Saturday, May 14, 2016

I Have Called You Friends

Then they prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.” Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the Eleven Apostles.  Acts 1:24-26

“I have called you friends because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father. It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another.”  John 15:15B-17

What a friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Oh what peace we often forfeit,
Oh what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer.

("What a Friend We Have in Jesus" is a Christian hymn originally written by Joseph M. Scriven as a poem in 1855 to comfort his mother who was living in Ireland while he was in Canada.) 

How symmetrical is this?  The Easter season begins with the rupture in the Apostles – Judas becomes the betrayer, “the guide for those who arrested Jesus.”  However, our God is about having a right and proper relationship with us.  Ultimately, Judas had to be replaced to make the family whole again.  

As the NAB reminds us in the notes, the need to replace Judas was probably dictated by the symbolism of the number twelve, recalling the twelve tribes of Israel. This symbolism also indicates that for Luke, the Christian church is a reconstituted Israel.

It is you who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Luke 22:28-30)

Thus, on this penultimate day of the 50 days of Easter -- the eve of the Pentecostal descent of the Holy Spirit – the spirit of the Lord is upon Matthias as the lot fell to him to replace Judas. 

The corps of the Apostles needed another…another friend to round out their merry band.  Perhaps that friendship is the ultimate stamp of the New Testament spirituality.  Jesus just wants another friend.  If there was any major distinction between the God of the Hebrew Bible and the God of the New Testament, it is this phrase – friendship.  In the Hebrew Bible, we encounter Yahweh, a form of the Hebrew name given to God. The name came to be regarded by Jews as too sacred to be spoken.  However, God wanted to be closer to us – the God we know in Micah 6:8. “You have been told, O mortal, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.”  However, the Jews did not even want to utter his name.

Jesus, on the other hand, was so close, wanting to be with us not apart from us, that he is known and named a friend. In the seven weeks of the Easter season, we complete our Advent journey from the Emmanuel-Ship (God is with us) to the Friend Ship. We can ask, “Precious Lord, take my hand,” and know that our prayer will be answered by a friend. 

What became of Barsabbas/Justus?  Would it not have been justice to replace Judas with “just us?” 

What if your name was on the ballot?  How would you have reacted to the nomination?  To a victory? Or to being rejected? 

In being chosen, we get voted onto the boat that is known as the Friend Ship of Jesus.  Enjoy the voyage!

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