THE GREATEST LOVE FOR HIS FRIENDS
“Couldn’t you stay awake with me for an hour?”1
His mood was darker than the night sky. He was about to suffer the worst agony of his life – the worst agony of anyone’s life. He knew that no other human being would ever go through the affliction he would soon endure.
It was the suffering for which he had been born. But now, on its eve, he wondered if it was not possible to find another way to accomplish the same end. God was all-powerful. He turned to Him again, as he had done daily - several times a day - for as long as he could remember. His prayer was more impassioned than usual.
He needed the support of his best friends, of the men who had been with him for the months prior to this moment. He had never felt more in need of human support. He had given them his all.
He found them sound asleep. They apparently had not taken his warnings about what was going to happen seriously. Or did they care?
“They aren’t worth it.” The voice didn’t come from inside him. He had heard it before. “They are untrustworthy, dishonest, faithless. From Adam to your so-called friends. And those who will come after them. Give them up to the end they have earned. You are too good for them. Don’t do it.”
The voice was not what he needed right now. It was a distraction. If his friends wouldn’t support him, he would turn to God, a father in ways that his human father never could be, as much as he loved and respected him. As he had done countless times before, he would pray earnestly.
After prayer, he returned to his friends…his soundly sleeping friends.
The voice again. “I told you so. They aren’t worth it. Why should you sacrifice yourself for them? They won’t appreciate it. Most of them won’t care. They will follow their own agendas, they won’t want to know about what you did for them. Until they absolutely have to face reality, when they are forced out of their lives of selfish pursuits by physical death. Those who do believe will toe the line to save their own skins. They won’t care about anyone else. And if ever challenged to defend what they say they believe, most of them will deny it to save themselves. You are too good for them. Let them fend for themselves.”
He almost wanted to do just that. How could his best friends let him down like this when he needed them? They had laughed together, shared jokes … and tears. The people they had met, the places they had been, the stories they had to tell. He cared about them deeply, as true friends do.
He turned away, back to that quiet place where he could focus on God, whom he knew would never disappoint him.
He knew what God wanted of him. He always had. “Father, not my will but yours.”2
The next few hours were indeed the most torturous of his life, made that much worse when his closest friends denied and betrayed him.
But once it was over, once the plan that had been formed by the Creator of the universe thousands of years earlier was fulfilled, he returned to his friends with a love that was even deeper.
He had given them hope for the future – not just for the short-term but for eternity. They didn’t fully understand it, they would never completely comprehend it this side of heaven. But he knew what was in store for all of those who believed in him and put their trust in the sacrifice he had made for their sins, and it gave him indescribable joy. Because he truly loved them as friends.
At their last meal together, before those terrible events, he had told them, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”3
He had been a friend to them in the most extreme way possible – and not just to them but to those who would follow them in the future, who would be tied to them by their sincere faith in what he had done for them. Together they would know love, pure love, the kind that originates only from God.
1 Paraphrase Matthew 26:40
2 Paraphrase Luke 22:42
3 John 15: 12-13 NIV
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