John xv. 14.
“Ye Are My Friends.”
by John Berry Mulock
“GREATER love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." There are no conditions of salvation—all are equally saved, but we are not all equally happy. There is a contingency or condition attaching to happiness. "If ye know these things happy are ye if ye do them" (John xiii. 17). "Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you," and we shall only fully know that by knowing Him for what He is, not for what He has done. The Lord is just teaching us here the difference between a servant and a friend. A servant comes in and goes out, but he knows nothing of the master's thoughts and purposes; but when a friend comes in, you tell your mind to him, ask his advice, and take counsel with him. Value such, beloved, for they are scarce!
Paul, we find in Phil, iii., had one lesson, "that I may know Him;" verse 10, one object, "I press towards the mark;" verse 14, and one hope, "we look for the Saviour;" verse 20, "Ye are My friends if ye do." From chap. xiv. 21, we just learn this, that if disobedient, there will be no revelation of Himself. The motive, too, is not that we are to obey for what we can get, but because it pleases Him; so then our obedience should be because He desires it, and not merely because it is written. If it rises no higher than the bare command, it will bring joy neither to us nor to the Lord. It is a blessed thing to do God's will without a command. A loving child will keep the words and wishes of his parents and let us who are God's children seek to know His will, that we may do it because it is His delight and pleasure.
We will look at one or two examples of obedience, Gen. xiii. 7, &c. We have here the type of two Christians—one who walks with God, the other worldly in thought and desire. God said, "I am your friend, Abraham" (see James ii. 23; 2 Chron. xx. 7; Isa. xli. 8); but as to Lot, how far otherwise. Contrast the two. There is Abraham in the full joy and sunlight of fellowship with God, and Lot with nothing but trouble, sorrow, bitterness, and loss, all through his history. Thus, the name of Christ and Christianity is dishonoured by the worldly Christian. Look, again, at the 18th chap., Abraham lifted up his eyes and beheld—not well-watered plains like Lot (xiii. 10), but the heavenly messengers come to commune with him, and he ran and bowed himself. He saw Jesus there!—he knew who they were, because he was the friend of God. Like Mary, as soon as the Master's call reached her ear, she rose up quickly and came unto Him. Abraham was desiring fellowship, hence the request that they might stay and be refreshed, "For therefore are ye come to your servant." This reminds us of the journey to Emmaus, and consequent request, "Abide with us."
Observe how reverently and humbly Abraham acts towards his guests, so "love behaveth not itself unseemly." Abide with me! What a wonderful type of fellowship. Any little thing will be accepted if only there's love.
Where is Lot all this time? Poor Lot! Down in the world, inextricably mixed up with it; he has nothing to lay at the Lord's feet.
Then comes that wonderful revelation to Abraham. Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do? And so, in verse 23, he is thinking about God's counsels regarding Sodom. Thus, the child of God, in fellowship with Him, will, in like manner, be weighing his counsels with regard to the world, and we are dissatisfied till we are close to Him. Depend upon it, if there is something unsettled, I'll never love the still hour with Him.
Look at another Scripture, Luke x. 38-42. Observe in these verses that Mary chose that good part, not the better part, as people are never tired of misquoting it. At the same time, don't let us say when cumbered with sin that we are like Martha. No, Martha was cumbered in serving Christ, as it ever must be when we let our service outrun our devotion to Him. The difference between these two women was just this; Martha consulted her own heart; Mary consulted Christ's heart. Our service must begin from His feet, then for Him. But, alas, how often it is just the reverse, and we are trying to appease conscience by working. Let us then begin again from His feet—"Severed from Me, ye can do nothing." In John xi., the same two appear again, and the characteristic of each comes out here in the most striking manner. Martha is seeking help from Him; Mary is seeking her resource in Him; and so, while the one is rushing out to meet Him, the other sits still till she is called, and then she hastens to His feet (verse 32); but we do not read that Martha found that blessed place. The conduct of Mary just teaches us the dignity of constant intercourse with Him. If we can't hear His voice, we must press closer. Who can tell the value of ten minutes with Jesus!
In John xiii., we have yet another aspect of the blessedness of nearness to Him. The order here is—First, cleanness through His Word, verse 10 (see also xv. 3); next, rest of heart, leaning on Jesus' bosom, verse 23; searched by the Word through and through—nothing kept back. The contrast here between Peter and John is most impressive. Peter is at a distance, and so, when the question is raised (verse 24) Peter says, "Ask Him, John, who it is." Why didn't he ask himself? Because he was not near enough. And is not a parallel to this constantly occurring in our daily experience? We ask a friend, in acknowledgment of the fact, "I'm not near enough." Note also another feature which we gather more completely from the other Gospels. They all said, "Lord, is it I?" John didn't say, "Lord, is it I?" but in the full confidence of realized love he said, "Lord, who is it?" In like manner is our chief joy in Christ. I do not mean salvation. The true knowledge of salvation, however important, will never keep us separate. We have Himself to occupy our hearts, and just in the measure in which we learn this, shall we able to understand the leaning of verse 23, changed into the "lying on His breast of verse 25. Like the sick child in the mother's bosom—it need not speak, she knows all; and so our communications are not so much to Him as from Him. How this position will wither up self. How it will shrivel and burn up our selfishness. May we always be too near to say, "Lord, is it I?" and ever near enough to say, "Lord, who is it?" In chap. xxi. 7, John said, "It is the Lord." We knew Him though the others didn't. If we would seek to be able to minister to others, we must let Him take all our hearts.
“The Witness” 1887