The Love of JesusMar 28th, 2012 | By admin | Category: Special Features (click on Article name)
The talk today, entitled “The Love of Jesus,” concerns the Memorial season, but it will be presented from a different standpoint.
When Jesus arrived at that meaningful last Passover, he knew what fate awaited him. A terrible death lay before him in order to give his life as a ransom for man’s redemption. By reading the Gospels, we can know what was on his heart at the time, and we find that he was very active during the last week of his earthly ministry. Jesus was extremely busy, so he did not have much time to discourse with his own disciples. Now, in preparation for the Passover meal and the institution of the Memorial, he expressed the feeling that he had at this moment. Having loved his own in the past, he said, “With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15).
John 13:2 begins with the clause “And supper being ended,” but that is not a proper translation.
There has to be a change because what was about to happen occurred not at the end of the Passover meal but before the meal was partaken of. Accordingly, the Diaglott and some other translations interpret this clause differently: “And supper being furnished [on the table],” “And supper being served,” or “And supper being made [ready on the table]” is more the thought.
When the disciples reclined at the table, Jesus waited until the meal was served, and then, to their surprise, he got up, prepared his garment, obtained a bowl of water, and washed their feet, one by one. Jesus’ action was a rebuke, for the disciples had neglected to provide this courtesy before the meal. In ancient times, when a person of means invited people to a meal, he usually washed their feet, but as centuries passed, this custom changed rather dramatically so that the servants of the host performed that duty.
Prior to the Passover, there was a discussion among the disciples as to who should be the greatest. It even amounted to a contention of words. Luke 22:24 reads, “And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.” While this statement was made in the time frame of the Passover, it is actually parenthetical, for previously there had been this strife between them. We know, too, that James and John Zebedee, through their mother, wished to be seated at the right and left hand of the Master. With that time frame and mood, the disciples were now reclining at the table when Jesus got up and, to their astonishment, began to wash their feet. We can imagine the stunned silence. Whatever the disciples were discussing would have ceased abruptly as they witnessed with amazement that Jesus was washing their feet.
We will not go into the details of each incident on that special night, for our purpose is to show what was on Jesus’ mind. Instead of thinking of his death, which would soon occur, he thought of others. His example taught the disciples a great lesson, namely, that whoever would be greater should be humbly serving the brotherhood, rather than looking for a leadership role.
The account continues. During the partaking of the Passover meal, Jesus said to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:31,32). The words Jesus then added are significant: “and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.” Had Jesus not included that comment, which seemed to indicate that his prayer would be effectual in saving Peter, the results might have been different. Not only did Jesus desire to have a private communal discussion with his disciples, but also he made this prediction about Peter. Peter’s response was, “Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and [even] to death,” but Jesus said, “The cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me” (Luke 22:33,34).
The next question we might ask is why Jesus did not pray for Judas. The Scriptures tell us not to pray for one who sins the “sin unto death” (1 John 5:16). Jesus knew that Judas had premeditated turning him over to the priesthood for a sum of money. Premeditated murder is very, very different from an emotional experience wherein a person makes a hasty improper decision, such as Peter did in denying the Master.
In the Gospel of John, we are rather surprised at first that the apostle omitted many of the experiences that occurred during the Passover meal, especially the introduction of the bread and wine Memorial symbols. However, we are thankful that John focused attention on Jesus’ long conversation with his disciples at the Memorial table, which covers part of chapter 13 and all of chapter 14. He gave them advice and talked of the necessity of his going away, saying they were not to be unduly troubled, for he would come again for a brief time and then depart once more. Of course the disciples did not understand all that he was saying until later.
At the end of John 14, Jesus said, “Arise, let us go hence.” He and the disciples sang a hymn and went out (Matt. 26:30). On his way to the Garden of Gethsemane, while he was walking, he continued the discussion, which covers chapters 15 and 16. When he neared the Golden Gate, on which there was an elaborate brass configuration of a vine with grapes, he evidently stopped and said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman…. I am the vine, [and] ye are the branches” (John 15:1,5). There followed a rather long discussion, and in John 16:1, he stated in effect, “These things I have spoken unto you, lest you should be stumbled in connection with adhering to my gospel message.” Jesus was strengthening the disciples before his departure so that they would not leave the truth.
In chapter 16, Jesus spoke more specifically about the Comforter. He said in effect, “During the period of my long absence from you, I will be sending the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be a helper to you. My departure is an absolute necessity because if I do not die as a human, the Holy Spirit cannot come.” In verse 19, Jesus asked, “Do ye inquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me?” Then he explained the significance, but they did not fully grasp what he was saying at that time.
