In our brief devotional survey of Jesus’ final week we have come to Thursday. So many of Thursday’s events are recorded in the four Gospels that even a brief survey is beyond our scope. Take the Gospel of John for instance. If you sit down tonight and read from John 13-19, you will read the events that occur Thursday night into Friday morning. Six chapters of John’s 21 chapters record this final day.
We can’t highlight everything, so I want to focus in on one devotional thought from all of these precious scenes. I think if we look at the entire body of what happens Thursday there is an interesting contrast between Jesus and the Disciples. The final night’s meal with the Disciples was a meal between close friends. It must have been a difficult meal for our Savior. He gave them some intense training that night and the promise that more teaching was to come (The New Testament Scriptures through the Holy Spirit). He washed their feet (the duty of a servant) as they argued about which one would boss the others around. But one of the most solemn of discussions between the friends Thursday evening, was when Jesus assured them of His friendship.
“This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:12-14).
Combine two of the phrases. The greatest love you will ever see is when someone lays down their life for their friend… You are my friends. You can read between the lines here. Jesus is encouraging them to take upon them the sacrifice of friendship, and promising them that He will mirror for them the epitome of friendship. He will die for them.
Now, contrast the next few hours between Jesus and His friends. Jesus goes beyond washing their feet. He fulfills His promise. He dies for them. And His dying for them is a deeper form of sacrifice than we could ever imagine. His dying is taking upon Himself the punishment for their sin. He faces capital punishment for His friends.
What about the 12? I wish we didn’t have to go there! But look on with me. There they are asleep in the garden as Jesus prays so passionately, under such duress, that He sweats blood. That is before the trouble even starts. One of the “friends” comes with a huge number to arrest Jesus. How does He betray? – with a kiss. Can you picture that? The other “friends” are still rubbing their eyes of sleep as Judas kisses Jesus in order that the soldiers will know which one to nab. Couldn’t He just point Jesus out? Why the hypocritical kiss? And then the soldiers come. What happens to the other friends? They all forsook Him and fled. And Peter, the chief of friends who swore that he would never leave Jesus’ side just hours before looks on from a distance to see the end. While he watches from a distance, he swears and says he does not even know Jesus. Have you ever had a “friend” act like they didn’t know you in a difficult situation? They are no friend at all.
I’m convicted by this. I’m not referring to friendship in general. I’m thinking specifically about my relationship with Jesus. It is easy for us to berate the disciples. And, well, they deserve it. But I’m convicted by the fact that I often fall into their side of the contrasted activity in my relationship with Jesus. He loves me, lived a perfect life for me, died for me, rose again for my eternal life, and even now stands to intercede for me before the Father… all the time! He does for me just as much as He did for Peter, James, and John. How do I respond? Do I fall asleep in prayer? Do I too countenance sin in my own life when it is because of my sin that He died? Am I afraid to be thought of as one of His disciples by those who oppose Him? Do I distance myself from the Jesus of Christianity?
And so My Lord’s love convicts me again. But it also wells up in me a heart of gratitude for His self-sacrificing, loving friendship. And it makes me cry out for grace that He would enable me to live for Him the, self-sacrificing, friendship, love that He lives for me every moment of my life.
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).