The following is an excerpt from “The Other Three Sixteens”, coming soon!
“These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter)…”
– Mark 3:16
The book of Mark is where the action is. We jump right into the story of Jesus and race breathlessly through a non-stop narrative. You’ve got to hold on tight, because it’s a wild ride.
As Mark’s story unfolds, we see Jesus teaching and preaching, healing the sick and casting out demons. His authority and power were clear and word began to spread about his incredible impact. The crowds grew larger and larger. As his ministry increased, Jesus invited twelve men to be his close friends. He appointed them to travel with him, learn from him, and he wanted to send them out to preach, heal, and cast out demons as well. Mark 3:16 begins the list of the twelve disciples: Simon, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, another James, Thaddaeus, and another guy named Simon.
Over the next couple of years, these men would have their lives changed beyond their wildest imaginations.
There were multitudes clamoring for Jesus’ attention. However, in the noise and excitement, he quietly gathered friends. This band of brothers would not only learn from him, but they would be a support system during the ups and downs of ministry life. These were the people who would travel with Jesus, share meals, and talk about the great mysteries of God with him. They were also the dudes who would share jokes, witness tragedies and victories, and even try his patience from time to time. The relationship between Jesus and the disciples was like no other. They walked side by side with the Son of God and were empowered by the Lord to do great things, too.
We also have the gift of friendship with Christ.
In John 15:13-15, Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. 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.” The disciples weren’t the only friends of God. We are also invited into an intimate friendship with the Lord.
To be a friend is to love.
Friends know each other’s favorite things and histories. They understand good moods and bad while being sensitive to what delights or upsets one another. Friends go out of their way to help and support. They talk as well as listen, often developing a shorthand communication. Little things are shared for the sole purpose of inspiring a smile. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity” (Proverbs 17:17). Friends are there through happy occasions and sad seasons, and they don’t bail out during difficulty. Advice from a caring friend is worth more than gold. There is something sacred about simply being together. Friends enjoy a casual, comforting familiarity that doesn’t exist among acquaintances. Friendship is special. Our friendship with God fits all these descriptions and more. To have such a close relationship to the Creator of the universe is remarkable! But this is what God desires for us. He loves us so deeply that he longs to be close to us. He gave everything to make that possible.
Yes, Jesus ministered to large crowds. But when he healed lepers, he touched them individually. A paralyzed man was lowered into a room wall-to-wall full of people, but Jesus forgave his sins personally. Away from the crowds, Jesus connected with his disciples. And, in this world full of billions of people, he loves you personally and individually. He calls you by name. He calls you his friend.
You, child of God, are dearly loved.