“I don’t call you servants anymore, because a servant doesn’t know what his master is doing. But I’ve called you friends because I’ve made known to you everything that I’ve heard from my Father.” John 15:15
“Henceforth I call you not servants…” “”Le’go my Eggo!” Sorry, I’m semi-distracted here. The verb expressing the “henceforth I call” part here is “lego.” And I think I need to stop and think on these words here. Because this is not actually a brand new idea. Jesus, You have already been telling the disciples what friendship with You is all about, what it looks like. In the previous verse, You say, “You are my friends if you do whatsoever I command you.” So I’m wondering if this is more of You tying things all together and saying, “This is the attribute I am attaching to You. It goes beyond servant. This is what I want to put to your account. This is what I want to tie together. This is what I’m saying ‘in order to explain more fully the implications or intent of what has been said.’ I want you to understand how I feel about you. I want you to understand the depth of our relationship.”
I’m not so sure that You are saying here, “I don’t consider you servants any more, but now you are just friends.” Yesterday, I went back through Scripture to see how you felt about servants. And I found out that certain servants were friends. I found that there was a servant that had to be a servant and a servant that desired to be a servant. And that seems to make a significant difference.
Digging deep into Scripture, I found that You called Abraham, Caleb, David, Job, Isaiah, Eliakim, Jacob, Nebuchadnezzar, Zerubbabel, and Jacob, Your servants. Straight from Your own mouth You said, “My servant…” Scripture referred to Abram, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, Elijah, Jonah, Israel, Hezekia, Nehemiah, Jesus, James, Paul, Simon Peter, Jude, and the Angels as His servants (which means Your designated servants.) So, therefore, it’s not a bad designation to be a servant of God. It’s not just an “Old Testament thing.” Even after You spoke these words we are looking at today, You, James, Paul, Simon Peter, and Jude did not negate that you all continued to be servants, though you all were friends of God.
But there is something that distinguishes between someone being a servant and someone being a servant and a friend. Because I see one name in there especially that stands out to me, well, other than Yours. Nebachundnezzar. He was a servant of God and He finally acknowledged You, but I’m not so sure if he ever became a friend of God. Because to become a servant and friend of God, one must be able to listen to the voice and heart of God, and obey the things You make known. Why? Because a friend loves; and love is more than service; love is more than acquiescing.
Which takes me back to Scripture. I want to look at this servant thing so I can understand this friendship better. I’ve always been intrigued by the “bond servant” idea. So I went back to Exodus 21:5. Here’s this idea of a servant who has married his master’s slave and they have had children. So everyone in the family belongs to the master. Now, the male servant has an opportunity to go free, but it would mean leaving his family behind. But not just that. It would mean leaving his master too. And he’s become attached to his family and his master, to say the least. He loves them all. You, Lord, knew that this would happen sometimes. It’s a parallel of our relationship with You. So, here’s how he would become a bond servant. “And if the servant shall plainly say, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go free’: then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.” Wow, service and love, all in one. That’s something to think about.
Now, here’s another instance. You called Moses Your servant. That came straight from Your mouth. When there was trouble in the camp and Miriam and Aaron were jealous of Moses, You spoke to them and said this of Your servant Moses, “with him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold…” And this is explained in Exodus 33:11, “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend…” Moses was a servant with a special relationship with You. You know, I think he had chosen to be a bondservant.
Then there was this instance of David’s servant Ittai. He was from another people group. And when David had to run from Jerusalem, David gave him the opportunity to leave him and go back to his people so he wouldn’t have to suffer with David. But listen to what Ittai answered in response, “As the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king shall be, whether for death or for life, there also will your servant be.” (2 Samuel 15:21) Was he “just a servant?” Or, is this a servant who loved his master? I wonder, was Ittai choosing to be a bondservant?
Here’s another aspect. King Rehoboam, was approached by Jeroboam and asked to lighten their load as he became king. The older counselors gave him this advice, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.” Unfortunately, King Rehoboam didn’t follow their advice. But this advice is straight from God. You, King Jesus, are referred to as the servant of God. Not only that, You have said that You came to serve and not be served. And You are the greatest example of combining service and love. Because of how You treat us, we want to attach ourselves to You and serve and love You forever. “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs..”(Romans 15:8) This is beyond imaginable! King Jesus, a servant!
