3 Lent, March 24
Jesus said to his disciples, “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 the Father” (John 15:15). Jesus hears the Father speak and speaks those very words to his friends. “What a friend we have in Jesus,” as the 19th-century hymn says. He is our companion, our comfort, and our consolation. We may go to him, speak with him, and listen to him as he gives divine utterance to our desperate need. He is love and compassion and lovingkindness. He no longer calls us servants. He calls us his friends.
There is no barrier between the heart of one who loves Jesus and the heart of Jesus himself. We have, to use a profound and important word, access to him. Writing to the Romans, St. Paul says, “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2). Writing to the Ephesians, stressing the same point, Paul says, “This was in accordance with the eternal purposes that he has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him” (Eph. 3:11-12). This is the very definition of divine friendship. Every moment is one of access in boldness and confidence.
From a human perspective, true friendship is never about calculation and manipulation and looking for favor or advantage. Friendship is especially precious because partners seek the well-being of the other. Friends are content simply to be together, to share burdens and to share joys, to share thoughts and hopes and stories about daily living. True friends are like a single soul. “Welcome your friend with all your heart and soul,” the Stoic philosopher Seneca writes in Epistle 3. “Speak as boldly with him as with yourself.” Human friendship, for all its beauty and intimacy, is but a glimpse of what is given in Christ. We are with Jesus, in Jesus, near Jesus. He has called us his friends.
Friends owe something to each other. The deeper the friendship, the deeper the debt of gratitude, one paid willingly and joyfully. Do we owe something to Jesus? “What shall I return to the Lord for all his bounty to me?” (Ps. 116:12). We owe a debt of gratitude to our friends, and we owe a debt of gratitude to our saving friend. He wants something.
Jesus tells a parable about a man who planted a fig tree in his vineyard. Even now, he is planting you in his vineyard. For three years the owner of the vineyard came looking for fruit and found none. “Cut it down,” he advised the gardener. The gardener said, “Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about it and put on manure. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down” (Luke 13:6-9). Yes, we have a friend in Jesus. And yes, we owe him something, some measure of gratitude for all the good he has done. We owe him the righteous fruit of a righteous life.
Imperfection and sin are no excuse. Turn the soil of your life, take the nourishment you need, and do some good designed just for you. There are good works to walk in.
Look It Up
Read Psalm 63:8.
Think About It
Seek the Son of God and let him hold you fast.