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by Phil Ware

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    In Mark’s story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection (Mark 15:40-16:7), we see a group of women who are Jesus’ true friends. In these few verses, they show us three passages in the lives of true friends. In the process, they also remind us about the redeeming power of true friendship and the source of that power. They teach us to be friends at first light.

Passage One: Friends for the Long Journey (15:40-41)

    The crucifixion was horrible. If you know the crucified, it was beyond horror. Yet from a distance, several women who were the true friends of Jesus observed — not in some morbid fascination and not out of some stilted sense of duty, but as friends of the Son of God. They had to watch, because it was the end of their journey with Jesus their Lord. They had been Jesus’ friends for the long journey. These women had supported Jesus’ ministry financially. They had offered emotional and spiritual support. They had traveled many miles on foot. They had faced hostile crowds. They had witnessed miraculous power. They were friends for the long journey.

    Every one of us needs a friend or two for the long journey. We all need folks who won’t back out on us or back down on the Gospel. However, the only way we get those kinds of friends is by being one. Friends for the long journey stick with us through thick and thin. They see us at our best and still claim us at our worst. They share our joys and they soften our sorrows. They hang tough with us when things get desperate.

Passage Two: Friends for the Moments of Darkness (15:42-47)

    The approach of evening was hardly noticed. It had been dark most of the day, as if God had let Satan pull down the blinds of hope and life as Jesus died in agony on the Cross. Sin and death, cruelty and mockery, would all have their day of festive brutal play. Demons would dance with delight. The enemies of the Christ of God would jeer, mockingly driving home their sarcastic barbs deeper into the heart of Jesus than their crown of thorns could penetrate his scalp. It was their time. Darkness ruled. The Prince of Darkness would have his moment of savage glory. Little did he know that the torture tree on which he hung the Savior would be God’s greatest instrument of salvation and the dark lord’s undoing.

    Jesus was not alone, no matter how alone he felt. Even though his apostles had forsaken him and fled, Jesus did have friends at the edge of his darkness. They had been friends on the long journey and they would see the journey to its end. Even though Peter, the strong and vocal leader had denied him three times in the darkness, illuminated only by the glow of the charcoal fire, and even though Judas had betrayed him for thirty pieces of silver, and even though all the rest had abandoned him in the garden, not all had forsaken him. These women stayed to watch to their own horror, true to the end. They saw Joseph take down his lifeless body and followed him to the tomb. They made preparation to honor their friend. They were not afraid to be identified with him at the worst possible time. Jesus had friends there, waiting to serve him in his moments of deepest darkness.

We all need friends who will accompany us on the long journey and remain true through our worst moments of darkness.
    We all need friends who will accompany us on the long journey and remain true through our worst moments of darkness. Most will not be able to do it. It is not in them. They are not necessarily bad, they are just weak or confused or weary. While it may break our heart, we must realize that the gift of one or two for our hour of darkness are a treasure — a gift as great as the Son of God had. Except for us, even if all of our earthly friends may fail us, Jesus will not. He has been to the darkness. He knows its bitter sting. He knows the feelings of abandonment. Although we may not can see him or feel his presence, he is there at the edge of our darkness, waiting to serve us and help us through.

Passage Three: Friends When the Darkness Fades (16:1-7)

    As wonderful as loyal friends can be, if they are only friends for the long journey and friends for our hours of darkness, then something tragic is lost. We were not made to be merely mortal. It is tragic for friendship to end in darkness.

    Jesus’ friends didn’t know what to expect, but clearly they weren’t ready for what happened next. They went to the tomb to do the right thing, the kind thing. They went just as the morning light was breaking and the grip of darkness loosened. But, they couldn’t do what they came to do without help. They needed someone to roll away the stone covering the entrance. Yet when they got there, they found that help had already come. They would learn over the coming days that this help was far more than they could have imagined. The met a messenger from God who told them, “You are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. He has risen!” While the brightness of the angel’s glory was radiant and while the first rays of the morning’s light broke open a new day, nothing could compare to the light these friends of Jesus experienced because of his resurrection. They had been friends for the long journey and they had been friends in his moment of darkness, but now, now they were friends when all darkness fades. They were at the dawning of Jesus’ reign of glory. Nothing would ever be the same for them again. Why? Because they were Jesus’ friends at first light!

    All of us will lose friends to death. For those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ, we must remember that they are our friends at first light — those of us who have died to sin and death with Jesus and have been raised to live a new life. Physical death is the transition from one degree of glory to a far greater glory. So our place as friends is to mourn and to anticipate. It is to share this hope, this light, and this promise of God given to us with Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. It is to long for the day when our darkness is caught up in the glorious light of his coming and our reunion with all those who have gone before us and who are friends waiting for the day when darkness will forever fade away and we will be caught up into the glorious liberty and life of God.

 
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      Title: ""
      Author: Phil Ware
      Publication Date: April 18, 2003


 
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