Thursday, October 1, 2015

Friendship Among The Apostles

Peter, James and John were Jesus' close circle of friends. The twelve apostles were each special people to God and to each other. They all spent holidays together but these three seemed to be nearest Jesus. He was a man who came from Heaven and died in his early thirties. No wife or family to invest in... at least not yet in the traditional sense that we think about these relationships.

I sometimes wonder about these other men and what circles of close confidants they had.

"He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him." - Mark 3:16-19 ESV

James and John were brothers but the scripture doesn't speak of their age differences. Clearly they were brothers but they were close brothers.

"About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church." - Acts 12:1-5 ESV

Here we see the death of James recorded. It mentions specifically that this was John's brother and Peter was thrown in jail. What a time that must have been for John the Apostle. He must have been right in the center of those prayer meetings for Peter. They likely became a place for healing to begin for the loss of his brother.

I often look at and think about the 'people' individuals have (and don't have). Most folks have only a few people. A wife. A parent. A sibling. Maybe many friends but only a few close friends. You can't buy these people. It doesn't work that way. When I see someone go through a crisis like John went through when Jesus died and then his brother went to Heaven soon after I look to see if they have a circle of people and prayer seems to kick into high gear.

The Church became John's friend in his time of crisis but it is friendship that is different than the friendship we have with individuals. In a way it is representative friendship. God loves us through a group of people or a few individuals that emerge from the cloud of that group for a period of time to represent God's heart. Those interactions might bloom into close friendships and they also might not.

Jame wrote this in the epistle he penned sometime before his death in Acts chapter 12.

"Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, 'You sit here in a good place,' while you say to the poor man, 'You stand over there,' or, 'Sit down at my feet,' have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?" - James 1:27, 2:1-7 ESV

We can see the clear references to Church politics but can't we also see friendship mixed in there?

Grace is God's friendship to us and grace is our friendship given to people.

God loves us. He is our friend if we have believed in Jesus. A relationship has formed that not even death can separate. Jesus has pulled us in close if we have said 'Yes' to Him about what He has done for us and the rest of the humanity at the cross. He isn't going to leave us or forsake us.

"Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts; his name is the LORD; exult before him! Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation. God settles the solitary in a home; he leads out the prisoners to prosperity, but the rebellious dwell in a parched land." - Psalm 68:4-6 ESV

Maybe I'll just end like this.

"And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them." - Mark 9:2-3 ESV

Let's watch Jesus glow together. Even if it's just for a season. Let's have that kind of friendship and let's bring those who are trapped in prisons of different kinds out again through the power of our combined prayers. The solitary don't have to stay that way if we love each other and give grace as we have been given grace. A group can form where friendships can be born and the wounds of loss can be healed.


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