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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CHAPTER IX. JESUS' UNREQUITED FRIENDSHIPS.

Personal Friendships Of Jesus by Elizabeth Miller

CHAPTER IX. JESUS' UNREQUITED FRIENDSHIPS.

|Friend, my feet bleed.
Open thy door to me and comfort me.|
I will not open; trouble me no more.
Go on thy way footsore;
I will not rise and open unto thee.
|Then it is nothing to thee? Open, see
Who stands to plead with thee.
Open, lest I should pass thee by, and thou
One day entreat my face
And howl for grace,
And I be deaf as thou art now.
Open to me.|
CHRISTINA G. ROSSETTI.

There is a great deal of unrequited love in this world. There are hearts that love with all the strength of purest and holiest affection, whose love seems to meet no requital. There is much unrequited mother-love and father-love. Parents live for their children. In helpless infancy they begin to pour out their affection on them. They toil for them, suffer for them, deny themselves to provide comforts for them, bear their burdens, watch beside them when they are sick, pray for them, and teach them. Parent-love is likest God's love of all earthly affections. It is one of the things in humanity which at its best seems to have come from the Fall almost unimpaired. Much parent-love is worthily honored and fittingly requited. Few things in this world are more beautiful than the devotion of children to parents which one sees in some homes. But not always is there such return. Too often is this almost divine love unrequited.

Much philanthropic love also is unrequited. There are men who spend all their life in doing good, and then meet no return. Men have served their country with loyalty and disinterestedness, and have received no reward -- perhaps have been left to suffering, and have died in poverty, neglected and forgotten; too often have lain in prison, or been put to death, or exiled by the country which was indebted to their patriotism and loyal service for much of its glory and greatness. Many hearts break because of men's ingratitude.

Jesus was the world's greatest benefactor. No other man ever loved the race, or could have loved it, as he did. He was the divine messenger who came to save the world. His whole life was a revealing of love. It was the love of God too, -- a love of infinite depth and strength and tenderness, and not any merely human love, however rich and faithful it might be, that was manifested in Jesus Christ. Yet much of his wonderful love was unrequited. |He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.| A few individuals recognized him and accepted his love; but the great masses of the people paid him no heed, saw no beauty in him, rejected the blessings he bore and proffered to all, and let his love waste itself in unavailing yearnings and beseechings. Then one cruel day they nailed him on a cross, thinking to quench the affection of his mighty heart.

There are many illustrations of the unrequiting of the holy friendship of Jesus. The treatment he received at Nazareth was one instance. He had been brought up among the people. They had seen his beautiful life during the thirty years he had lived in the village. They had known him as a child when he played in their streets. They had known him as a youth and young man in his noble strength. They had known him as a carpenter when day after day he wrought among them in humble toil.

It is interesting to think of the sinless life of Jesus all these years. There was no halo about his head but the shining of manly character. There were no miracles wrought by his hands but the miracles of duty, faithful service, and gentle kindness. Yet we cannot doubt that his life in Nazareth was one of rare grace and beauty, marked by perfect unselfishness and great helpfulness.

By and by he went away from Nazareth to begin his public ministry as the Messiah. From that time the people saw him no more. The carpenter shop was closed, and the tools lay unused on the bench. The familiar form appeared no more on the streets. A year or more passed, and one day he came back to visit his old neighbors. He stayed a little while, and on the Sabbath was at the village church as had been his wont when his home was at Nazareth. When the opportunity was given him, he unrolled the Book of Isaiah, and read the passage which tells of the anointing of the Messiah, and gives the wonderful outline of his ministry. When he had finished the reading, he told the people that this prophecy was now fulfilled in their ears. That is, he said that he was the Messiah whose anointing and work the prophet had foretold. For a time the people listened spellbound to his gracious words, and then they began to grow angry, that he whom they knew as the carpenter of their village should make such an astounding claim. They rose up in wrath, thrust him out of the synagogue, and would have hurled him over the precipice had he not eluded them and gone on his way.

He had come to them in love, bearing rich blessings; but they drove him away with the blessings. He had come to heal their sick, to cure their blind and lame, to cleanse their lepers, to comfort their sorrowing ones; but he had to go away and leave these works of mercy unwrought, while the sufferers continued to bear their burdens. His friendship for his old neighbors was unrequited.

