With Desire Have I Desired
Luke 22: 14-20
The Stoical God
The Ancient Greeks said that God had no emotions. They said God is without passion, without feelings. He is pure rational thought. As a consequence, for much of history, God’s power, authority, and majesty were seen as the basic qualities of God. His justice was the chief issue we humans had to concern ourselves with. He was seen to be the law giver and the law enforcer. Of course, we also added the truth that he loved us, but love was spelled “merciful” most of the time. He would forgive us and would not bring us into condemnation because He was merciful.
But God was rarely seen as a friend or a lover, or even someone to comfortable to be with. He was one whom we approached with reverent fear and some caution. We bowed the knee and we worshipped him. But if we were asked the question, “who are your best friends?” we would hardly think of including God’s name on the list.
When I asked various people through the decades, the question, “Do you believe God loves you?” the answers were usually “yes!” But when asked “Do you believe God likes you?” the answer was usually silence.
But one daring poet felt differently. She writes:
I love my God as he loves me – merrily.
I feel His kisses in the breeze,
And so I carve his name on trees –
Why not? ten thousand years misunderstood
He needs my laughter in the wood – a lot.
And there have been those, like that poet, who throughout history knew that God was not all he had been trumped up to be. And when they spoke about God they used the language of intimacy.
The companions of Jesus.
Part of that insight came from watching Jesus relate to the twelve apostles. The twelve began as students of this unusual Rabbi. But before long, discipleship grew into friendship. There were three of these men with whom Jesus spent more time than with the others. In the high moments and the low moments of his life he wanted these three friends close. They were friends for the journey. He saw them as gifts from His Father. Notice the litany of words of intimacy in his “high Priestly Prayer” in John 17.
- “… All those you have given him” vs 2
- “Those whom you gave me out of the world” vs 6
- “They are yours. You gave them to me.” Vs 6
- “I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me,” vs 9
- “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am.” Vs24
Friends were so important to him that when Lazarus died, he wept alongside Mary & Martha at their brother’s grave, even though he knew that he would raise Lazarus from the death. The pain of his friends was painful to him.
On another occasion He rejoiced when his friends returned from their field trips, so glad to have them back. He found great joy in their friendship.
Over and over again we see Jesus sitting down to meals with his friends. He is called a “party animal” by those who disliked him because he was always in the place where friendships seem to find best expression.
The night before his crucifixion was one of the low points in Jesus’ life. He entered the upper room where they were to eat the Passover. His opening words were “With desire have I desired to eat this meal with you.” He wanted his friends close on such a night. The same is true in Gethsemane.
In the Gospel of John, he said to these twelve men, “I have called you friends…” (15:15) For these were friends who had stayed with him when so many others had been either hostile or aloof.
It is this love of friendship that made the betrayal of Judas so painful. Judas had betrayed a friend, not just a teacher. It is this love of friendship that made Peter’s denial of this friendship such a sad moment, and only added insult to injury. On top of this came the desertion of the remaining ten disciples, when they fled from their friend in his crucial hour.
For Jesus had found great pleasure in the friendships of his life. And there are countless reasons to believe that this same love of friendship lies in God Himself, for Jesus is the best expression we have of God.
The Intimations of Fellowship with God.
This truth about God rises many times throughout the OT. There we see illustrated the desire of God for human friendship. Time and again we see a God who “desires with desire” our companionship.
In the very third chapter of Genesis we see Adam and Eve and God walking together in the cool of the evening. This is before sin intruded and poisoned the friendship.
Then there is Abraham, who is called “the friend of God.”
Hear the sad cry of David after he has sinned with Bathsheba. He cries out to God, “Do not cast me away from your presence, do not take your Holy Spirit from me, restore to me the joy of your salvation.” David knew he had jeopardized the friendship that had existed between himself and God.
The Longings of God for Our companionship.
The God of the Old and New Testaments is One who longs for fellowship and friendship with his people. And to this very hour he yearns for us to enter into a friendship with Himself.
But we live super-busy or super-distracted lives, and often we neglect that friendship. I wonder if God misses us, longs for us, yearns for us, waits for us?
Some years ago I was at the World Shapers Conference. Tony Campolo was the speaker for the evening. He talked about his practice of “snuggling up with God?” He told us that quite often when he wakes up, he stays in bed for a while, and just snuggles up to God. I think he caught us all by surprise. Most of us were not used to apply the word “snuggle” with the word “God”. But as I digested that image, I came to the conclusion that Tony Campolo was discovering what it means to be a friend of God’s. God is our friend, and longs for us to be close to Him.
I have long loved the “Service of Holy Communion.” The Greek word behind our word “communion” is koinonia. That word is usually translated throughout the rest of the New Testament as “fellowship” or “friendship”. One of the reasons Communion services takes place with frequent regularity is to remind us of this desire in God for us to get close to Him – to snuggle up with him.
St. Paul, at the end of his letters to the church in Corinth leaves us with a benediction, it reads like this:
“May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the Love of God,
and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
be with all of you.” (II Cor 13:13)
George Macdonald in one of his novels written a century ago leaves us these words:
“What is the great glory of God,
but that, though no one can comprehend Him,
He comes down, and lays his cheek alongside ours,
and says to us, “Eh, my child!”
The writer of the Fourth Gospel never uses his own name. He calls himself “the disciple that Jesus loved.” This disciple did not mean to communicate that Jesus did not love the others, or that he loved one more than others. He is just overwhelmed by the knowledge that he is loved.
Calvin Miller tells of the story of a prostitute meeting The Singer, who is Christ. His closing lines of the story read this way,
He left her in the street and walked away,
and as he left, he heard her singing his new song.
And when he turned to wave the final time
he saw her shaking her head to a friendship buyer.
She would not take his money.
And from a little distance
The singer heard her use his very words,
“Are you betrothed?” the buyer asked her.
“No. Only loved,” she answered.
“And do you pay for love?” he asked in turn.
She answered, “No. But I owe it everything!”
And John feels the same way. He goes skipping through life saying “I am loved! I am loved!” May that be the way we feel about the One who longs for our friendship!