FRIENDS OF JESUS
We all need friends. The ancient philosopher, Cicero, has well said, "Friendship is the only thing in the world concerning the usefulness of which all mankind are agreed." But does God need friends? This is an idea that is mind-blowing yet repeatedly encountered in the Bible - think about Enoch (Genesis 5:24), Abraham (Isaiah 41:8) or Moses ( Exodus 33:11) - the Almighty inviting and accepting mere mortals as His friends. This invitation was most intimately extended to His followers by Jesus on the night that He was betrayed. “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends…(John 15:15).”
Indeed, friendship is one key theme emphasized in the Fourth Gospel. John the Baptist introduced himself as the “friend of the groom”. Just as the groom should take centre-stage at the wedding, John the Baptist willingly made way for his friend, Jesus. “He must increase but I must decrease (John 3:29).” Jesus also enjoyed a special friendship with the family in Bethany (John 11:3,5,11), often calling on Mary, Martha and Lazarus at their home. But as mentioned earlier it was at the supper as Jesus spent His last moments on earth with His disciples that He made plain His love for them as a friend.
But this theme of friendship is also brought out through a nameless character introduced at the Last Supper as “the one whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23). By describing both the disciple and Jesus in the same way -- reclining in the bosom of Jesus/Father (John 13:23; 1:18) -- John implies that this disciple enjoyed an intimate relationship with Jesus just as the Lord has with the Father. The reciprocity of their friendship is revealed in the second appearance when Jesus entrusted, and this Beloved Disciple accepted, the care of the Lord’s mother at the foot of the cross (John 19:26-27). As a Christian writer puts it, “Indeed, Jesus’s action conforms to one of the duties of friendship that was found in the Greco-Roman culture: a man readily assumed filial responsibilities in taking care of a deceased friend’s relatives.” The Beloved Disciple appears for a third time, racing to the tomb ahead of Peter on resurrection Sunday. When he subsequently entered the tomb, he “saw and believed (John 20:8).” The Beloved Disciple is one who trusts and believes in his friend. Lastly, the Beloved Disciple appears again post-resurrection appearance by the Sea of Tiberias. “This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true (John 21:24).
This unnamed character gives an “everyman” quality to the Beloved Disciple and becomes an example and inspiration for all who accepts the Lord’s invitation to be His friend. Who is a friend of Jesus? He is the Beloved Disciple who enjoys a special place next to Jesus; who is given the responsibility for the care of Jesus’s family; who believes in the risen Lord; who follows Him and bears witness for Him.
Rev. David Lee