Another instance of unrequited friendship in the life of Jesus was in the case of the rich young man who came to him. He had many excellent traits of character, and was also an earnest seeker after the truth. We are distinctly told that Jesus loved him. Thus he belongs with Martha and Mary and Lazarus, of whom the same was said. But here, again, the love was unrequited. The young man was deeply interested in Jesus, and wanted to go with him; but he could not pay the price, and turned and went away.

It is interesting to think what might have been the result if he had chosen Christ and gone with him. He might have occupied an important place in the early church, and his name might have lived through all future generations. But he loved his money too much to give it up for Christ, and rejected the way of the cross marked out for him. He refused the friendship of Jesus, and thus threw away all that was best in life. In shutting love out of his heart, he shut himself out from love.

Of all the examples of unrequited friendship in the story of Jesus, that of Judas is the saddest. We do not know the beginning of the story of his discipleship, when Judas first came to Jesus, or who brought him. But he must have been a follower some time before he was chosen to be an apostle. Jesus thought over the names of those who had left all to be with him. Then after a night of prayer he chose twelve of these to be his special messengers and witnesses. He loved them all, and took them into very close relations.

Think what a privilege it was for these men to live with Jesus. They heard all his words. They saw every phase of his life. Some friends it is better not to know too intimately. They are not as good in private as they are in public. Their life does not bear too close inspection. We discover in them dispositions, habits, ways, tempers, feelings, motives, which dim the lustre we see in them at greater distance. Intimacy weakens the friendship. But, on the other hand, there are those who, the more we see of their private life, the more we love them. Close association reveals loveliness of character, fineness of spirit, richness of heart, sweetness of disposition -- habits, feelings, tempers, noble self-denials, which add to the attractiveness of the life and the charm of our friend's personality. We may be sure that intimacy with Jesus only made him appear all the more winning and beautiful to his friends. Judas lived in the warmth of this wondrous love, under the influence of this gracious personality, month after month. He witnessed the pure and holy life of Jesus in all its manifold phases, heard his words, and saw his works. Doubtless, too, in his individual relation with the Master, he received many marks of affection and personal friendship.

A careful reading of the Gospels shows that Judas was frequently warned of the very sin which in the end wrought his ruin. Continually Jesus spoke of the danger of covetousness. In the Sermon on the Mount he exhorted his disciples to lay up their treasure, not upon earth, but in heaven, and said that no one could serve God and mammon. It was just this that Judas was trying to do. In more than one parable the danger of riches was emphasized. Can we doubt that in all these reiterations and warnings on the one subject, Judas was in the Master's mind? He was trying in the faithfulness of loyal friendship to save him from the sin which was imperilling his very life.

But Judas resisted all the mighty love of Christ. It made no impression upon him; he was unaffected by it. In his heart there grew on meanwhile, unchecked, unhindered, his terrible greed for money. First it made him a thief. The money given to Jesus by his friends to provide for his wants, or to use for the poor, Judas, who was the treasurer, began at length to purloin for himself. This was the first step. The next was the selling of his Master for thirty pieces of silver. This was a more fearful fruit of his nourished greed than the purloining was. It is bad enough to steal. It is a base form of stealing which robs a church treasury as Judas did. But to take money as the price of betraying a friend -- could any sin be baser? Could any crime be blacker than that? To take money as the price of betraying a friend in whose confidence one has lived for years, at whose table one has eaten day after day, in the blessing of whose friendship one has rested for months and years -- are there words black enough to paint the infamy of such a deed?

All the participators in the crime of that Good Friday wear a peculiar brand of infamy as they are portrayed on the pages of history; but among them all, the most despicable, the one whose name bears the deepest infamy, is Judas, an apostle turned traitor, for a few miserable coins betraying his best friend into the hands of malignant foes.

This is the outcome of the friendship of Jesus for Judas; this was the fruit of those years of affection, cherishing, patient teaching. Think what Judas might have been. He was chosen and called to be an apostle. There was no reason in the heart of Jesus why Judas might not have been true and worthy. Sin is not God's plan for any life. Treachery and infamy were not in God's purpose for Judas. Jesus would not have chosen him for one of the Twelve if it had not been possible for him to be a good and true man. Judas fell because he had never altogether surrendered himself to Christ. He tried to serve God and mammon; but both could not stay in his heart, and instead of driving out mammon, mammon drove out Christ.

