A little old lady finally realized her dream to become a United States Citizens. As she stood at the swearing-in ceremony the Judge said. “Raise your right hand, please.” Then he asked her “Do you swear to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, domestic or foreign?”
The sweet little lady’s face turned pale, her voice trembled as she responded, “Well, I guess so, but… will I have help, or will I have to do it all by myself?”
I wonder if John the apostle felt like that when he stood at the foot of the cross? He is the only disciple there. Along with Mary and the other women. Judas the betrayer died by suicide. Peter had denied Jesus and left in sorrow and shame. The rest had fled. At the arrest Matthew records, “Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.”
But John returned. Because now Jesus looks down from and the cross and sees his mother and John. To Mary, he said, “Woman, behold your son!” Then to John he entrusted the care of Mary when he tenderly said, “Behold your mother!” The Bible says that John took her to his own home.
Why did John return the cross? Surely he must he thought it was dangerous to do so. There is no doubt that he and the others fled out of fear. Fear of being accused of following Jesus. Fear of ridicule. Fear of torture. Maybe even fear of death.
But he came back. Why? We might assume that his fears subsided. And he was filled with courage. That he sought redemption and forgiveness for fleeing. And while those things may very well be so, I think there is something else.
Consider the moniker given to John. He was called “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Five times he is referred to in that fashion. At the last supper. When Jesus spoke to him on the cross. And following the resurrection. Jesus and John shared a special relationship. A filial affinity. A close communion. Jesus and John were friends!
Yes, John in his wonderful treatise calls Jesus “The Word.” The Messiah. The Lamb of God. The Light of the World. The Good Shepherd. But above all Jesus was his friend.
Sure he saw Jesus as a great teacher. A powerful miracle-worker. But he was more. It was personal. Jesus and John were friends. He was “the disciple who Jesus loved.” In a unique and singular fashion.
John came back because he loved Jesus. He loved his friend. He was loyal. True. Faithful. His flight was only momentary. It was born of fleeing fear. Now John would take his stand. And stand at the foot of the cross.
“Will you care for my mother? Jesus asked. John said, “Sure.” Isn’t that what friends are for?
I’m sure John didn’t know what lay in store on Sunday. He was focused on Friday. On his friend Jesus. On just being there for him.
From the face of the beloved John we get an uncomplicated glimpse into what a relationship with Jesus is all about. Love. Loyalty. Friendship.
We sing the song, “What a Friend we have in Jesus” John lived it. And you and I can experience it. On this Friday, Jesus calls us to be his friends. To enjoy his fellowship. To share his love.
Because as John found out, Sunday’s coming! And he learned and so will we that Jesus is the best friend you could ever have. You may sometime run away in fear, but not Jesus. You may cower, but he will be there when you return. He calls us to friendship and says, “Come commune with me. And enjoy supper in my Kingdom.”
–Ken Weliever, the Preacherman