He was your friend. You enjoyed good times together and shared difficult moments. You knew him well – at least you thought you knew him. Yet, there was still plenty to learn.
One evening you were eating supper with this friend and several others. You enjoyed the company as the smell of wine and roasted lamb fills the air. Then your friend talks about going away – and you can not go with him! You don’t understand. Does that mean you will not be friends any more? What he says sounds strange, but you have heard him say strange things in the past.
After supper you went to a favorite spot to relax, but your friend seemed to have something troubling him. Soon you heard the clamor of a small crowd. You saw them holding their weapons in the air as they came to take your friend away by force. It was terrifying. You ran. Your own life seemed so much more important than helping your friend.
Yet, this was your friend and you wanted to know what was happening to him. You went to the place they took him. It seemed like they had put him on trial. Eventually it became clear this trial was only a thin veil of an excuse to murder your friend. You stood there waiting for any bit of information about your friend. People asked, “Didn’t I see you with that man?” Suddenly, an image of your own execution flashed before you and you vehemently denied knowing this man.
Just then your friend was being moved from one place to another and he came to a spot where he was able to look directly at you. You realized what you had done. You promised to remain his friend, even if it meant your own death. You couldn’t keep that promise. You felt the guilt pressing down on you. Later, it became clear that your friend was going to die to remove your guilt. He died to pay the price God demands for your sins. Your friend’s name is Jesus.
This Lenten season as you hear and read about the suffering and death of your Savior, put yourself in the story. See yourself as one of those people whom Jesus calls friend, because you are. Even though Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection happened almost 2000 years ago, Jesus knew your name. He was thinking of you when he allowed the mob to arrest him, the religious leaders to mock him, and Pontius Pilate to sentence him to death. You are the reason he stretched out his hands on that rough-hewn piece of wood and waited as the nails were driven into his flesh. You are in this story because Jesus did this for you. Read about it in the Gospels. (Matthew 26-28; Mark 14-16; Luke 22-24; John 13-21)