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Words: John Henry Sammis (b. July 6, 1846; d. June 12, 1919)
Music: Daniel Brink Towner (b. Apr. 5, 1850; d. Oct. 3, 1919)
Note: John Sammis wrote over a hundred hymns, the best known, by far, being Trust and Obey. In addition, appearing in some hymn books is Jesus Is a Friend of Mine, also known as He’s a Friend of Mine (both lines coming from the refrain). The song was written in 1910.
The friendship of the Lord Jesus is mentioned a couple of times in the Gospels. He Himself said to His disciples, “ I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (Jn. 15:15).
That suggests the level of fellowship and intimacy that is experienced between friends. We share our secrets with our friends, because we know they have our best interests at heart, and we’re confident we can trust their loyalty. We value their opinions and seek their counsel. We meet with our friends, and communicate with our friends, and share our lives with them, willing not only to share the good times, but go through the hard times together. Think of how these qualities apply to our greatest Friend of all.
American clergyman Henry Ward Beecher added another significant thought: “It is one of the severest tests of friendship to tell your friend his faults.” Proverbs puts it this way: “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance [the person] of his friend” (Prov. 27:17). Sharing with one another, even when it may occasionally involve constructive criticism, brings new knowledge, understanding and growth. Of course, in this case, there is nothing in Christ to be corrected, but the thought works well the other way, as we are taught by the Word of God.
The other reference to the friendship of Christ grew out of a criticism of something He apparently did commonly. The rigid, rule-keeping Jewish leaders observed, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them” (Lk. 15:2)–meaning that Jesus welcomed the opportunity to meet with sinners and have fellowship with them.
A couple of things should be noted about these “sinners,” however. First, they were so labelled by the self-righteous Pharisees. We mustn’t conclude that they were all corrupt and wicked–though some may have been. Most got that designation (as did Jesus Himself, Jn. 9:24) because they did not live up to the warped view of righteousness held by their critics.
The second thing we should note is that these were not blatant Christ-rejecters (as were so many of the scribes and Pharisees) but sincere seekers. These sinners sought Him out (Matt. 9:10), and “drew near to Him to hear Him” (Lk. 15:1), and they “sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him [became His followers]” (Mk. 2:15).
Out of arrogant jealousy the same critics had rejected John the Baptist because he was more austere and distant, and didn’t make a practice of sitting down to meals with the people to whom he ministered. Now the Lord is in the wrong because He does so. Here is Christ’s cutting comment:
“John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ (Matt. 11:18-19).
As Christians, we own Christ as both Lord and Saviour. But He is also one who has promised to be with us (Matt. 28:20). He cares about us, sympathizing with us in our struggles, and promises to help us (Heb. 4:14-16). Is that not a Friend? It is a thrilling thing to know that “Jesus is a Friend of mine!”
CH-1) Why should I charge my soul with care?
The wealth of every mine
Belongs to Christ, God’s Son and Heir,
And He’s a Friend of mine.
Yes, He’s a Friend of mine,
And He with me doth all things share;
Since all is Christ’s, and Christ is mine,
Why should I have a care?
For Jesus is a Friend of mine.
CH-3) He daily spreads a glorious feast,
And at His table dine
The whole creation, man and beast,
And He’s a Friend of mine.
CH-4) And when He comes in bright array,
And leads the conqu’ring line,
It will be glory then to say,
That He’s a Friend of mine.
1) What aspects of the friendship of the Lord have been a special blessing to you?
2) The Cyber Hymnal lists 58 hymns under the topical heading Christ the Friend. How many of these do you know and use?