Posted on December 10, 2014
#83: That’s What Friends Are For
On May 15, 2001, I took my first and only ride on a helicopter. I remember the date because that ride was a life-flight—with our fourteen-year-old son, who nearly lost his life that day in a bicycle accident.
He was first taken by ambulance to our local hospital; a few friends came to the hospital immediately when they heard the news. Then in Akron more friends gathered, including our small group. Thirteen years later, I still see each face in the waiting room. I can still name every one who joined hands in the circle, praying. I’m still grateful for the love and support they gave us on that night and after. When we thanked them their common response was, “That’s what friends are for.”
Having been in a position of deep need and felt the love of friends who stayed with us, who prayed for us, who held us, I understand how much friends mean in tough times. Maybe that’s why the lonely picture of Jesus in Gethsemane tears at my heart.
I’m so glad you’ve joined me for this post in our series Knowing Jesus, as we walk with Him into the Garden. There’s an important lesson ahead of us.
Pick up your Bible and read Mark 14:32-42. Then flip to Matthew 26:36-46, Luke 22:39-46, and John 18:1 for parallel accounts that give extra insights.
It was Thursday of Passover Week. Jesus and His disciples had finished the Passover meal. Then they’d left Jerusalem and crossed the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane, a secluded spot at the foot of the Mount of Olives where Jesus often went with the Twelve (Jn. 18:2).
At the garden’s entrance Jesus told His friends, “Sit here while I pray.” Then He asked Peter, James and John to come a little further with Him. In front of these three—His closest friends among the disciples—Jesus let His anguish show. Three different yet equally strong words are used to describe His state:
• ekthambeisthai—which meant to be nearly paralyzed with horror (or with wonder, as this word could be used for either positive or negative strong emotion as determined by the context). Here, the NIV translates it “deeply distressed.”
• ademonein—weighed down, full of heaviness; translated “troubled.”
• perilupos—intensely grieved or sorrowful; translated “overwhelmed with sorrow.”
Jesus didn’t hide His misery. In fact, He stated it outright. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch.” He went a bit further, dropped to the ground, and began to pray. Matthew Henry wrote, “He fully knew the malignity of the sins he was to suffer for.” He knew that the blackness of mankind’s sin would tear apart the Three-in-One, separating Him from His Father. Sin would bring death to The Life, darkness to The Light. Never has there been a more torturous hour. So severe was His sorrow, so intense the stress on His body, that the capillaries beneath His skin ruptured causing Him to sweat blood (Lk. 22:44).
His three friends might have been able to see Him from where they sat. Luke, in his gospel account, records that an angel appeared to Jesus and strengthened Him (Lk. 22:43); Luke may have gotten that information from one of these eye-witnesses. In any case, Peter, James and John were clearly aware that Jesus was struggling, yet within a short time all three fell asleep.
Have you been with a dear friend in a time of suffering—someone you would describe as deeply distressed, weighed down and intensely sorrowful? What did you do for them? say to them? Can you imagine dozing off in the midst of your friend’s agony? Then snoozing again—and again?
Ironic, that all three of these men had previously insisted they would never desert Jesus and that they were ready to die with Him (see Mk. 10:38-39a and 14:29, 31). Yet here they were sleeping, while knowing that He’d asked them to pray and keep watch. They didn’t even last an hour (vs. 37)! Then after He wakened them, asking them again to watch and pray, they fell asleep again—and again.
So often we pledge big things—then fail to be faithful in little things. Don’t underestimate the value of small faithfulnesses. What we do in the small moments is as much evidence of our loyalty to Christ, as our vow of what we might do in the big moment if it ever came. And the pattern of faithful small moments sets a course that will carry us through the big moments when they come.
We can make all sorts of audacious promises. But it’s when we live our faithfulness in little ways day to day that we show Him He can count on us in the small moments and the big ones. That’s what friends are for.
© Diane McLoud 2014