Monday, January 6, 2014

Closest Friends

If you read Friday's post about A Prophet's Hometown, then by now you may be saying, "I don't know, Aidan. I'm not sure I buy your theory about 'those closest to a man.' I mean...the disciples..." The disciples what? Surely, these twelve men were closer to the Prophet than any other and a coarse reading of the Gospels might suggest He was honored among them.

But was He?

Honored, yes. Remembered, not quite. These men, who spent the better part of three years traveling and ministering with Jesus Himself, came under the same spell that we do with the prophets among us - they kept forgetting His holy side.

They're on a hill with a crowd of five thousand men, listening to the Teacher talk. Suddenly, they realize how long they've all been there with nothing to eat and beg Him to send the crowds away so that people don't starve. He tells His friends to feed the people, and they scoff. They can't afford so much food! And all they have on-site is a couple of small fish and some bread. Not exactly a four-course meal even for one man. So they're standing there looking at Him incredulously, wondering what He means by this command to "feed them." They have forgotten that He is God.

They're on a boat in the middle of a storm, and Jesus is snoozing in the stern. The waves are whipping around, the boat is tossing, the disciples are scared. Jesus is not. They cannot fathom how He can still be sleeping in the midst of all of this, how He's not scared, how He hasn't awakened to help them with the sails and ropes and all that nautical stuff yet. They rouse Him, and He seems bewildered. I don't imagine they woke Him looking for a miracle; I think they wanted Him awake and aware, to help with the ship and to be able to save Himself if the boat capsized. They didn't want to be looking after Him with so much else going on. With a word, He calms the sea and goes back to sleep, and they don't know what to say. They have forgotten that He is God.

They're on a boat again, in the midst of another storm. This time, they've left Him on shore, so even if they know He can calm the waves, He's nowhere around. Then a guy comes walking to them on the water, and declares Himself to be their closest friend, Jesus. "It's Me, guys," He says. And Peter, oh, faithful Peter, responds, "If it's really you...." If it's really You? Who else is going to be walking on the water? Who else is coming out in the middle of the storm? Who else is defying the laws of physics to get to them? OF COURSE IT'S HIM! But they have forgotten that He is God.

The whole Gospel narrative is really a story about how the Lord's closest friends keep forgetting He can do that. Whatever it is. They are constantly surprised by His abilities, as if they never expected them to come form their Friend. In fact, the only people consistently faithful to His power are those who walk into the story and back out of it - the blind men, the deaf men, the paralytic, the woman with the bleeding disorder. They come, knowing He can, and walk away, knowing He has and they are fully aware of His holy side throughout their spaces in His narrative. Everyone else...well, everyone else forgets.

It's the nature of being close to someone. They start to become this fixture in  your life and it's too easy to forget their holy side.

Which is a cautionary tale for those of us who would count ourselves among His friends. There is a delicate balance in which Jesus must be both our friend, close enough to make an impact in our lives, and a stranger among us, distant enough that we do not forget His holy side. A prophet is honored not in his hometown, by his family, or his closest friends. We have to stay conscious to the God around us and stay in awe of His holiness, lest He become a Friend who is not honored among us.

Lest we forget He is the Prophet.

Lest we forget He is God.

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