In chapter 17:1-25, Jesus gave an audible prayer on behalf of the disciples, particularly the apostles but including the brotherhood down through the Gospel Age. “These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: … I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine” (John 17:1,9). Thus his concern was for Peter as an individual and for the disciples in his immediate presence. The focus of his attention was not the Kingdom Age.
Jesus left the Golden Gate, which led to the city and the Temple, and “went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden” (John 18:1). When he arrived at the garden, he had Peter and the two sons of Zebedee accompany him more into the garden proper. Evidently, his concern was for himself for the next hour. He prayed to the Father that he might faithfully endure the experiences which were before him. He prayed three times that if permissible, the cup might pass from him (Matt. 26:36-44). We will not go into details here, for this part of Jesus’ experience is spoken of quite frequently.
During this one hour by himself, which was probably from about 11 o’clock to midnight, Jesus agonized in prayer to the point that he sweat “great drops of blood” (Luke 22:44). In his agony, he sweat from his brow and face, and he fell to the ground in a groaning, agonizing condition, being deeply and emotionally involved. In fact, he said, “My soul is exceeding[ly] sorrowful, even unto death” (Matt. 26:38). He went back and forth to his apostles three times, and each time they were asleep. The last time he said, “Sleep on now, and take your rest” (Matt. 26:45).
He had a concern for others even after his experience of pleading in prayer, which expended his energy. Shortly thereafter, the multitude came to apprehend him.
The bands of men are described as “multitudes” (plural) and “a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people” (Matt. 26:47,55). Peter, James, and John awoke out of sleep and heard the commotion and thus witnessed what was happening. Judas came forward and approached Jesus. First, Jesus said to him in Matthew 26:50, “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” In Luke 22:48, Jesus asked, “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” Jesus’ manner of addressing Judas called attention to the strange, incompatible way he approached the Master when he was going to betray him. We call the kiss of Judas “the midnight kiss of death.”
In John 18:4-8, Jesus asked the bands of man, “Whom seek ye?” They answered, “Jesus of Nazareth,” and as soon as he said, “I am he,” they fell backward to the ground. When they got up, Jesus again asked, “Whom seek ye?” and they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus replied, “I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these [others] go their way.” Thus Jesus was willing to let himself be taken into custody, but he had a concern for his disciples.
Then Peter became active and cut off the right ear of Malchus, a personal servant of the high priest (John 18:10). Next, instead of picking up the ear that was cut off from the skull, Jesus said, “Suffer ye thus far,” and merely touched the place where the ear had been, and it was miraculously made whole (Luke 22:51). Here we see Jesus’ interest in healing the ear of the high priest’s servant, as well as his concern for the disciples, under a most unusual circumstance, for he knew that he would shortly die the horrifying death of crucifixion. Not only did he have the composure or presence of mind to be able to think of others, but he had acquired this innate disposition by observing his Father. Jesus had imbibed the Father’s spirit of so loving the world that He gave His Son to redeem mankind. Indeed, Jesus had the Father’s love in his own person, or being; the Father’s love was a part of him. Under this unusual circumstance, he manifested his concern for others.
“Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled” (Matt. 26:56). Peter and John also forsook Jesus, but they followed him afar off. Then John went ahead and entered the high priest’s residence because he was familiar with the family, we believe, through a marital relationship.
Peter denied Christ three times, the last denial being about 3 a.m., the time of cockcrow. Thus the third denial occurred just before the initiating of the fourth watch. The one who last spoke to Peter was kinsman to Malchus, the very one whose ear Jesus had healed (John 18:26). He asked, “Did not I see you in the garden with him? Aren’t you one of Jesus’ disciples?”
During our Lord’s trial and as he was being led out from Caiaphas, Peter was outside in the court. Jesus turned and looked upon Peter. Again we see his concern for Peter’s welfare.
Immediately Peter remembered what Jesus had prophesied about the three denials. Not being able to control himself, Peter went out of the presence of all and “wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62).
Eventually he was reinstated.
Jesus’ trials—before Pilate, Herod, and Pilate again—took considerable time in the early morning. Then Jesus was scourged, but the scourging did not satisfy the chief priests, so they encouraged the crowd to demand a crucifixion.
When Jesus carried the Cross, he was led down the Via Dolorosa and then to the Damascus Gate. At that time, the terrain was such that the gate exited Jerusalem at a much lower level than today and then went up a steep incline. Therefore, we believe that it was at the Damascus Gate that Jesus could not carry the Cross up the hill. The scourging and carrying the Cross to that point had so exhausted him that it was apparent he could not continue without help.
