Olivia Dear Thames
Friendship: In Light of Easter
It may be the day of the Resurrection, but because I'm late to everything, let's focus on an important (and often overlooked) part of the Easter story: Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
"Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, 'Pray that you will not fall into temptation.' He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 'Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.' An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 'Why are you sleeping?' he asked them. 'Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.'" -Luke 22:39-46
The Last Supper had ended. Jesus knew Peter would deny Him. Jesus knew Judas would sell him out to be arrested. Jesus knew that more and more anguish lied ahead. And what did He do? He brought His disciples, His friends, with Him as He prayed through these final hours.
While the disciples did abandon Jesus after His arrest, there's something important to learn here: Jesus opened up his heart to His friends.
He was their fearless leader. He calmed storms and healed sick people. He led with integrity and grace. But in this moment, Jesus was a suffering man. Jesus' anguish was to the point of sweat "like drops of blood on the ground". I feel like I'm sweating blood every time I even go up the stairs, but this is different. He is truly agonizing, emotionally and physically, and His disciples are there to watch (though their sorrow puts them to sleep).
This is a picture of what Jesus intended community to look like. Of course, the disciples left Him after His arrest. But Jesus had them there in the Garden of Gethsemane for a reason: for final instructions, for a picture of prayer in the midst of darkness and anticipation, for a picture of standing by someone in the midst of suffering.
In our culture, we are fast-paced. We move quickly and with purpose. Glued to our screens, we are thinking about where we could be or what we should be doing. We pass people in the hallway, saying, "Hey! How are you doing?" Yet, we shuffle past before we even hear the answer. We are surface-level, superficial even. I'm as guilty of it as anyone.
In times of sorrow, do you reach out to your friends? Or does the enemy tell you to keep your cool and hold your shoulders back? And when friends are struggling, do you surround them, comforting them at their worst? Or do you deny knowing them like Peter did?
"Can you believe what she did?" "Yeah, I don't even know her. She's messed up. Whatever."
We are quick to judge, but slow to pray with. We are quick to celebrate, but hesitant about what to say during heartache. We love when it's easy.
Friendship and discipleship doesn't just mean birthday shoutouts on Instagram. True community looks like walking with others when they can't even stand. True community looks like praying for and with others. True community looks like opening your heart up to others and giving others the chance to open up their hearts to you.
After the Last Supper and while walking to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told His disciples something important. "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:12-13).
And laying down His life for His friends is just what Jesus did. He bore our shame. He endured terrible pain. But He did it for you and for me, that we could enjoy abundant life in Paradise for eternity.
As Easter passes by, I pray that the excess of pastels and hams and eggs would not overshadow what happened at Calvary. I pray that Jesus' lessons would lead you to selflessly serve and love your friends. And I pray that you would seek true community, friends who will not just go to Saint Leo with you, but also to your Garden of Gethsemane: friends who will surround you when you are in need. And I pray that the wonder of Jesus' resurrection will not be a springtime tradition, but a constant gratitude and praise.
To our truest friend: thank You, Jesus.