Isn’t it something almost unbelievable that the same Jesus, the One that God said, “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased…,” that the same You, God called His servant? “Behold my Servant, whom I uphold, My Chosen, in whom My soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.” And it’s not like Your Father only referred to You as a servant once in Scripture. It’s over and over again and You confirm it. “Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the Righteous One, My Servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities.”(Isaiah 53:11) Paul goes on to tell us that “Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs…” and He “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
I’m just wondering here now, Jesus. But it’s like You were God’s bondservant and almost like a bondservant to us. I mean, it just seems like not only did You bind Yourself to God and not want to be separated from Him, but it seems as though You bound Yourself to us, to me, so that You would never have to be separated from me. Did You not want to loose me? Did You want to remain with Your Master, Your Heavenly Father and with Your family? What are the appropriate words I could use to express the magnitude of the idea that You first bound Yourself to me, forsaking ALL so that I could value You just as greatly and forsake my own “freedom,” my ALL, to bind myself to You?
When does a servant become a friend? Your servant David kept Your commands and followed You with all his heart, doing that which was right in Your eyes. He didn’t have to do it on his own because You deal with Your servants according to Your steadfast love and You teach them Your statutes so that they can follow. You give Your servants understanding so that they can know Your testimonies. You make Your face shine upon Your servants and You teach them. You show Your promises to be true and Your servants love experiencing them. You seek Your servant out when we get lost; You bring back to our minds Your commandments. You called us. You chose us. You don’t cast off who You choose. You make us Your witnesses. You make us to know and believe You and understand who You are. You are glorified in Your servants. You make Your servant like You, our Master. You teach us to be humble servants, humble like You. You teach us to be servant of all like You were Servant of all. You teach us faithfulness as a servant. You teach us what it looks like to be a servant who does His Father’s will, who follows, and dwells with, and honors the Father. You teach us how to accept persecution as a servant.
Now put it all together. “You’re not just servants. You are my friends, IF, you are listening to my Father and living by it, living in Him and near Him.” How did Abraham become Your friend? Well, first he was Your servant. A servant obeys at the least. But he took it beyond that. “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him as righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.” Obeying God, following God, was more important to Abraham than anything else. He entrusted his life to God. He entrusted his way to God. He entrusted his family and his finances to God. I mean really, not just in part. He left not knowing where he was going. He didn’t even know how he was going to make a living. He didn’t know what the people would be like around him. He just bound himself to God, totally. And God called that friendship. First God chose him, then he chose God, and his actions are the witness.
Paul was free from all, but he made himself “a servant to all, that [he] might win more of them.” He was a servant and apostle of Jesus, “for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness…” Simon Peter also saw himself as a servant and apostle of Jesus. Jude called himself a servant of Jesus and brother of James. John refers to himself as a servant of Jesus Christ in his account of Revelation. Yeah, and John was the disciple who Jesus “loved.”
So, what’s the difference between a servant and a friend of God? In Your eyes, Lord, I think they go hand in hand. There is a servant who goes through the motions because they have to. That’s not a servant You delight in. That’s the kind that takes the talents and buries them and thinks You are a hard master. But then there’s that servant who loves You so much and loves living with You so much that they don’t want to leave You. So they bind themselves to You in love, forever. This is the kind of friend you are looking for. You are looking for more Abrahams, and Moseses, and Davids, and Ittais. You are looking for more Ruth’s and Rahab’s.
The truth is, Scripture shares lots of examples of servant/Master love bonds like this. I think that Abraham’s servant must have really loved him and been loved and trusted by Abraham for him to send him out on the spiritually important task of finding a right wife for Isaac. And then the servant gets there and stops to pray to You and seeks You to bring things to pass. He wasn’t just going through the motions. I think he had a heart for Abraham and Isaac and most importantly for You.
And I can’t help but think about that centurion. The one with great faith. Who was so concerned over his servant. He went to great measures and humbled himself greatly for one that was under him. Maybe that was because they had become friends and a bond of love had gotten hold of them.
Lord, I can’t imagine life without You. I am eternally bound to You. I don’t want to ever be free from You. And it seems the more I bind myself to You, the more You bind Yourself to me and the more You draw me to You. The more You bind Yourself to me, the more You show me, maybe because I take more time to listen and to learn and to spend more time with You. I will never stop being Your servant, nor will I ever stop growing as Your friend. And the dear thing isn’t how I serve You or become Your friend. The dear thing is that my Master serves me. My Master befriends me, really. That is the greatest gift of all. Your example is the Treasure above treasures. You served me first, therefore, I know what service looks like. You befriended me first, therefore, I know what friendship looks like. Make me a servant and friend after Your own heart! Your heart is so beautiful, wonderful, amazing, loving…Ah, what lame words to describe it! Lord, You are sooooo much and soooooo much more!