Sunday, March 21, 2010

Jonathan

Last Wednesday, a Christian friend of mine named Jonathan died suddenly of a cardiac arrest. He was 31 and had a sweet wife and 3 beautiful children. He was worthy of the name Jonathan.

The Jonathan of the Bible, you will remember, was the faithful friend of David. This may not sound too impressive on the surface ... I mean, who wouldn't want to be a friend of David, one of the great heroes of the Bible? But the fact is that, at the time, Jonathan was the son of Saul and was the crown prince of Israel. He was next in line for the throne! By the time David came onto the scene, God had already rejected Saul as being king and the prophet Samuel had anointed David with oil, marking him as the new ruler (1 Sam 16). In other words, David was Jonathan's competition! The only thing that stood between him and the throne was this guy named David. Saul even pointed that out to him once. Saul said, "as long as the son of Jesse [i.e., David] lives on the earth, neither you nor your kingdom shall be established" (1 Sam 20:31, ESV). So looking at it from an earthly perspective, Jonathan should have been David's enemy ... not his faithful friend!

So why did Jonathan choose to be friends with David? We're not told exactly why at first. After David's defeat of Goliath, the Bible simply states that "the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul" (1 Sam 18:1, ESV). He even "made a covenant [a binding commitment] with David, because he loved him as his own soul" (1 Sam 18:3, ESV). So there seems to have been an immediate affection between the two. Jonathan recognized David as someone that he wanted to know deeply, to fight alongside, and to walk through life with. And he made a binding commitment to be his friend.

Later, when Jonathan's father despised David and desired to kill him (1 Sam 19), this commitment was tested. But Jonathan was a man of his word, and a man who loved God. In the midst of this trial, he protected David (1 Sam 20) and the Bible tells us "he loved him as he loved his own soul" (1 Sam 20:17, ESV). Months or years later, while Saul still was pursuing David, Jonathan visited him "and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, 'Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you'" (1 Sam 23:16b-17a, ESV). That last sentence is significant. "You shall be king ... and I shall be next to you." The crown prince of Israel loved his friend so much that he was willing to forsake his place on the throne and settle for being David's right-hand man. He loved God so much and loved David so much, he was willing to renounce the throne, submit to God's will, and submit to David as a loyal subject.

So when I say that my friend Jonathan was worthy of his name, THAT is what I mean. The Jonathan of the Bible (the man that my friend was named after) was a man who loved God, who walked humbly with God, and who submitted his life to God ... no matter what the personal cost. And he was a man who was a true friend, who was fiercely faithful, who was always willing to serve others, and who (I am confident) would have made the ultimate sacrifice of love if God had asked him to: "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13, NIV). My friend Jonathan would have laid down his life for me if things had come to that. If he could push me out of danger even though it meant being in danger himself, he would have. I know that because practiced that principle every day ... he laid down his life serving his wife, his children, his friends, his church, and so many more.

There were other similarities as well: The Jonathan of the Bible probably was very tall since his father was a head taller than everyone else (1 Sam. 10:23), and my friend Jonathan was over a head taller than me and towered over many others. The Jonathan of the Bible was a brave warrior who led men into battle, and my friend Jonathan was a brave, spirtiual warrior: the week before he died, he shared the gospel with someone, and he was planning on spending his 10 year anniversary with his wife this year by going with her on a mission trip to another country. From everything the Bible tells us about David's friend, I'm sure he was a "man's man," and my friend Jonathan always made you straighten up (both physically and spiritually) by his mere presence. His handshake could break some bones if you weren't careful. But the similarities between the two that stick out most to me are their love for the Lord and their faithfulness as a friend.

Perhaps their most tragic similarity was that they were both struck down in the prime of life. The Jonathan of the Bible died in battle with his father, and never lived to see even one day of David's 40 year reign. When David heard the news, he wrote a lament for Saul and Jonathan. Towards the end of that poem, he wrote some lines that I'm sure my Jonathan's friends echoed today at his funeral:

"I grieve for you, Jonathan my borther;
you were very dear to me.
Your love for me was wonderful ..."
(2 Sam 1:26a)

The good news in all this is that today, in heaven, David and his friend Jonathan are enjoying Paradise together ... and one day, when the Lord calls me home, I will walk the streets of gold with my friend Jonathan, reminiscing about old times. ... Because the overarching story of all of this is that God is good, his mercy endures forever, and "all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Rom. 10:13). Jesus once said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though He may die, he will live" (John 11:25). When Jesus died on the cross, He paid the penalty for David's sin, for David's friend Jonathan's sin, for my friend's sin, for my sin ... and for yours. My friend is in heaven today because he trusted in God's promise that "if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom. 10:9).

God offers this forgiveness and this gift of eternal life to anyone who will turn from their sins, will trust that Jesus paid the penalty for their sin on the cross, and will follow Him as their Lord and Master. Have you responded to this gracious offer? Do you know where you will go if you died suddenly tomorrow?