The Most Beautiful Thing Jesus Ever Said
In the quiet beauty of this hour, I want to talk with you about what may be “the most beautiful thing Jesus ever said.” It occurred on the night before he died when He said to His disciples, and, consequently, to us: “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends…I do not call you servants, I call you friends.” I want to suggest to you that when Jesus uttered those magnificent words, He actually showed us what friendship is.
First, Jesus says that a crucial ingredient in true friendship is openness and honesty.
Jesus had no secrets. Listen to His own words from this passage in John: “No longer do I call you servants, I call you friends; for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” No secrets. Everything wide open. Everything revealed. Never was Jesus anything but transparently honest with His friends. Never did He tell “little white lies” or indulge in fantasies or pretend to be what He was not. He allowed His friends to see Him when all of His defenses were down, when He was tired and lonely, when He was in pain or grief.
Understand, please, that in that time and place, kings always had in their courts a small select group who were known officially as “friends of the Emperor.” These were individuals who had constant, ready, access to the king. They could get to him any time, day or night. They were more important to him than any statesman or ambassador or general in his realm. We see this same thing today in that group of businessmen who are longtime friends and confidants of President Reagan—and they are referred to in the press as the President’s “Kitchen Cabinet.” Well, that’s what Jesus was communicating to His disciples. He was saying: “You are my confidants. You have such complete access to me that you know the deepest thoughts of my heart.” And that was true. Jesus hid nothing from them.
Sometimes you encounter persons who have been won to the Gospel by some zealous, but misguided individual who has sugar-coated the Gospel. Such an individual would have you believe if you become a disciple of Jesus Christ, from that moment on, your life will be joy upon joy, victory upon victory. Tnen when in the Christian walk, these people discover that that is not always and invariably so, they fall aside in disillusionment. No one should ever present the Gospel with less honesty than Jesus did. He put it plainly: “As the world has hated me, so the world will hate you.” You see, Jesus dealt openly and honestly with His friends.
By so doing, He set the example for all great leaders. Do you know what Garibaldi said to his troops as he tried to rally them to unify Italy? He said: “Come to me for these are the gifts I have to offer you—forced marches, nights on hard ground, painful wounds, perhaps even death itself, but all for Italy.”
Or remember Winston Churchill standing before Parliament and saying:—“I would say to this House what I have said to all who—have joined my government, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” That’s the Jesus principle at work. No concealing the fact-that if you live with and for Jesus Christ there’s going to be a price to pay.
So it was for those disciples. In the service of Jesus who called them “friends”, they were crucified, burned, sawn in half, thrown to wild beasts, even skinned alive. Jesus told them it would be so. He never hid anything from them. He knew that their friendship required total honesty.
But, secondly, Jesus says that a crucial ingredient in true friendship is sacrificial love.
Jesus always sought to give, not get. The Greeks said that friendship is based on pleasure or profit or goodness, but the only lasting friendship is one based on goodness. You know that is true. You’ve encountered people who wanted to be your friend only for the pleasure or profit they could gain from you, only for what they could get out of you. That’s not the way it was with Jesus. He never sought to get, only to give—to give even to the point of dying. That’s what He meant when He said: “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” There is no more that you can offer them than that. But that’s what Christ did, did it for those friends of His who gathered about the table in the Upper Room that night, and did it for those friends of His who gather about this table today—He gave Himself for you and for me.
I have been blessed enough to worship in many places, in many different countries in our world. Yet, everywhere I have been, I find certain hymns that transcend national barriers. One of those hymns sums up what I am trying to say to you today. It was written by a man named Joseph Scriven.
Scriven was an Irishman, who graduated from Trinity College in Dublin. He fell in love with a wonderful young woman and loved her with all his heart. Then on the day before they were to be married, she was accidentally drowned. Scriven’s heart was broken. As he then tried to rebuild his life, he felt that he could best conquer his own pain by joining himself in service to others in the name of Christ. He was led to take his widowed mother and move to Canada, where it is said that he never served anyone who was able to pay for the service, He offered himself in utter generosity. On one occasion when his mother was seriously ill, as an act of love and comfort for her, he wrote a poem, which he shared only with her and then tucked it away in his Bible. Years later, when Scriven himself was ill and near death, a friend sought to comfort him by reading to him from the Bible. As the friend leafed through the pages of Scriven’s Bible, he happened to find the poem which today is sung by Christians all over the world. You know the words:
What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear,
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
If you do not know Jesus as your Friend, then I invite you to this Table. I invite you to an encounter with Him which can change-the-course of all your days. I invite you to accept Him and to know the peace of being accepted by Him. If you do that, then you will find Him to be what the Bible says He is—”a friend who sticketh closer than a brother.”