Summary: A sermon about friendship as a gift from God.
In Shakespeare’s Henry V the English and the French are on the verge of battle. The English are outnumber by the French five to one. They expect to be slaughtered. While preparing for the battle, Henry overhears one of his anxious soldiers speaking: “Oh that we now had one ten thousand of those men in England who do no work today.” Henry replied: “Who is he that wishes so? If we are marked to die we are enough to do our country loss and if to live then the fewer men the greater share of honor. God’s will I pray thee, wish not one man more. Brother, proclaim it through my host that he who hath no stomach for this fight let him depart…We would not die in that man’s company that fears his fellowship to die with us. This day is called the Feast of Crispin. He that outlives this day and comes safe home will stand at tip-toe when this day is named. He that shall see this day and live to old age will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbors and say tomorrow is St. Crispin’s day. Then will he strip his sleeves and show his scars and say these wounds I had on Crispin’s Day. Old men forget yet not all shall be forgot, but he will remember with advantages what feats he did that day. Then shall our names be familiar in their mouths as household words…This story shall a good man teach his son. And Crispin’s Day shall never go by from this day to the end of the world but we in it shall be remembered. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.”
Of course—despite the overwhelming odds—the English won the battle. Perhaps they would have lost if they had not discovered their common bond. They were in battle together, facing a common adversity. King Henry said they were in the process of becoming a brotherhood—a community of friends.
At Gethsemane Jesus asked his closest friends to understand his sorrow, to pray with him as he suffered, and to share in his struggles. What happened? The disciples fell asleep. They missed an opportunity to share in the hardships and help bear the burdens of Christ. As a result, they also missed an important opportunity to experience unity and friendship with Christ.
I. The Search for Friendship
Gethsemane was a remote place—far removed from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem. It was a quite garden where Jesus and his disciples could find relief at the end of long and difficult day. The word Gethsemane means “olive press.” Tradition places it just east of Jerusalem, across the Kidron Valley, along the slopes of the Mount of Olives.
It had been a long and difficult day for Jesus and his company of disciples. It had been a day filled with passion and emotion. Hours earlier Jesus had celebrated the Passover with his disciples. During the celebration Jesus had declared that the disciples would betray him into the hands of his enemies. Then, following the Passover meal, Jesus took bread and wine, declared that it was his body and blood, and offered it to his disciples saying that he would not eat with them again until they had all entered the Kingdom of God. What this meant the disciples were not sure, but as you might imagine it sure added to the increasing tension level in the room.
After the meal, they all headed to Gethsemane. At the entrance to the garden, Jesus instructed all but three of his disciples to keep watch and pray. Then, taking with him his closest comrades—Peter, James, and John—Jesus went further into the garden. If there were any whom Jesus could trust to stay awake with him in prayer, it would have been these three. As they moved further into the garden the stress of the day began to take its toll on Jesus. He became distressed and troubled. “My soul is very sorrowful, even unto death,” he said. “Please remain here and watch.” In other words: “I am facing the most difficult moment in my life. It feels like the stress is going to kill me. I don’t want to be along. I need your presence. I need your support. I need your friendship.”
The small entourage stopped near a grove of olive trees. Assured of his disciples support, Jesus went a further into the garden. About a stones throw away from the three, Jesus collapsed to the ground in mournful tears. “Father, I know what’s coming,” he prayed. “I know what’s waiting for me. If it is possible let me be spared. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours.”