Jesus in the Life of…
Jonathan – The Faithful Friend
By I Gordon
Jonathan was an extraordinary man. Search all you can and you will not find one incident where he lacked faith, made a wrong decision, or fell into sin. Even though he was king Saul’s son, he was certainly cut from a different cloth. He was a man of commitment and integrity and this showed in his loyalty to David – the man his father Saul tried desperately to kill. In his life, Jonathan gives us a picture of true friendship and in doing so, shows us a glimpse of the loyalty and dedication of the one who calls us His friend, Jesus Christ.
A friend lays down his rights
1 Sam 18:1-4 ‘After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. From that day Saul kept David with him and did not let him return to his father’s house. And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.’
It is said twice in this passage that Jonathan loved David as he loved himself and this led to a covenant being formed between the two of them. But more than that, it led to Jonathan giving David his robe, sword, bow and belt. This wasn’t just a kind thing to do on Jonathan’s part. Jonathan had just seen how David had dealt with Goliath and had heard him speak with king Saul about that victory. Jonathan was the legitimate successor to his father’s throne, but in giving his robe and weapons to David he was symbolically indicating that he was willing to give up that right in order for David to be crowned instead. Can you see Jesus in this? Well, firstly, Jesus the lover of our souls has made a covenant with us -
Matt 26:27-28 ‘Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.’
But like Jonathan, to make this covenant, Jesus had to lay aside his position at the right hand of God so that we could be elevated to the position where we also could join as heirs of the Father.
2 Cor 8:9 ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.’
Gal 4:6-7 ‘Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.’
A friend lays down his life
1 Sam 20:30-33 ‘Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send and bring him to me, for he must die!” “Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Jonathan asked his father. But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David.’
The friendship of Jonathan didn’t stop at simply laying down his rights however, but extended to the point where he was even willing to place his life on the line to protect David! In the midst of the anger and spear throwing antics of Saul, Jonathan courageously spoke up for David saying that David had not done anything wrong. Jonathan’s loyalty and love for his friend placed his own life at risk. This is a picture of the true friendship of Jesus Christ who, like Jonathan, was willing to go further than laying down his rights, to laying down His life for his friends. Jesus himself said (and backed it up!)
John 15:13 ‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’
Like Jonathan also, who bore the hatred of Saul for another, so Jesus bore the hatred of mankind so that the very people who hated Him could go free. The greatest prophecy in the Old Testament about the suffering that the Messiah would endure goes into this, saying
Isaiah 53:3-5 ‘He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.
A friend intercedes
1 Sam 19:1-6 ‘Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. But Jonathan was very fond of David and warned him, “My father Saul is looking for a chance to kill you. Be on your guard tomorrow morning; go into hiding and stay there. I will go out and stand with my father in the field where you are. I’ll speak to him about you and will tell you what I find out.” Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly. He took his life in his hands when he killed the Philistine. The LORD won a great victory for all Israel, and you saw it and were glad. Why then would you do wrong to an innocent man like David by killing him for no reason?” Saul listened to Jonathan and took this oath: “As surely as the LORD lives, David will not be put to death.”
In an earlier incident concerning Saul we see a different side to the friendship of Jonathan. Saul again is plotting the death of David, but Jonathan comes to David’s aid, interceding and pleading for David’s life to be spared. In this case, Saul listened to his son and even went so far as to declare in an oath that David would not be put to death. Unfortunately for David, the word and oaths of Saul didn’t last very long, but this intercession of Jonathan is a small reminder of the intercession that the Lord Jesus Christ does on our behalf as our true friend. Even in His earthly ministry we see Jesus’ intercession for others even before the actual event had come to pass. An example of this is when Jesus said to Peter
Luke 22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
In His present role as our Priest and mediator before God, Jesus carries on interceding for us. So much so that twice in scripture this present work of the Lord is used as a reason why we cannot lose our salvation.
Heb 7:24-25 ‘…because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.’
Rom 8:33-34 ‘Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.’
Please note that the current intercession of the Lord Jesus has nothing to do with trying to turn away God’s wrath from believers. The entire sin issue has been dealt with once and for all on the cross and God the Father is forever satisfied with that perfect sacrifice of His son. The current intercession of the Lord on our behalf is as it was with Peter – prayer for strength and courage to endure the many trials that we face upon this earth. It is with this in mind that we can be thankful that our High Priest is also our friend and having been made like us, fully understands the temptations and trials we go through.
Heb 4:16-17 ‘Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way , just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’
A friend encourages those in the wilderness!
1 Sam 23:15-18 ‘Now David became aware that Saul had come out to seek his life while David was in the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh. And Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David at Horesh, and encouraged him in God. Thus he said to him, “Do not be afraid, because the hand of Saul my father shall not find you, and you will be king over Israel and I will be next to you; and Saul my father knows that also.” So the two of them made a covenant before the Lord; and David stayed at Horesh while Jonathan went to his house.’
Having escaped to the wilderness of Ziph, David soon learned that Saul hadn’t given up the chase but was still seeking to kill him. You can probably imagine how David felt cause you’ve probably been there yourself. Ever felt like you’re going through a wilderness or desert experience, God is silent and the trials of this life seem too much for you? I’m sure everyone has to some degree or another. The picture we have here is of Jonathan going out into the wilderness to find and encourage David. Jonathan reminds David of the promises he has received from God that he will be king and ensures him that they will come to pass. What an awesome picture we have of the Lord Jesus Christ and his encouragement to us through the Holy Spirit in the times of trial.
John 14:26 ‘But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.’
Like Jonathan going out to where David is, so in times of hardship, the Lord comes to us reminding us of his commitment and faithfulness to us. And in doing so we are encouraged and have hope as is explained in the following scripture.
Rom 15:4-5 ‘For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus.’
The usefulness of these experiences and the Lord’s comfort in them is also explained in 2 Cor 1:3-5
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.’
And as Jonathan encouraged David, and as Jesus comforts us, so also we are called to comfort and encourage others who may be going through a hard time. Like Jonathan, we should remind those in the wilderness, of God’s faithful character in bringing to pass the promises He has made to us through His word. Jonathan interceded, encouraged and laid down his rights for his friend. Jesus does all of these things for us and we likewise, are called to show the same friendship to others in need.