Friendships of Jesus

The past couple days we’ve been allowing B. B. Warfield’s essay, The Emotional Life of our Lord, to help us think more intentionally about the emotions of Jesus, specifically His compassion. Now, before moving on to Warfield’s next major section (anger), let’s ponder a bit about another aspect of the emotion of love: friendship. How did Jesus experience the emotion of friendly love, or love of friends?

Jesus had friends and loved them. “The emotion of love as attributed to Jesus in the narrative of John is not confined, however, to these great movements—his love to his Father…and his love for those whom, in fulfillment of his Father’s will, he had chosen to be the recipients of his saving mercy, laying down his life for them. There are attributed to him also those common movements of affection which bind man to man in the ties of friendship….The term employed to express this friendship is prevailingly that high term which designates a love that is grounded in admiration and fulfills itself in esteem” [Warfield refers to John 11:5; 13:23; 19:26; 21:7, 20. Cf. Mk 10:21].

Jesus experienced different levels of intimacy in friendship. Though Jesus loved all humanity not all of his friendships were equal. “We are given to understand that there was a particular one of our Lord’s most intimate circle of disciples on whom he especially poured out his personal affection,” referring of course to John, ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved.’ [John 13:23].

In reference to the friendship-love of Jesus toward Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, Warfield reminds us of the Jews’ response, “Behold how He loved him,” and then adds, “But when the Evangelist widens Jesus’ affection to embrace the sisters also, he instinctively lifts the term employed to the more deferential expression of friendship: ‘Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, Lazarus.’ Jesus’ affection for Mary and Martha, while deep and close, had nothing in it of an amatory [love-making] nature, and the change in the term avoids all possibility of such a misconception.”

Jesus had an open heart toward social relationships. Warfield comments, “…we perceive our Lord the subject of those natural movements of affection which bind the members of society together in bonds of close fellowship. He was as far as possible from insensibility to the pleasures of social intercourse (cf. Mt 11:19).” Though Jesus certainly had intentional times of solitude in prayer to his Father, He was not a recluse who isolated himself from others.

PRACTICAL APPLICATION: The heart-transforming power of the Holy Spirit by means of the gospel leads us to conclude that love of friends and friendship is part of becoming like Christ.

  • Becoming like Christ means we will love our friends biblically. Do a Bible study on the subject of friendship alongside that of biblical love, noting its self-giving qualities, which are opposite of the world’s self-centered concept. Don’t forget to include the biblical command to be hospitable, which literally translated is “a stranger-lover” (E.g. Rom 12:13).
  • Becoming like Christ includes being friendly to all (hospitable spirit), living a life of others-esteem (Phil 2:3), but also recognizes that some friends will be closer than others (read the fourth chapter of 2 Timothy for illustration).
  • Becoming like Christ means breaking away from habits of social isolation and loving others more than self (Mk 10:45; 1 Jn 4:18).

Next week, we will begin to look at how Jesus demonstrated the emotion of anger.

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