Jesus’ life on earth demonstrates the importance of friendship. The only time any part of God’s creation was not good was when the man was alone (Genesis 2:18). Jesus called twelve disciples and three of them: Peter, James and John, were among His closest friends. The night Jesus was arrested He was betrayed by one of the twelve: Judas, and denied by Peter, one of the three.
When Jesus was arrested in the garden the disciples scattered. We barely keep track of Peter up until the time he denies knowing Jesus for the third time, and Judas up until he kills himself in Jerusalem. Neither of them saw Jesus hanging on the cross. There were women, who were followers of Jesus, at the cross. Also, there were male supporters who went into action to bury Jesus’ body (Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus). There was only one of the twelve disciples who stayed by Jesus’ side until the very end. His name was John. John had a brother named James (one of the inner three) and earlier Jesus called theses brothers the Sons of Thunder. They were the named disciples who asked to sit at Jesus’ left and right when He came into His kingdom, a request that was denied by Jesus. Since these two brothers are always together with Jesus, it is curious that James is not with John at the cross. The Bible doesn’t tell us his whereabouts.
John alone sticks by Jesus at the peril of his own life being taken by association. Something about him makes him the kind of friend who finds it impossible to go away even after everyone else has had enough. Though he appears earlier in the gospels as a leader with a bit of a hot head, by the time he wrote the Gospel of John, the letters of 1,2,3 John and Revelation, he was a changed man. All pride was gone and deep love for God and for God’s people consumed him.
I imagine that it was the six hours that Friday that totally transformed his soul. He lost all personal ambition and received the identity Jesus gave to him all along. He began to see his whole identity as one loved by God. In his Gospel, he never uses the pronouns I or me, rather he refers to himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved or the beloved of the Lord. Could this be the result of standing there, taking in, being present for the greatest act of love God has ever demonstrated to man—the crucifixion of Jesus Christ?
As Jesus bore the sins of all mankind His mother, Mary, embraced a level of absurdity that was beyond human ability; women like Mary Magdalene held her up and endured their own scattered hopes; Joseph and Nicodemus responded to the injustice and did what they could to give Jesus a proper funeral. Jesus was not alone, He had friends who supported Him. John stands out as the closest friend. He was the one in whom Jesus could entrust His widow mom. He was a friend who was loyal until the end. He was greatly rewarded because he trusted Jesus with his whole life. He learned through loyalty to Jesus to love like Jesus and encourage others to love in this way. He tells us this truth about ourselves in 1 John 3:1:
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.”
How will we change if we spend time at the cross and remain loyal to Jesus? Will we understand why we are rejected in the world, but blessed to become people who call ourselves the Beloved?