Have you noticed that the concept of being friends with your co-workers is a controversial subject? On the one hand, some argue that it is vital to separate the professional from the personal, and on the other, there is high quality stress research that demonstrates that having a best friend at work is the single most effective stress reducer.
So when the Son of Man turns to his team and says “I no longer call you servants but friends”, it might be worth asking what that meant to him. Part of our modern day controversy may well derive from our definition of ‘friend’ being too narrow.
We will explore the breadth of Jesus’ friendship another time, but I want to show you one aspect which reveals its depth.
You will be aware that Jesus regularly challenged his friends, provoked them to new visions, stretched their minds, and on occasions corrected them (rebukes are very hard to find by the way). You will have read, and heard, teaching about how Jesus pulled his friends up or spoke strong words to them. Sometimes, such teaching comes out of the inner turmoil of the teacher or writer, rather than a true reflection of what was actually going on in the Son of Man.
There is another story, and this is what I suggest you think about right now. Whenever his friends were criticized, he defended them.
They were criticized for not fasting enough, for breaking sabbath regulations, for mixing with the wrong kind of people, eating, drinking, partying, etc.etc.
Read for yourself when you come across it. You will find “why don’t your disciples do this?” or “why do your disciples do that?”
The Son of Man always, always defended them.
His approach did not stop with the criticisms that came their way. You see him praying for them. His protective spirit was covering their backs, their minds, their lives. To Simon, on one occasion, he reveals that a spiritual enemy wants to sift him like wheat, but he then reveals “I have prayed for you”.
This protection extended beyond the present as he forewarned them of difficulties to come, building preparation into their souls.
The Son of Man’s team knew in their bones that he was on their side. He was loyal. He would defend them, protect them, warn them, and eventually, die for them.
What’s going on? Was he blind to their faults? Of course not. Was he soft and weak, afraid to challenge them? Not at all.
The friendship which he is defining for them, he himself explains. “You are my friends because I have shown you my heart”. The heart he has shown them is a protective, defending heart.
He was teaching them a complex and profound truth. By combining challenge and protection, he was showing them that the only opinion of them that really mattered was his. Forgive me for repeating this, he was showing them that the only opinion of them that really mattered was his.
Slowly,slowly, they began to realize that when he taught them a hard lesson or pulled them up, it did not change his friendship for them. But at the same time he would not allow attacks or criticism to come at them.
It was a complex combination, and they knew they were loved. They knew this friend was the best one that they would ever have.
The Son of Man, in showing them his friendship, was giving them a unique freedom. Much of your life is lived seeking to satisfy the opinions of many. It’s exhausting. The Son of Man’s friendship sets you free to know in your bones that there is only one opinion that really matters – his. And he is 100% on your side. No buts, he just is.
15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
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