We are to serve the Lord by loving and serving others, and by being an example and a witness to others. Serving the Lord is our calling. Knowing the Lord as our Friend is our privilege and joy.
Maybe you have had the experience of needing to entrust a major project to someone else. Before you leave that person in charge, you leave behind some key principles to follow. And with that you are basically out the door.
Well, here in John 15, that is exactly what Jesus is doing with His eleven disciples in the upper room. He is anticipating His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. And He is delivering some key principles, not just about what they are to do, but also about how they should act as His representatives on earth. So, this applies to His disciples—like you and me—to this very day.
First, we are given a new perspective. Here in this upper room, Jesus now says in verse 12, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” That is not a new thought; Jesus has said this multiple times since Judas left the room. What He is going to do now, though, is give them a deeper perspective on love.
He says in verse 13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Of course, Jesus is thinking about the cross; the disciples are probably looking around the room at each other and thinking, I like these guys, but I don’t know if I like the idea of laying down my life for them.
Maybe you have noticed as we have studied through the Gospels how dangerous it was for Jesus and His disciples in Israel. The Pharisees were openly plotting Jesus’ murder, and the Romans were eager to crush any would-be king and his followers. The church is no safer today, with thousands of people martyred for their faith every year.
On one hand, laying down your life for other believers means that you will humbly work against division, jealousy, and any other conflict that threatens our unity and bond of love. On the other hand, it might mean that if you publicly identify as a Christian, and perhaps especially if you serve as a church leader, your career or, in some cultures, even your life is threatened. Believers who love one another should be willing to lay their lives down for their brothers and sisters in Christ. This is a new perspective on love.
Next Jesus says that we are given a new title. He says in verse 15:
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
This is a precious compliment that these disciples would instantly understand. The Greek word for “friend” here was often used of “a friend at court.” This described the inner circle of friends around a king.
In this culture, the friends of the king had immediate access to the king. The emperor would talk to his friends before he talked to his generals and political statesmen. King David understood this kind of closeness with God when he wrote in Psalm 25:14, “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.”
How amazing and how encouraging it is to know that the Lord is not only our Savior and our King but also our Friend. He is the Friend of all friends. He died for us, rose for us, redeemed us, and is now interceding on our behalf in the courts of heaven. As the hymn writer put it, “What a friend we have in Jesus.”
We have a new perspective, and we have a new title. Now, third, we are given a new appointment.
Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit” (verse 16). Think about this: it is one thing for Jesus to consider us friends, but to appoint us as His representatives—to entrust us with His reputation—now that is an incredible appointment!
Being a friend of Jesus—publicly serving as His representative—is a high privilege, but it is also a challenging proposition. The world will be watching your every move, listening to your every word. Just stand up for God’s Word and the exclusive claim of Christ as Savior, and get ready! People will start attacking your faith in Christ and scrutinizing your life for some inconsistency or failure. Yes, your appointment is a high privilege, but it is also a heavy responsibility.
Over in chapter 17, Jesus clarifies our appointment as He prays to the Father in verse 18: “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” And the Gospel of Matthew closes with this familiar command from the Lord:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
That is our appointment, not just for pastors and churches, but for every believer. Wherever God has appointed you in the traffic patterns of life, you are to represent Him, share the truth about Him, and help disciple others who are learning how to walk with Him.
Here at the end of John 15:16, Jesus says, “I . . . appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide [or remain].” Again, we do not produce the fruit, but like branches on a fruit tree, we bear the fruit—we support the fruit.
As Christ’s representatives we are sent into the world as living advertisements for Christ. Do we debate people into the kingdom? Do we try to scare them so they will turn to Christ? No, we attract them by our love for each other and by the fruit of godly character.
And don’t overlook these last few words in verse 16: “that your fruit should abide.” Your fruit will last!
I went to the grocery store the other day to pick up some bananas. My wife doesn’t send me to the store very often because I will come back with a dozen doughnuts. As far as I’m concerned, they are as important as bananas.
Now she asked me to get bananas that were not quite ripe. And that is because they spoil so quickly. They go from yellow to brown in a matter of days. Jesus says here that spiritual fruit remains forever.
So, understand this: we are the advertisements of an eternal kingdom; we have been given a new perspective, a new assignment, and even a new title—we are now the friends of Jesus.
The Lord tucks this little promise into the last part of verse 16: “So that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” We have already covered the fact that prayer is not a blank check; it must be “signed” by the Lord’s name, meaning it must be according to His will. But I think in this context, the Lord includes this little promise as an invitation. Because you are a friend of the family, you can bring any request and every burden to the Lord—He loves you, He cares about you, and He is the Friend beyond all friends.
I don’t know what you are facing today. I don’t know about your trials and burdens and temptations. Jesus knows them all. And as we come to the end of today’s Wisdom Journey, let me remind you that here, on the night before the Lord is going to die, He lovingly says to His anxious, frightened disciples, “I have an assignment for you, and I want you to know that I consider you my friends.”
Beloved, if you know Him as your Savior, He considers you His friend. And that means He is your friend too! And as your friend, He will never leave you or forsake you. He is your friend forever!
 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1: New Testament (Victor Books, 1996), 357.