Loving Father, may I have the power to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18-19).
“You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you
servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master
is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to
you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me
but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will
last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.
I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”
“How can I have hundreds of Friends on Facebook,” the woman on my TV cried, “and still be so lonely?” With all the apps, widgets, and strategies for adding Friends to our Facebook pages, we might wonder about the depths of friendship today. Despite many declarations of being Best Friends Forever, claims of friendship are loose in today’s culture. People find themselves a Friend on Facebook one day and Unfriended the next!
We have to clear away the settled dust of the centuries to feel the impact of Jesus’ declaration of friendship: “I have called you friends.” In Jesus’ first century world they did not use the word “friend” loosely. Friendship in that day meant a devoted, intimate relationship. New Testament scholar Gary Burge says when Jesus takes the step of calling His disciples “friends”, He is “reframing his relationship with followers in terms they would have recognized.” (Gary Burge, A Week in the Life of A Roman Centurion)
In just hours Governor Pilate will be challenged about his “friendship” with Emperor Tiberius: “If you release this man [Jesus], you are no friend of the emperor” (John 19:12b). “Friend of the emperor” (amicus Caesaris) was a “technical term reserved for senators, knights and administrators who were meritorious and thus favored by the emperor.” (A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament)
This is the backdrop of John’s Gospel as Jesus declares His disciples His friends: “I do not call you servants any longer…but I have called you friends.” With these words Jesus bestows the dignity and authority of being His representatives in the world. Jesus makes them His emissaries to act and speak for the King of Kings: “You did not choose me but I chose you.” Having been chosen by Jesus means to have authority in prayer: “…Father will give whatever you ask him in my name.”
Because they are friends, Jesus has confided in them everything the Father has told Him: “I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” That’s what friends do. They share their deepest secrets. Jesus will tell us everything we need to know about God, about life, about joy. That’s living the life!
- What will it mean for me to be a “friend of Jesus”?
- As a friend in Jesus what do I want to ask for in Jesus’ name?
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly, day by day.
Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)