This suggests to us what a battlefield the human heart sometimes is -- a Waterloo where destinies are settled. God or mammon -- which? That is the question every soul must answer. How goes the battle in your soul? Who is winning on your field -- Christ or money? Christ or pleasure? Christ or sin? Christ or self? Judas lost the battle; the Devil won.

A picture in Brussels represents Judas wandering about the night after the betrayal. By chance he comes upon the workmen who have been preparing the cross for Jesus. A fire burning close by throws its weird light on the faces of the men who are now sleeping. The face of Judas is somewhat in the shade; but one sees on it remorse and agony, as the traitor's eyes fall upon the cross and the tools which have been used in making it, -- the cross to which his treason had doomed his friend. But though suffering in the torments of a guilty conscience, he still tightly clutches his money-bag as he hurries on into the night. The picture tells the story of the fruit of Judas's sin, -- the money-bag, with eighteen dollars and sixty cents in it, and even that soon to be cast away in the madness of despair.

Unrequited friendship! Yes; and in shutting out that blessed friendship, Judas shut out hope. Longfellow puts into his mouth the despairing words: --

|Lost, lost, forever lost! I have betrayed
The innocent blood ...
* * *
Too late! too late! I shall not see him more
Among the living. That sweet, patient face
Will nevermore rebuke me, nor those lips
Repeat the words, 'One of you shall betray me.'|

The great lesson from all this is the peril of rejecting the friendship of Jesus Christ. In his friendship is the only way to salvation, the only way of obtaining eternal life. He calls men to come to him, to follow him, to be his friends; and thus alone can they come unto God, and be received into his family.

There is something appalling in the revealing which this truth teaches, -- the power each soul possesses of shutting out all the love of God, of resisting the infinite blessing of the friendship of Christ. It is possible for us to be near to Christ through all our life, with his grace flowing about us like an ocean, and yet to have a heart that remains unblessed by divine love. We may make God's love in vain, wasted, as sunshine is wasted that falls upon desert sands, so far as we are concerned. The love that we do not requite with love, that does not get into our heart to warm, soften, and enrich it, and to mellow and bless our life, is love poured out in vain. It is made in vain by our unbelief. We may make even the dying of Jesus for us in vain, -- a waste of precious life, so far as we are concerned. It is in vain for us that Jesus died if we do not let his love into our heart.

Ofttimes the unrequiting of human love makes the heart bitter. When holy friendship has been despised, rejected, and cast away, when one has loved, suffered, and sacrificed in vain, receiving only ingratitude and wrong in return for love's most sacred gifts freely lavished, the danger is that the heart may lose its sweetness, and grow cold, hard, and misanthropic. But not thus was the heart of Jesus affected by the unrequiting of his love and friendship. One Judas in the life of most men would have ended the whole career of generous kindness, drying up the fountains of affection, thus robbing those who would come after of the wealth of tenderness which ought to have been theirs. But through all the unrequiting and resisting of its love, the heart of Jesus still remained gentle as a mother's, rich in its power to love, and sweet in its spirit.

This is one of the great problems of true living, -- how to keep the heart warm, gentle, compassionate, kind, full of affection's best and truest helpfulness, even amid life's hardest experiences. We cannot live and not at some time suffer wrong. We will meet injustice, however justly we ourselves may live. We will find a return of ingratitude many a time when we have done our best for others. Favors rendered are too easily forgotten by many people. There are few of us who do not remember helping others in time of great need and distress, only to lose their friendship in the end, perhaps, as a consequence of our serving them in their need. Sometimes the only return for costly kindness is cruel unkindness.

It is easy to allow such unrequiting, such ill treatment of love, to embitter the fountain of the heart's affection; but this would be to miss the true end of living, which is to get good and not evil to ourselves from every experience through which we pass. No ingratitude, injustice, or unworthiness in those to whom we try to do good, should ever be allowed to turn love's sweetness into bitterness in us. Like fresh-water springs beside the sea, over which the brackish tide flows, but which when the bitter waters have receded are found sweet as ever, so should our hearts remain amid all experiences of love's unrequiting, ever sweet, thoughtful, unselfish, and generous.

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