1, 2. What did the apostle John reveal about the final evening that the apostles spent with Jesus?
AN AGED man dips his pen in ink, his mind full of memories. His name is John, and he is the last living apostle of Jesus Christ. Now about 100 years old, John casts his thoughts back some seven decades to a most memorable evening—the last one that he and his fellow apostles spent with Jesus before His death. With God’s holy spirit guiding him, John is able to remember and write down events in great detail.
2 That night, Jesus made it clear that he would soon be put to death. John alone reveals the reason why Jesus said that he was going to submit to that terrible end: “For the world to know that I love the Father, I am doing just as the Father has commanded me to do. Get up, let us go from here.”—John 14:31.
3. How did Jesus show that he loved his Father?
3 “I love the Father.” Nothing mattered more to Jesus than that. Not that he constantly repeated the statement. In fact, John 14:31 is the only place in the Bible record where we find Jesus expressing his love for his Father so directly. Yet, Jesus lived those words. His love for Jehovah was in evidence daily. Jesus’ courage, his obedience, and his endurance were all evidence of his love for God. His entire ministry was motivated by this love.
4, 5. The Bible promotes what kind of love, and what can be said about Jesus’ love for Jehovah?
4 Today, some may think of love as a soft quality. They may think of love poems and love songs, perhaps even of the giddiness that is sometimes associated with romantic love. The Bible does discuss romantic love, although in a more dignified way than is common now. (Proverbs 5:15-21) God’s Word spends much more time, though, on discussing love of another kind. This love is not mere passion or fleeting emotion; nor is it a dry, intellectual philosophy. It involves both heart and mind. Such love springs from the innermost self, is governed by and in harmony with noble principles, and is expressed in positive action. It is anything but frivolous. “Love never fails,” says God’s Word.—1 Corinthians 13:8.
5 Of all humans who have ever lived, Jesus was the foremost lover of Jehovah. No one has surpassed Jesus in living by the words he himself quoted as the greatest of all divine commands: “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind and with your whole strength.” (Mark 12:30) How did Jesus develop such love? How did he keep his love for God strong during his time on earth? And how can we imitate him?
The Oldest and Strongest Bond of Love
6, 7. How do we know that Proverbs 8:22-31 describes God’s Son, not just the quality of wisdom?
6 Have you ever worked on a project with a friend and found that the two of you became better, closer friends as a result? That pleasant experience may provide some insight into the love that developed between Jehovah and his only-begotten Son. We have referred more than once to Proverbs 8:30, but let us take a closer look at that verse in its context. In verses 22 through 31, we find an inspired description of wisdom personified. How do we know that these words refer to God’s Son?
7 In verse 22, wisdom says: “Jehovah produced me as the beginning of his way, the earliest of his achievements of long ago.” More than just wisdom must be involved here, for that quality never was “produced.” It never began to exist because Jehovah has always existed and he has always been wise. (Psalm 90:2) God’s Son, however, was “the firstborn of all creation.” He was produced, or created; he was the earliest of all of Jehovah’s achievements. (Colossians 1:15) The Son existed before the earth and the heavens, as described in Proverbs. And as the Word, God’s own Spokesman, he was the perfect expression of Jehovah’s wisdom.—John 1:1.
8. How was the Son occupied during his prehuman existence, and what might we think about when admiring creation?
8 How was the Son occupied during the vast expanse of time before he came to earth? Verse 30 tells us that he was beside God as “a master worker.” What does that mean? Colossians 1:16 explains: “By means of him all other things were created in the heavens and on the earth . . . All other things have been created through him and for him.” So Jehovah, the Creator, worked through his Son, the Master Worker, to bring every other creation into existence—from the spirit creatures in the heavenly realm to the immense physical universe, to the earth with its wondrous variety of plant and animal life, to the pinnacle of earthly creation: humankind. In some respects, we might liken this cooperation between Father and Son to that of an architect working with a builder, or contractor, who specializes in bringing the architect’s ingenious designs to reality. When we are awed by any facet of creation, we are actually giving credit to the Great Architect. (Psalm 19:1) However, we may also call to mind the long and happy collaboration between the Creator and his “master worker.”
