watch with me one hour?" And when they had fallen asleep again and again, see how he makes excuses for them, even when they have no excuse to make for themselves and sit ashamed and silent. He says to them with gentle and loving forgiveness, " The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." It was as if he had said to them : " I know your hearts, my dear friends. I have not a doubt of you. I know your love. t is only the weakness of the flesh," and then he adds, "Sleep on now, and take your rest." Oh, was there ever a friend like Jesus? How can you stay away from such a friendship?
Jesus Christ enters with perfect fellowship into the joy and grief of his friends, and invites them to enter with the same fellowship into his own grief and labor and triumph. And this again we all recognize as a characteristic of perfect friendship. All of us have some friends, no doubt, and some of us have a number, to whom, when any glad thing comes into our life or we achieve any success or triumph, it is one of the sweetest parts of our joy to tell it or write it; and sometimes we can't wait for that, but telegraph it to our friends. And when some great sorrow or grief falls upon our life, there are some friends that we must at once notify. t is not only that we want their sympathy in the time of sorrow, although that is precious beyond language to describe, but it is because we know that they would be grieved at heart if we were to bear our sorrow alone and not let them have the privilege of sharing it with us. So the Lord Jesus enters into perfect fellowship in joy or grief, in success or victory, with his friends. One of the most touching and loving little incidents in all the Bible is one recorded in Mark's Gospel, relating how, when Jesus met Mary Magdalene after the resurrection and sent a message of love to the disciples, he sent it in these words of the white-robed angel : " Go, tell his disciples and Peter." I am sure you remember, when you think about it, why Peter was called specially by name in this message. The last time Jesus had seen Peter was on that terrible night when poor Peter thrice denied his Lord, and when the Savior had turned on him his grieved and pitying look that had broken Peter's heart, and he had gone out into the darkness to weep bitter tears of repentance. And so after his resurrection the very first message that Jesus sent to his disciples, he put in this special kindly pat on the head to poor Peter. He knew that Peter's heart would be sore, and, though he had repented of his sin and was true to the core now, that the devil would be putting temptations into his heart, and would try to make him believe that he had forfeited the Savior's love and esteem, and would never be taken back quite into his old place again ; and sa while he did not even name the beloved disciple John, he singled out Peter and sent him what he knew would be dearer to Peter than anything else in the world. And after this he came to them beside the sea where they had been fishing all night and taken nothing, and had break-fast with them on the-shore, and had a special love-talk with Peter. Oh, you may be sure that Jesus will add to your gladness, and he will take the bitterness and the sting out of your sorrow, if you will come to him with your friendship and your love.
Jesus gives his complete confidence to his friends. He tells them the secrets of his heart. What a wonderful verse this is in which our text stands : " Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth : but I have called you friends; for all things_ that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you." There is no greater test of friendship than. that. We have many friends that are really good friends to us and we love them very much, whom we have never admitted into that inner, secret sanctuary. t is your rare, familiar friend to whom you unbosom yourself and tell the secrets of your soul. I repeat it, that is the highest test of friendship. That was the way God treated Abraham. When he was on his way to the ,destruction of Sodom, and visited Abraham in the desert, before he departed with his angel companions, "the Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" and then he opened his heart to him and told him his purpose. That is the way God treated Moses. The scripture re-cord says he spoke to Moses as a man speaketh to his friend. David understood this characteristic of God toward those who love him, and says in the twenty-fifth Psalm, " The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him." And in the book of Revelation, the Savior said to the beloved disciple, John, who still tarried in old age to hear the last words of his Master : " To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it." How blessed is that secret revelation of Jesus Christ which be makes to those who love him, who walk in blessed fellowship and communion with him day by day, and who enter with all their hearts into his great mission of seeking and saving the lost! I know that I speak to many of you to-night who know what this means. You have no language to tell the blessed hours of secret communion which you have had with the Savior. No pen could ever describe what it meant when he came to you in your sorrow, when your heart was breaking, and put his loving arms around' you, and pillowed your head upon his breast; and though you wept there, the bitterness of your tears was gone, and through your tears you saw a rainbow of immortal promise. Oh, I would you all knew what this blessed friendship is! And if you will, you may enter this night into this holy friendship. Jesus will take you into his circle and open his heart to you and reveal to your glad ear the secrets of his love.
Jesus is a friend who never deserts those who give him. their love and their friendship. " Having loved his own, he loved them unto the end." Oh, the blessed constancy of love! Under the meanest conditions of our human life it glorifies our race, and marks us, even when wandering and degraded, as the children of God. That great traveler and naturalist Humboldt tells about seeing a granite mound called " Mother's Rock," at the junction of two South American rivers. It was so called on acount of a certain touching little bit of history which it commemorated. Three years previous to his visit, a hostile expedition to capture prisoners had been made among these Indians by the Spaniards. Among other prisoners taken was a woman who was surprised alone in a hut, her husband having gone off on a hunting expedition, accompanied by the children. After being carried to San Fernando, the desire to see her children in-, duced her to attempt an escape. She fled repeatedly, but was as often caught and brought back and violently flogged, but without effect. It was then determined to send her to a distant station on the Rio Negro, whence it would be impossible for her to return. While the canoe was passing up the river she flung herself into the stream, was thrown ashore by the waves and escaped into the woods, but was again caught, brought back, and most cruelly beaten. She was taken to a distant station and closely confined, but in spite of her wounds' she took advantage , of a dark, stormy night to unfasten with her teeth the cords which bound her and again fled in search of her children. For many days and nights she wandered through a trackless forest, at that period of the year inundated, and swarming with venomous reptiles. She swam the swollen rivers; her flesh was torn with thorns and the spikes of the cactus; her only food for days was the large black ants that she caught; but over all obstacles her love conquered and she reached her children. Oh, if the love of a poor, heathen Indian woman could do that, what cannot the divine and ever-blessed Christ do in faithful constancy and fidelity to you?
I offer you this changeless love of Christ to-night. "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever." He will love you until the end. He will not desert you because you are sad. He will not leave you because you lose your money. He will not separate from you as you grow old, but his love will grow sweeter when you need him most.
There is only one condition by which you may have this friendship, and that is the one condition on which all true friendships are made. You must give yourself to him. " He that keepeth my commandments, he it is that loveth me," says the Savior, and if you will to-night give yourself up in loving obedience to the Lord Jesus, you may have all the precious gifts of his friendship. Your sins are not great enough to keep him from you. No sorrow or weakness or trouble on your part is sufficient to keep him from you. Your wilful disobedience is all that blocks the way, and the moment you surrender your will to him and begin to keep his commandments and to obey his words, he will come with this gentle, tender, loving friendship and rejoice your heart and glorify your life.