The Friendships of Jesus

Allow me a very large generalisation. For many centuries the Catholic Church has been a bit ‘undecided’ about friendship. Generation after generation of novices and seminarians were warned of the dangers of ‘particular friendships’ and encouraged to avoid any kind of emotional intimacy with others. Of course it didn’t work. People are too sensible not to realise that friendship is a gift, one that can bring people closer to God. Remember Aelred of Rievaulx and his insistence that Christ should be the centre of any Christian friendship? Quite.

Perhaps we would be less afraid of friendship, and readier to accept that the gift of friendship is not without its obligations and duties, if we spent more time thinking about the friendships of Jesus. The household at Bethany was clearly a place where Jesus was happy to be, where he could enjoy the company of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. The accounts in John’s gospel of his interaction with the three siblings are all interesting, but I think today’s account of the raising of Lazarus highlights something we too often forget: Jesus loved his friends, just as we do. It wasn’t a case of his being God in human form and therefore somehow immune to feeling. Jesus didn’t act a part, didn’t pretend to a grief he didn’t feel. He shed tears for Lazarus. He mourned his loss. Something of himself was gone when Lazarus lay in the grave. Yes, we know that he raised Lazarus to life, we understand, at least in part, the sign; but I think we misunderstand Jesus if we pass too quickly over the grief and the tears. A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, yes; one who has borne the grief of the whole world on his shoulders; one who can weep with us, not just for us.


4 thoughts on “The Friendships of Jesus”

  1. Yes, we can too often overlook the complete humanity of Jesus; an issue that the Church Fathers stressed to be of great importance to the understanding of the incarnation.

    But… I don’t like the banality of the ‘Jesus is my friend’ attitude that seams so pervasive in certain circles of Christianity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for people to think of Jesus in the every day, as imminent as breath, but he is also part of the Almighty God-head of the Trinity! To be worshipped and adored as creator and redeemer of all that is, seen and unseen; sitting at the right hand of the Father.

    I pray that we do not lose the awe of Jesus to mere sentimentality, whilst accepting the closeness of the God who loves us.

  2. Very good thoughts! I appreciated the blog and the comment as well. Several years ago, in a dark season of life, I found incredible comfort in the simple thought that Jesus was my friend, that He was walking with me through the darkness. It was a simple idea that I probably heard as a child, but it was in that year of darkness that it became so meaningful. Praise God that He is so holy, so mighty, and yet so near.

  3. Lovely ~ I read this today and was impacted by the fact that, not only did Jesus weep for Lazarus, the text repeats that he was deeply moved …
    I do agree friendship is a gift and special ‘soul friends’ are priceless.

  4. Lots to ponder in this entry and these comments.. . I think in some ways friendship has become one of the most underrated and diluted concepts in our lives. Notice how Facebook has shifted the meaning of the word — aside from the (to me deeply irritating) use of “to friend” as a transitive verb, the concept has very little to do with anything feasible on one’s emotional, spiritual and intellectual life as long as one can have thousands or even hundreds of friends. It’s a loss, to be sure.

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