Jonathan is my hero. He provides for us an example of the heart of friendship a discipler should have towards his disciple. Though a courageous warrior, Jonathan was a kind man, living counter to his surroundings and upbringing. His father, King Saul, was an angry, violent, proud, and irrational person. Although his siblings were products of their environment, Jonathan became humble, loyal, affectionate, and a good friend. He gives us hope that we are not fated to repeat our family’s dysfunction and self-destructive behavior.
As the story of Jonathan and David’s friendship unfolds we get a glimpse into the heart of Jonathan. Though heir to the throne, Jonathan was submissive to the purpose and will of God even though it meant for him a displacement to a secondary role. He actually chose to be a friend to the very man who would take his place as king.
But are there really any secondary roles in God’s economy? I do not believe that David could have become the man of God that he did without the foundation of Jonathan’s friendship in his life. Jonathan not only loved David but he taught him how to place a confidence in the purpose of God. Once when David was running for his life from Saul, Jonathan was able to speak courage into the heart of David because of his own trust in the sovereignty of God.
And Saul’s son, Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this.” The two of them made a covenant before the Lord. Then Jonathan went home, but David remained at Horesh. (1 Samuel 23:16-18)
Placing others ahead of myself is at the heart of following Jesus and making disciples. To be a follower of Jesus is to live for others. This is not only what Jesus taught but also what he displayed by his life.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
When I place the interest of my friend’s life ahead of my own I am illustrating the good news of Jesus to the world. My nature is to watch out for myself and trust no one. Only my surrender to the sovereign purpose of God can rescue me from the pull of self-centeredness.
Jonathan embraced God’s purpose for his own life by understanding and embracing God’s purpose for his friend David’s life. Jonathan then purposed to join God in making David king and to serve him as the second man; in other words, to make David a success.
It is when I recognize that there is a divine purpose for the life of my disciple and that I willingly join the Holy Spirit in fulfilling that purpose, no matter the cost, that I become a true friend. Many want a Jonathan and David type friendship but few are willing to pay the price. It is in losing my life for the sake of a friend that I find my own life’s purpose.