T HE beautiful world which God in the beginning made full of sunshine and happiness was soon spoilt by the sin which so swiftly crept in, and ever since there has always been sorrow and pain waiting to dim the gladness and darken the light.
But there are some good gifts of God which no pain or sorrow can spoil, that shine out like stars in a dark sky, whose light nothing can quench, and that death itself has no power to dim.
Perhaps one of the best of these gifts, the most precious thing which God can give us, is a friend; some one who understands and loves us, and whom we love and trust with all our hearts. They are rare things, these friends, worth more to us than all the riches of the world, although sometimes we think them as common as the sunshine or the flowers.
When the King of Heaven came down to earth, to live the life of common men, He too had a little company of friends around Him, who truly loved Him, and whom He loved. But among them all there was one special friend, one special gift from God, St. John, "the disciple whom Jesus loved."
No one else seemed to live quite as close to Jesus as he. No one was as quick to understand the Master, to guess His wishes almost before they were put into words. St. John did not, like St. Peter, boast of his love and devotion, but he quietly followed his Master, and never left him.
Whenever it was possible, St. John was always to be found at Jesus' side. At the Last Supper, when all the sorrowing friends gathered round him, St. John was nearest, and even leaned his head against his Friend. When cruel hands had nailed the King to the Cross, it was St. John who stood close beneath, beside the only other person who had courage to be there—the Lord's dear mother.
The King, looking down, saw these two good gifts which God had given Him—His mother and His friend—and they were very precious in His eyes. To the friend He would give the most sacred thing which He had to leave behind Him.
"Woman," He said, "behold thy son," and to St. John, "Son, behold thy mother."
All through his life St. John's love had never failed. Like many other of the friends of Jesus, he suffered pains and punishments for his Master's sake; and at last, when he was an old man, worn out with suffering, he was banished to the island of Patmos, and left there alone, as it seemed, friendless and deserted.
It might well be that the lonely old man felt as if his life had been a failure, and was almost bewildered to see how evil had triumphed over good. He had not only suffered himself, but he had seen the terrible sufferings of many other servants of the King. There had been no pity for the Christians. Even young girls and children had been flung to the wild beasts, because they would not deny their Lord. The King had been his Friend; and yet here he was, old, worn out, and alone, deserted by every one, thrust away from the sound of any human voice.
Faithful unto Death — Early Christian Martyrs
But he was not really alone. His Friend was close at hand, who had never left him, and He lifted the veil which hung between them, and showed St. John a glimpse of Heaven, a revelation of unseen things. St. John's weary eyes had been looking at the mistakes and failures and puzzles of the world, until these seemed to him bigger than anything else; now he was to see with clearer vision how wonderfully everything had been planned by God. He was to see the friends of the King sharing His glory, all sorrow, sin, and suffering forgotten, since God had wiped away all tears from their eyes.
There, upon the throne, was his dear Master, bearing still the marks of the cruel nails, "a Lamb as it had been slain." There around Him, all things in Heaven and earth bowed down and worshipped Him.
Many were the glorious things shown to St. John by God's angel, and afterwards the lonely saint on the desert island tried to write down an account of the wonders he had seen. He wrote of a golden city with its walls of jasper and its gates of pearl, of the crystal river and the jewelled throne set around with a rainbow halo, of white-robed angels and golden harps.
"The angel which shewed me these things."
But all these things were as nothing compared to the sight of his Master's face, to the knowledge that his King and unchanging Friend was there, ruling all things, and that some day He would come again, when every eye would see Him.
"Behold, I come quickly," had been the comforting words of the
King, when for that wonderful moment the veil had been lifted; and
St. John's answer rang out full of faith now as well as
"Even so, come, Lord Jesus."