Greater love has no one than this, that he lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. –John 15:13-14
In the final book of his classic tale, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, author J.R.R. Tolkien describes the journey of an unlikely group of friends who share a common purpose: to destroy the One Ring. The friendship of the hobbits is particularly strong and few others exceed their loyalty to each other and their beloved Shire. Particularly strong is the friendship between Sam and Frodo.
Near the end of the book, the reader encounters the two as they make their final ascent up Mt. Doom toward the volcano whose Fire will consume the ring, resulting in the destruction of the power of evil in Middle Earth. The journey has been long and arduous and the two have come close to death numerous times. As they make the final ascent, Frodo is overcome by the power of the ring and collapses in a boulder field. Sam pleads with his friend to continue but an exhausted, nearly defeated Frodo lies motionless on the ground. In an act of sheer loyalty, Sam picks up Frodo, throws him over his shoulder and begins to carry him toward the entrance of the volcano with these words, “I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get! Come on, Mr. Frodo dear! Sam will give you a ride. Just tell him where to go and he’ll go.”*
This is essentially the story of Christ and humanity. Jesus penetrates humanity and forms a friendship with an unlikely group of followers…tax collectors, fishermen, educated, uneducated, women, foreigners…He has come to save them (and us) from the power of evil that has overcome them. He not only carries our burden for us, but also becomes the burden and through the power of the cross, lays down his own life for his friends…you and me and all who acknowledge his death and resurrection.
What a privilege it is to be called a friend of Jesus. To know that he loved us so much that he willingly laid down his life for us, his friends. It does not end there, however. Friendship is never one-sided. It takes two to make it work. That’s where our part comes in. He says, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” This is a conditional if/then statement. It could read like this, “If you do what I command, then you are my friends.”
Jesus fulfilled His part. It’s our turn to fulfill ours.
1. Take some time today to thank those in your own life who help carry your burdens.
2. Who in your life needs a friend to help them through a difficult time?
Galatians 6:2: James 1:22-25; Exodus 20:1-17
* J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Ballantine Books, New York, NY: 1955, 1965, page 242.