I used to have a band of brothers.
When I first came to Christ in faith I had a group of men around me. These men spurred me on to greater depth in Jesus. They encouraged me to pursue Him, to live in His Word, to pray fervently and to love the brothers.
We did stuff together. We laughed, we cried, we confessed our sins to one another, we went on adventures together, we dreamed of growing old together and having stories to tell our children and grandchildren.
Mostly we followed our King together.
Somewhere along the way I lost that. I didn’t lose those friends but I just drifted. Somewhere along the way I allowed the pace of life to get me distracted and I stopped hanging out with guys like that; men who would pour their hearts into me and let me pour mine into them; men who didn’t shy away from the hard stuff.
As I read the Gospels, I am shaken constantly by how much time Jesus spent with his disciples, but especially with three of them. Now, we can argue if you like about whether Jesus had “favorites” or not but the reality is that Jesus poured out a lot into that group of 12 men and especially into that group of three: Peter, James and John.
They lived their lives together. They walked the dusty roads of Israel together, they shared meals together, they laughed and cried together, they learned together at the feet of the Master and Friend. (I wonder if Jesus performed the marriage ceremony for Peter?)
Jesus had a band of brothers.
Now I know that Jesus was doing a lot of that because He was getting ready to launch the Church with those men. I know that Jesus did all things intentionally and we would do well to learn from that.
But I also believe that Jesus enjoyed what He did. He laughed at their jokes, made fun of their snoring, read the Word with them, taught them to pray, and maybe even watched them fall in love. Can you imagine the joy that Jesus must have felt as He watched those young men become who they became? They would become the ground floor of what we now call the Church! What joy Jesus must have felt.
And what sorrow.
He knew that those very men that He poured into would betray Him. He knew they would turn their backs on Him, deny Him and run away to protect themselves. Jesus knew the risks when He befriended them and chose them to follow Him. And knowing those risks, He did it anyway.
Sure, you can argue that Jesus was God and so knew everything that was going to happen. And that would be true.
But He did it anyway.
Why would He do that? Aside from the obvious reason that He would use them to build His Church, I want to suggest another reason.
Jesus befriended and walked with these men because He needed to. He needed to be in relationship with those men in order to be fully human. So that we would know what it looks like to be fully human, fully alive, Jesus showed us that we need to be in relationship not only with Him but with each other. We need each other.
Despite the pain that comes with it.
Despite the disappointment.
Despite the messiness of it all.
Despite the fact that He knew they would turn away from Him in His hour of deepest need.
Jesus was showing us what it means to be fully alive. He was showing us that we need each other desperately. We need to laugh and love and weep and fight and eat with and shout at and engage in the messiness of life with each other because to be human, to be in the image of God, means to be in relationship.
This is one of the great mysteries of the Christian faith, that we serve a God who is eternally three-in-one. God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit are in eternal union with each other as individual parts of One whole. I don’t understand that and neither do you. But we can all acknowledge, if we’re biblical Christians, that it’s true.
And if the Trinity is in communion with each other, how much more do we need to be in community with each other, submitted to the lordship of King Jesus together?
I used to have a band of brothers.
By God’s grace, one day we will all be free to be who we are without shame, living our lives in the light of Jesus’ eternal physical presence with open hands and open hearts. And then we will all know the joy of true brotherhood with one another and with Him.
Soli Deo Gloria!