Sayings of Jesus

'Except a man be born again'

'He that believeth..'
'I am the Bread of Life'
'I am the resurrection and the life'
'I am the true vine'
'Salvation is of the Jews'
'You are my friends if..'

`You are my friends if ...'

IF, is only a little word, and yet it makes so much difference to the meaning of that saying of Jesus, `You are my friends if you do what I command.'  (John 15.14)

Jesus was here talking to his disciples. He knew that it was only going to be a matter of hours before he was to be arrested and would have to face death at the hands of the authorities, both Jewish and Roman. He was strengthening his followers' faith to face the future without his physical presence, and he went on to reassure them:

`... for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.' (John 15.15)

That which Jesus had learned from his Father, was a set of rules for this life. They are not only rules for this life, but to lead us to eternal life, because earlier Jesus had told Nicodemus:

`...God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.' (John 3.16)

We all have that same invitation to become friends of Jesus and to share eternal life with him under the same conditions if we do whatever Jesus commands.

I bought a new computer some time ago, and as I unpacked the box it came in, I found the instruction manual - seven chapters and three appendices, about 200 pages in all. Not bad for a complex piece of electronic equipment, I thought. Then I looked into the box again, and discovered nine other books and booklets about specific aspects of the machine and operating system. I found that I had two thousand pages of instructions for my computer, all of which were considered important by the manufacturer. I can't ignore part of those instructions because I don't particularly like what I read there, or because I think that I know better than the person who designed the machine or wrote the software. If I try to do things my own way, the system probably won't work and I certainly can't expect it to fulfil the advertised claims of the manufacturer.

In a way, life is like that and the same applies to the commands of Jesus which we can find in the Bible. Through Jesus, God has made us an offer of something far greater than this life. If we are going to take Him up on His offer though, we have to read the instructions and abide by them. We might think that a set of instructions for life would have to be vastly more complicated than those for my computer, but they are all contained in twelve hundred and fifty five pages in my Bible, and that not only includes the instructions but also many stories used as illustrations and examples.

Jesus' instructions are not difficult to keep, and he told his followers:

`All things have been committed to me by my Father. No-one knows the Son except the Father, and no-one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.' (Matthew 11.27-30)

If we look at these instructions Jesus gave to his followers and which we can find in our Bibles, we will find a code of conduct and ethics that makes a lot of sense for a peaceful and successful life now. Not only that, but also something which has the immeasurably greater advantage of qualifying us for that promise, `... whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.' (John 3.16)

Jesus expanded that point and introduced another vital concept when he instructed his followers to:

`...Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved...' (Mark 16.15,16)

In the Gospel of Matthew we can read of an occasion when Jesus was asked by an expert in the Jewish law which was the greatest commandment in that law. His reply was just as appropriate to us now, two thousand years later, as it was then for those under the Law of Moses:

`..."Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbour as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.' (Matthew 22.37-40)

Here Jesus was quoting from Deuteronomy, one of the Old Testament books of the Jewish Law, which stresses the concept of a total commitment to God based on love and respect rather than fear and dread that was and still is a feature of pagan mankind's ideas of religion. That same love and commitment have to be extended to Jesus himself as well, because if they are, then Jesus has promised us the love of God in return, in words that link in with the title of this article:

`Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him....If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.'  (John 14.21-23)

God has promised that if we really do love him with that total commitment we shall receive a tangible reward. When he wrote his first letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul quoted some words of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah:

`...we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"...but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit...' (1 Corinthians 2.7-10)

The spiritual revelation which Paul was writing of is the Bible, the word of God. Here we shall find not only the details of the love of God but also the reward God promises to those who love Him. That reward is a place in the kingdom of God and of Jesus Christ and it is in that kingdom that we shall experience the ultimate fulfilment of Jesus' promise: `If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.' (John 14.21-23)

Jesus said that to love God was the most important of all the commandments, but he also said that the second command is like it, `love your neighbour as yourself.'

It was Jesus himself who demonstrated the greatest example of this love for others, in his own self-sacrifice. He told his disciples about it shortly before he was arrested and crucified:

`As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no-one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.' (John 15.9-13)

Many of Jesus' commands were given or illustrated in the form of parables, stories that had a hidden meaning and perhaps the best known of those parables illustrates this concept of unselfishness and service to others. Luke's Gospel account records the parable of the Good Samaritan and when Jesus finished making his point that we must take every available opportunity to help others, he told his hearers: `...Go and do likewise.' (Luke 10.37)

In addition to the Good Samaritan there are another thirty eight parables of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, covering almost every aspect of life. If we can follow the good examples and avoid the bad ones shown by Jesus in these stories, we shall be well on the way to being numbered among the friends of Jesus. In those parables we, who want to be the friends of Jesus are told that we must not be afraid to put forward the word of God and to show our obedience to him by our way of life. We are told to be sure of our grounding in the faith by building our lives on the bedrock of the Bible, the word of God. We are warned that we must be ready for Jesus to return at any moment, to set up the kingdom of God on the earth. We are assured of God's mercy at the judgement that comes before the reward promised to the friends of Jesus, if we continue to obey that simple instruction, `You are my friends if you do what I command.'

Real Christianity means following Jesus and to follow him, we must believe what he believed and obey his teachings. Jesus makes us an offer of being much more than just followers. He tells us that we can be his friends, but in order to claim that friendship we must learn what he expects of those friends, and then follow his instructions. It is no use thinking we can be Christians without that knowledge and obedience and it is no use expecting the Christian reward without first living a Christian life. Jesus has issued the invitation and has shown us the way. God has laid down the rules and has given us an indication of the glories of that reward.

There is perhaps one passage of the Bible where we read of Jesus talking to his disciples that gives us a summary of this subject. He said to them:

`Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.' (Luke 12.27-32)

The kingdom of God, and our places in that kingdom, are a gift from God if we show Him in our way of life that we are the friends of Jesus - now.

(All quotes taken from NIV)