Friendship with Jesus
By William B. McGrath
There are certain books that I pay a very small amount of money for, which upon reading, I realize I am fulfilling that verse in Psalm 119:162, “I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.” I realize I have come upon a great and valuable treasure, one that seems to elude and go unnoticed by so many others. J. R. Miller wrote, “Good books bring to us inestimable benefits. They tell us of new worlds, and inspire us to conquer them. They show us lofty and noble ideals, and stimulate us to attain them. They make us larger, better, stronger. The help we get from books is incalculable.”1
You may say that I am old-fashioned, but I am among those who do not place their trust in “the cloud” to hold charge over my library, which is an invaluable, priceless possession to me. I like physical books. There has sprung so much enlightenment on Scripture through the writings of great men and women of God that we cannot contain it all. A truly great book must be read slowly, mulled over and absorbed with attention. The weight of what is in print can sometimes be so easily skimmed over and missed.
I recently found a book that I instinctively felt could be very promising. I began to read The Friendships of Jesus by J. R. Miller, and to my pleasant surprise, it was another great and meaningful book. But I caught myself and realized I had to slow way down if I was going to benefit from it and absorb what was there, to catch the wonderful thoughts that were offered. When I did this, and reread certain sections, it then dawned on me that this book was bringing to light something that had existed for many years deep inside my own subconscious. There were certain opinions and attitudes deep within me that had been there for years, very subtle and negative. These thoughts, these “lying vanities,” had held an influence that prevented or at least greatly hindered me from becoming a true and intimate friend with Jesus. Thoughts like: “Why would Jesus allow me into a friendship with Him? I am so unworthy! He must know what a mess I am… There’s no place for me in His inner circle.”
J. R. Miller writes:
What blessing or inspiration of love can any poor, marred, stained life give to the soul of the Christ? Yet the Gospels abound with evidences that Jesus did crave human love, that he found sweet comfort in the friendships which he made, and that much of his keenest suffering was caused by failures in the love of those who ought to have been true to him as his friends. He craved affection, and even among the weak and faulty men and women about him, made many very sacred attachments from which he drew strength and comfort.2
That is amazing to me, that besides His universal, divine love for all mankind, Jesus had his personal friendships. Hebrews 2:17 tells us: “In all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren.” I thought about that. Jesus lived a very normal, matter-of-fact type of life, and wanted, even yearned to identify with us and be our friend! He was human to the very end, but lived without any sin. His miracles were always done for the sake of others.
When He chose His disciples, who were to be His friends, He deliberately chose them among the common people, not among the privileged and the powerful. He didn’t go to the Sanhedrin, looking for those with exceptional mental ability. He was interested in qualities of the heart. He was human, one of us.
Here are some more excerpts from The Friendships of Jesus:
He spoke of himself as the Son of man—not the son of a man—but the Son of man, and therefore the brother of every man. Whoever bore the image of humanity had a place in his heart. Wherever he found a human need, it had an instant claim on his sympathy, and he was eager to impart a blessing. No man had fallen so low in sin that Jesus passed him by without love and compassion. To be a man was the passport to his heart!
The invitations which Jesus gave all bear the stamp of this exceeding broadness. “Come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “Him that cometh to me I will never cast out.” “If any man thirsts, let him come unto me, and drink.” Such words as these were ever falling from his lips. No man or woman, hearing these invitations, could ever say, “There is nothing there for me.” There was no hint of possible exclusion for any one. Not a word was said about any particular class of people who might come—the righteous, the respectable, the cultured, the unsoiled, the well-born, the well-to-do. Jesus had no such words in his vocabulary.3
No good man’s money is ever worth as much as his love. Certainly the greatest honor of this earth, greater than rank or station or wealth, is the friendship of Jesus Christ. And this honor is within the reach of every one. …
The stories of the friendships of Jesus when he was on earth need cause no one to sigh, “I wish I had lived in those days, when Jesus lived among men, that I might have been his friend too, feeling the warmth of his love, my life enriched by contact with his, and my spirit quickened by his love and grace!” The friendships of Jesus, whose stories we read in the New Testament, are only patterns of friendships into which we may enter, if we are ready to accept what he offers, and to consecrate our life to him in faithfulness and love.4
Jesus craved the blessing of friendship for himself, and in choosing the Twelve, expected comfort and strength from his fellowship with them.
But his deepest desire was that he might be a blessing to them. He came “not to be ministered unto, but to minister,” not to have friends, but to be a friend. He chose the Twelve that he might lift them up to honor and good; that he might purify, refine, and enrich their lives; that he might prepare them to be his witnesses, the conservators of the gospel, the interpreters to the world of his life and teachings. … “I and my Father are one,” said Jesus; his friendship, therefore, is the friendship of the Father. Those who accept it in truth find their lives flooded with a wealth of blessing.5
To read all this really opened a great treasure for me, and lifted my faith. I think there are many who will admit that one great need among Christians today is more consecration of heart, more sincere, deep love for the Savior. I would like to cultivate that in my own life and keep that in a sacred place, above all else, and above service. In the Bible, Jesus likens Himself to a bridegroom, and all the individuals that make up His church as His bride. So that, to me, finalizes how He sees our relationship.
1 J. R. Miller, Making the Most of Life, Ch. XV, “Helping and Over-helping.”
2 J. R. Miller, The Friendships of Jesus, Ch. 1, “The Human-heartedness of Jesus.”
3 J. R. Miller, The Friendships of Jesus, Ch. 4, “Conditions of Friendship.”
4 J. R. Miller, The Friendships of Jesus, Ch. 1, “The Human-heartedness of Jesus.”
5 J. R. Miller, The Friendships of Jesus, Ch. 5, “Jesus Choosing His Friends.”