During Lent when I read the gospels, three story starters jumped out at me from the pages of my Bible. I had read them before, I’d even written about them, but this time they left me wondering about Jesus and his friends. What did Jesus desire from friendship?
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus desired devotion from his friends.
I imagine Martha as an ancient Martha Stewart. Her house was always clean, dinner was on time and her chores followed a very strict schedule. Only when the work was done, did she have time to be a friend. Jesus shared a close friendship with Mary, Martha and their brother, Lazarus. He desired time with all of them, but Martha was too busy to give it. I wonder. Did Martha change her priorities, or did she weep at the cross wishing that she had more time?
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Jesus desired that his friends trust him.
I imagine that Jesus was a trustworthy friend. Why then were his disciples unsure of him? It is in our nature not to trust. Even with those we love, there is still a speck of doubt. I wonder. Did his disciples view Jesus as a faithful friend only because of his actions? Even after he calmed the storm, did they trust their friend completely? Absolute trust is next to impossible.
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Jesus desired support from his friends.
I imagine Jesus trusted Peter, James and John, his best friends, to stand by him on that fateful night. He confided his deepest feelings to them and asked for their support: “Stay with me. Watch over me!” I wonder. Did they comfort him and promise not to leave him? Was Jesus heartbroken when he discovered his best friends sleeping when he needed them the most? Jesus desired support from his friends — but he didn’t get it.
These three stories, void of details, leave us imagining and wondering. Still, one thing is certain. Jesus loved his friends unconditionally. Martha was too busy for him, his disciples doubted him and his best friends betrayed him. But Jesus kept loving them. He even died for them!
Oh, to have such a friend.