Wednesday, November 20, 2019

What A Friend

Our present culture has made it more difficult for us to understand the unique relationship that Jesus had with the disciples - and that the disciples had with Him. 

In our world, we're connected to one another all the time. At the tips of our fingers, we have names and numbers and contacts and likes and networks that keep us tied together in a certain sort of way, but it's a weird sort of way. It really levels the playing field because in the same feed, we're seeing news from friends, from family, from the person that sat next to us in homeroom 20 years ago, from neighbors, from the church, etc. and it makes it seem like everyone is on the same level, everyone's in the same web of connectedness. These are my people; these are my "friends." 

And we even describe them as such. I have 376 "friends," we say, but honestly - how many are true friends? 

In tough times, 90%+ of your Facebook feed isn't coming over to sit in the basement and eat ice cream with you. 60%+ aren't showing up at the funeral of your loved one. About 40% will tell you happy birthday, if social media reminds them when they aren't too busy to take a few seconds. A few of my friends have launched fundraisers, and maybe 5% contribute. Oh yeah, we're connected, but we're not "friends." 

But this has changed the way we think about it when Jesus says things like, "I no longer call you servants; I call you friends." Or even "I call you brothers." Jesus is always talking about His disciples being guests at the wedding or closer yet, sons in the bridegroom's chambers - brothers. He's always talking about how close He is with them, and that is what their intimate eyewitness testimony is supposed to clue us into, but in our world where we are connected, but not close, we've lost what that means. 

We think maybe it means something like this was Jesus's team. Like any of our favorite professional sports teams, these are the guys who "played Gospel" together. They wore the same uniform and trotted out onto the same field and every once in awhile, Quarterback Jesus tossed them the ball and let them run it on in. 

And while teams are a little bit closer than our mere acquaintance networks on the interweb, they still don't guarantee the same things as friends or brothers. 

Friends and brothers, they're there. They're there in the good times and the bad times, when you're having a late fall bonfire and when you're burying your dad. They're there when life is overwhelming and you just need to cry a little or when a door breaks wide open and you need to celebrate. They're there when you're sick and when you're well. They're there for it all. 

Friends and brothers are the ones who share your stories because they're right there in the thick of them, too. They don't talk about them as passive third-party observers who heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who saw it on a wall somewhere. They're the kind of persons whose interjections always start with "Remember that time we..." and it is a we because you've got stories together. 

I think we miss that when we read the Gospels. I think we miss just how together the disciples and Jesus are with one another. I think we miss what it's like to actually sit around that table and break bread. To actually be in that boat in the middle of a storm. To actually walk those roads. To actually cast out those demons. I don't think we understand what it means when Peter, James, and John climbed an actual mountain with an actual Jesus and saw Him actually transformed before their very eyes. I think we miss all that because in our world, to be friends is just to know somebody's name. 

But true friends know much more than that; they know your stories. Because they're part of them. 

We have to get our sanctified imaginations in gear and start reading these Gospels with eyes to see the very real friendships that existed, the very real nature of the relationship that Jesus had with His disciples...and that they had with Him. Why? Why does that matter?

Because it's the relationship He wants to have with us. And the one we're supposed to have with each other. 

When we get to Heaven, we're supposed to be able to look around at the whole host, Christ included, and start every one of our stories with, "Remember that time we...." But in order to do that, we have to recapture our "we" first. We have to remember what it means to be friends, to be brothers. To be His friends, His brothers. Sons in the bridegroom's chamber. 

Just like the disciples were. 

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