9, 10. (a) What strengthened the bond between Jehovah and his Son? (b) What can strengthen your bond with your heavenly Father?
9 When two imperfect humans work closely together, they sometimes have a difficult time getting along. Not so with Jehovah and his Son! The Son worked for aeons with the Father and is quoted as saying: “I rejoiced before him all the time.” (Proverbs 8:30) Yes, he delighted in his Father’s company, and the feeling was mutual. Naturally, the Son grew ever more like his Father, learning to imitate God’s qualities. No wonder, then, that the bond between Father and Son became so strong! It can rightly be called the oldest and strongest bond of love in the whole universe.
10 What, though, can that mean for us? You might feel that you could never build such a bond with Jehovah. Granted, none of us has the exalted position of the Son. However, we do have a remarkable opportunity. Remember, Jesus drew closer to his Father by working with Him. Jehovah lovingly offers us the opportunity to be his “fellow workers.” (1 Corinthians 3:9) As we follow Jesus’ example in the ministry, we should always keep in mind that we are God’s fellow workers. Thus, the bond of love that unites us with Jehovah grows ever stronger. Could there be any greater privilege?
How Jesus Kept His Love for Jehovah Strong
11-13. (a) Why is it helpful to think of love as a living thing, and how did young Jesus keep his love for Jehovah strong? (b) How did God’s Son show his interest in learning from Jehovah, both before coming to earth and later as a man?
11 In many ways, it is helpful to think of the love in our heart as a living thing. Like a beautiful houseplant, love needs to be nourished and cared for if it is to grow and to thrive. Neglected, deprived of nourishment, it weakens and dies. Jesus did not take his love for Jehovah for granted. He kept it strong and thriving throughout his earthly sojourn. Let us see how.
12 Think again of the incident when young Jesus spoke up at the temple in Jerusalem. Recall his words to his anxious parents: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in the house of my Father?” (Luke 2:49) As a young boy, Jesus evidently did not yet have any memory of his prehuman existence. Still, his love for his Father, Jehovah, was intense. He knew that such love naturally found its expression in worship. So there was no place on earth as appealing to Jesus as his Father’s house of pure worship. He longed to be there and hated to leave. Moreover, he was no passive spectator. He was eager to learn about Jehovah and to express what he knew. Such feelings did not begin when he was 12 years old, nor did they end at that age.
13 In his prehuman existence, the Son had eagerly learned from his Father. A prophecy recorded at Isaiah 50:4-6 reveals that Jehovah gave his Son specialized education regarding his role as the Messiah. Even though such education included learning about some of the hardships that would befall Jehovah’s Anointed One, the Son learned eagerly. Later, after Jesus came to earth and grew to adulthood, he remained eager to go to his Father’s house and share in the worship and the learning that Jehovah wanted to see promoted there. The Bible thus reports on Jesus’ faithful attendance at the temple and at the synagogue. (Luke 4:16; 19:47) If we want to keep our love for Jehovah alive and thriving, we need to be diligent about attending Christian meetings, where we worship Jehovah and deepen our knowledge and appreciation of him.
14, 15. (a) Why did Jesus seek solitude? (b) How did Jesus’ prayers to his Father reveal intimacy and respect?
14 Jesus also kept his love for Jehovah strong by praying regularly. Although he was a friendly, gregarious man, it is striking to note that he valued solitude. For example, Luke 5:16 says: “He often went into the desolate areas to pray.” Similarly, Matthew 14:23 states: “After sending the crowds away, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” Jesus sought solitude on these and other occasions, not because he was a recluse or hated the company of others, but because he wanted to be alone with Jehovah, to speak freely with his Father in prayer.
15 When he prayed, Jesus would at times use the expression “Abba, Father.” (Mark 14:36) In Jesus’ day, “Abba” was an intimate word for “father,” a family word. It was often among the first words that a child would learn. Yet, it was respectful. While the word revealed the intimacy of the Son speaking to his beloved Father, it also conveyed profound respect for Jehovah’s fatherly authority. We find that combination of intimacy and respect throughout Jesus’ recorded prayers. For example, John chapter 17 contains the long and heartfelt prayer that Jesus offered on his final night. It is truly moving for us to study that prayer and vital that we imitate it—not by repeating Jesus’ words, of course, but by finding ways to speak from the heart to our heavenly Father as often as we can. Doing so will keep our love for him alive and strong.