Therefore, the soldiers commanded Simon of Cyrene to assist in carrying the Cross up the steps. Incidentally, this Simon had two children who subsequently came into the truth (Mark 15:21). While Simon was being compelled, Jesus had the opportunity to address the women who had accompanied him on his journey through the streets, and so we read in Luke 23:26, “And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.” We think Jesus still carried the Cross, but Simon took the tail end of the Cross, which would have dragged and greatly hindered progress in going up the steps. Simon’s lifting the hinder end of the Cross up each step was of sufficient help to the Master that he could continue on the journey to Golgotha, or Skull Hill.
The little discourse that Jesus gave while the soldiers were finding Simon is recorded in Luke 23:27-31.
“And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.
“But Jesus turning unto them said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.
“For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck.
“Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.
“For if they do these things [now] in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?”
In spite of his exhaustion and suffering, Jesus had the presence of mind to advise the women to fortify themselves because they would have a horrifying experience, which happened much later at the time of the holocaust in AD 69-73. Again Jesus had a concern for others. It is almost unbelievable that the Master could, under such stress and strain, even consider such things! He was able to do so because this quality was a part of his very nature; it was inherent in the Master and thus manifested his true character.
When Jesus and the others arrived at Skull Hill, he did not say, “Father, forgive them; for they did not know what they were doing when they nailed me to the Cross” (Luke 23:34 paraphrase). Such a statement would be improper, for the implication is that several who were involved in causing the Crucifixion were worthy of Second Death. The Pastor briefly made this suggestion in the Reprints. He felt it was very likely they had incurred sufficient responsibility for this penalty. Since they would have seen and heard Jesus and known about his ministry, they could not be any more guilty in the future than they were at that time in crucifying an innocent man. They knew that, in reality, Jesus was innocent, yet they tried to get false witnesses to condemn him.
While Jesus was on the Cross, another strange thing occurred. Luke 23:42,43 reads, “And he [one of the two malefactors being crucified at the same time] said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with me in paradise.” (The comma change is allowable because the punctuation was arbitrarily incorrectly inserted by the translators.) Jesus verified that the thief would be identified with him in the Kingdom Age, called “paradise.” Incidentally, the word “paradise” occurs only three times in the New Testament: Luke 23:43; 2 Cor. 12:4; and Rev. 2:7.
John 19:26,27 tells that when Jesus was on the Cross, he said to Mary, his mother, “Woman, behold thy son!” Then he said to John, “Behold thy mother!” Thus Jesus had a concern for his mother and for how much she would miss the Son she was privileged to have.
In conclusion, we will give a brief overview of Jesus’ consideration of others. On an earlier occasion, Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem regarding its fate and the fate of its inhabitants (Luke 19:41-44). He stated that with desire he wanted to partake of the Passover meal with his disciples, and loving his own, he arose and washed his disciples’ feet. Five chapters of John were devoted to a private communal discussion with his disciples both at the Passover meal and on the way to Gethsemane. When Jesus was being apprehended in Gethsemane, he said, “Let these others go their way, for it is me you are looking for.” When leaving the presence of Caiaphas, he looked at Peter with concern to remind him of the previous prophecy of denial. He spoke to the daughters of Jerusalem, “Weep for yourselves rather than unduly concentrating your affections on me.” (We think it was proper for the women to disobey in this case, for if we had been there, how our own hearts would have bled to witness Jesus’ experience!) He committed the care of his mother Mary to John. With only one exception, all of these events occurred on Jesus’ last day, and in them we see the soul of Jesus.
Earlier in his ministry, Jesus had said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). We are very, very thankful for this part of Jesus that has been revealed to us, for we know then, in our own situation, that when we try to do his will to the best of our ability, this compassionate quality of his desire to forgive exists in his very being.
All we need to do is cast our burdens on him. Not only initially, when we first dedicated our life to him, but in experiences throughout our Christian walk, it is comforting to know that he loves us. Moreover, Jesus wants to make sure that our affections are even a little more accurately concentrated on his Father, for he said, “The Father himself loveth you” (John 16:27). God is the Author of love, but we can see this likeness in Jesus, whom we adore and worship. Let us read the words of the hymn “Remember Me.”
According to thy gracious word,
In meek humility,
This will I do, my dying Lord,
I will remember thee.
Thy body, broken for my sake,
My bread from heav’n shall be;
Thy testamental cup I take
And thus remember thee.
When to the cross I turn mine eyes
And rest on Calvary,
O Lamb of God, my Sacrifice,
I must remember thee.
Remember thee and all thy pains
And all thy love to me;
Yea, while a breath, a pulse remains,
I will remember thee.
Then of thy grace I’ll know the sum,
And in thy likeness be,
When thou hast in thy kingdom come
And dost remember me.
Discourse by Bro. Frank Shallieu
March 28, 2004