The Last Supper: lessons of love for the Apostles and you

[From the archives, a look at lessons Jesus taught before and after Easter Sunday.]

Getting Personal

John paints a portrait of Jesus in words of love. Not so much about John’s love for his Savior, but words of his Savior’s love for him.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 4:7-10.)

John knew this love firsthand, right up to the last night he spent with Jesus.

The evening meal was in progress … . Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. (John 13:2, 23.)

So when John wrote “God is love” in that letter to friends and fellow believers a half century after his last supper with Jesus, he spoke not only from personal experience but from up-close-and-personal experience.

Jesus and John at the Last Supper, Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632) Wikimedia

St. John and Jesus at the Last Supper, Valentin de Boulogne (1591-1632)
Wikimedia

Is there more to experiencing this love than leaning into it, though?

Getting to the Personal Point

Has anyone ever asked what you love most, what’s important to you, or what it is that motivates you and keeps you going? That’s the time to remember the words of another one of Jesus’ closest friends, Peter.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15.)

Peter wanted answers too, once even when it came to John.

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” (John 21:20-21.)

It’s often like that for me. I know I should be concentrating on my own relationship with God and then I go and start wondering about what he’s going to do with other people instead. After all, there are a lot of people I can name who need straightening out. But Jesus didn’t allow Peter to take him down that side path.

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (John 21:22-23.)

Peter learned that the important thing in his life was to concentrate on Jesus, and that seems to be the basis of his instruction about being ready to give an answer whenever anyone asks what is most important to us: why we hope in God.

He and John together had the opportunity to practice this early on in their ministry following Jesus’ death and resurrection. They had just performed a miraculous healing and then spoke to the crowd of onlookers about finding true healing in Jesus. The religious authorities were not pleased.

The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. … They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:1-3, 7.)

Peter was ready for this question about the hope he operated from.

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12.)

And speaking of answers, the religious leaders had no answer to this except to try silencing John and Peter. It didn’t work.

Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:18-20.)

Peter’s boldness came from his relationship with Jesus, a relationship in which he knew the same love John did. At that Last Supper where Jesus allowed John to rest his head upon him Jesus had also ministered to Peter’s needs.

Jesus Washing Peter's Feet, Ford Madox Brown (1856) Wikimedia

Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet, Ford Madox Brown (1856)
Wikimedia

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13:3-7.)

There’s Peter again with the questions, and Jesus giving an answer that likely didn’t satisfy Peter at all. But one thing probably stood out in Peter’s memory, and that is that his Lord washed his feet because he loved him. It is based on this love that Peter could write to those who never met Jesus in the flesh:

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9.)

This salvation – your salvation – is what Jesus accomplished with his death and resurrection. This is his love demonstrated fully in and for you.

Personally getting Personal

Have you experienced the love of Jesus, your Savior? Are you ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you have within you? Are you ready for someone to even ask such a question of you? Remember that if – and when – the question comes, it is the Holy Spirit within you who is ready to give the answer. Jesus promised as much:

[D]o not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:19-20.)

Like John and Peter, you can lean on the Spirit of Christ.

He loves you, you know.

***

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2 Responses to The Last Supper: lessons of love for the Apostles and you

  1. It is so important, Tim, not to get sidetracked by comparison to others or curiosity about God’s plans for other people — but to focus on Jesus as our source of hope and as the One who always acts out of love for us.

    There is always something that strikes me anew from these passages, and this time it was Peter’s words “If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness…” I wonder how likely it might be that I would be called to account by the authorities for an act of kindness. Makes me think how I want to spend my days and whether I will leave people better off because they have encountered me.

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