One way to answer this would be: being Jesus’ friend is not going to help you much. There is only one person in the whole Bible whom Jesus addresses as friend: “Friend, do what you came to do”, Jesus told Judas when he came to betray him (Matthew 26:50).
Nobody describes Jesus as his friend
Nowhere in the Bible anybody describes Jesus as his friend. There is one instance in which Jesus is described as the “friend of tax collectors and sinner” (Matthew 11:19). This is Jesus quoting the words of the general public. He certainly does not deny that it is true. But it is very telling that there is not a single instance that we read of any of these tax collectors or sinners, or even the disciples of Jesus, calling Jesus friend.
Jesus is our Lord
When people really come to know Jesus, they are overwhelmed by who He is. They do not address Him as friend. Much more important than having Jesus as friend, is having Jesus as Lord. Hundreds of times in the New Testament He is called ‘Lord’. So it is very clear that we first of all relate to Jesus as our Lord. He is the King, we are the servants. He commands, we obey.
A condition to our friendship
There is one passage in which the Lord Jesus calls his disciples his friends: “You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:14,15).
Jesus calls us here his friends in the sense that He has no secrets for us. He has told us everything that the Father in heaven wanted Him to tell us. At the same time, there is a condition to our friendship with Jesus: we have to do what He commands us! Yes, we are friends, but we are in no way equals.
He is the best friend imaginable
What about ‘best friend’? In as far as it is permitted to speak about Jesus as our friend, He certainly is the best friend imaginable. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”, Jesus told us (John 15:13). And that is what He did. So yes, he is the best friend we have. “What a friend we have in Jesus” therefore is an appropriate song to celebrate Jesus’ love for us.
At the same time, the witness of the Bible suggests that when Jesus tells us: “You are my friends”, our best answer is: “Thank you, Lord!”