I Have Called You Friends (John 1:35-51, John 15:15)
We will return to the conventional term “disciples” momentarily, but the term “friends” captures the essence of John’s depiction of the disciples. “I have called you friends,” says Jesus (John 15:15). The relational element is critical: they are Jesus’ friends who first and foremost remain in the presence of Jesus (John 1:35-39; 11:54; 15:4-11) John appears to go out of his way to crowd as many people as possible on stage with Jesus in chapter 1. John the Baptist points Jesus out to Andrew and another disciple. Andrew gets his brother Simon. Philip, who is from the same town as Andrew and Simon, finds Nathanael. It is not simply that Jesus will advance his mission through a web of interpersonal relationships. Weaving a web of relationships is the point of the whole enterprise.
But the disciples are not just buddies basking in the radiance of Jesus’ friendship. They are also his workers. They are not working in an obvious way yet in chapter 1 (though even the fetching of siblings and neighbors is a type of evangelistic labor), but work they will. Indeed, as we will see, it is precisely this connection between friendship and labor that holds the key to John’s theology of work. Work produces results while it also builds relationships, and this is another echo of Genesis 2:18-22.