Over the course of Jesus’ life and ministry, the disciple’s relationship with him deepens and changes—and so does ours. We always stand as sinner to our Savior, but as we follow Jesus in his mission, we also become a servant to our Master. As we hear the parables, we become a student of our Teacher, and as we learn to love others as he has loved us, we become a disciple to our Lord.
But as Jesus approaches his suffering and death, he deepens our relationship with him again. At the Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus says, I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.
Now we become friends to Jesus. Jesus needs more than sinners, servants, students and disciples to enter the suffering that he faces. Jesus needs friends who will accompany him, who will love him, who will suffer with him, who will not betray, abandon or deny him. None of his first disciples could do this, except John. Judas betrayed him, Peter denied him, all but John ran away.
Have you ever imagined that the disciples who fled in fear left an opening in the story for you to do what they could not? Have you ever imagined that Jesus calls you, “friend,” and asks you to enter his passion and fill the space vacated by the disciples? Have you ever imagined that the suffering you have endured in this life, opens up inside you, a bigger space of compassion so that you can be a friend to Jesus, so that you can be the one who stays by his side while he suffers and dies?
I invite you to imagine yourself inside the story as a friend who stays there with Jesus; a gift of sacred accompaniment. You may close your eyes and quiet your thoughts as you let your imagination take you to the hill outside of Jerusalem where Jesus and 2 criminals are crucified.
Crowds surround you as you make your way to the cross. The jeers and cheers have quieted down as death draws near. As you weave your way closer, you spot Jesus’ mother Mary, with Mary Magdalene, and Mary’s sister, standing at the foot of the cross with John. You make your way toward them so you can be there with Jesus, too. As you take your place beside them, the Mary’s and John nod their gratitude to you and squeeze your hand. They are so comforted that you had the courage and compassion to stay by Jesus until the end.
You look up at Jesus; his head is bowed. So many thoughts and questions are running through his mind: “Is this what happens when you love without limits? What should I have done differently? Just a few days ago I thought I heard Hosannas! Where are all of my friends? And, my Abba, my Father, where, oh where is he in all this agony?”
No answers come.
Jesus lifts up his head and sees you there with the women and John. You lock eyes and you see the relief flood over him as he realizes he’s not completely alone. He holds your gaze as if he’s soaking up your compassion and love. You remember that Jesus knows everything—all of your pain and sorrow, all of your goodness and joy, all of your temptation and sin. You feel flooded with his love. How can Jesus exude such love when he’s in so much pain? You also feel deep sorrow for his suffering.
It’s as if time stands still. As you hold his gaze, it looks like he’s about to say something. You step closer and lean in to hear what he says: what does Jesus say to you? What is Jesus saying to you as a friend who stays by his side?
You hold this message from Jesus in your heart. You will always remember what Jesus has done for you.
He saved all of us by not saving himself.