16, 17. (a) How did Jesus put his love for his Father into words? (b) How did Jesus portray his Father’s generosity?
16 As we noted earlier, Jesus did not repeatedly utter the words “I love the Father.” However, many times he did put his love for his Father into words. How so? Jesus himself said: “I publicly praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” (Matthew 11:25) When studying Section 2 of this book, we saw that Jesus loved to praise his Father by helping people get to know Him. For example, he likened Jehovah to a father who was so eager to forgive his wayward son that he awaited the repentant young man’s arrival, caught sight of him from afar, and ran to meet him and embrace him. (Luke 15:20) Who can read that passage without feeling warmed by Jesus’ portrayal of Jehovah’s love and forgiveness?
17 Jesus often praised his Father for His generosity. He used the example of imperfect parents to show how certain we can be that our Father will give us all the holy spirit we need. (Luke 11:13) Jesus also spoke about the hope that the Father so generously offers. Jesus longingly described his own hope of being restored to a place by his Father’s side in heaven. (John 14:28; 17:5) He told his followers about the hope that Jehovah held out to Christ’s “little flock”—that of residing in heaven and sharing in the rule of the Messianic King. (Luke 12:32; John 14:2) And he consoled a dying wrongdoer with the hope of life in Paradise. (Luke 23:43) Speaking of his Father’s great generosity in these ways surely helped Jesus to keep his love for Jehovah strong. Many of Christ’s followers have found that nothing strengthens their love for Jehovah or their faith in him more than speaking about him and the hope he provides for those who love him.
Will You Imitate Jesus’ Love for Jehovah?
18. What is the most important way in which we need to follow Jesus, and why?
18 Of all the ways in which we need to follow Jesus, none is more important than this: We must love Jehovah with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. (Luke 10:27) The measure of such love is not just in the intensity of our feelings but also in the reality of our actions. Jesus was not content merely to feel love for his Father nor merely to say, “I love the Father.” He said: “For the world to know that I love the Father, I am doing just as the Father has commanded me to do.” (John 14:31) Satan had charged that no human would serve Jehovah out of unselfish love. (Job 2:4, 5) In order to give the best possible answer to Satan’s vicious slander, Jesus courageously went ahead and showed the world just how much he loved his Father. He obeyed even to the point of giving up his life. Will you follow Jesus? Will you show the world that you truly love Jehovah God?
19, 20. (a) For what important reasons do we want to be regular in attendance at Christian meetings? (b) How might we view our personal study, meditation, and prayer?
19 We have a profound spiritual need to show such love. Jehovah has thus arranged for us to worship in a way that our love for our Father is nourished and strengthened. When you attend Christian meetings, try to remember that you are there to worship your God. Facets of that worship include joining in heartfelt prayer, singing songs of praise, listening attentively, and participating when possible. Such meetings also give you an opportunity to encourage fellow Christians. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) Worshipping Jehovah regularly at Christian meetings will help you to grow ever stronger in your love for God.
20 Much the same can be said for doing personal study, meditating, and praying. Think of these as ways to be alone with Jehovah. As you study God’s written Word and meditate on it, Jehovah is conveying his thoughts to you. As you pray, you are opening your heart to him. Remember that prayer involves more than just asking God for things. Prayer is also an opportunity to thank Jehovah for the blessings you have received and to praise him for his marvelous works. (Psalm 146:1) Additionally, praising Jehovah publicly with joy and enthusiasm is the best way to thank Jehovah and to show that you love him.
21. How important is love for Jehovah, and what will be considered in the ensuing chapters?
21 Love for God is the key to your eternal happiness. It is all that Adam and Eve would have needed in order to succeed—and the one thing that they failed to develop. It is the most important thing that you need in order to pass any test of faith, reject any temptation, endure any trial. It is at the very heart of being a follower of Jesus. Of course, love for God is connected to love for our fellow man. (1 John 4:20) In the ensuing chapters, we will examine how Jesus showed his love for people. In the next chapter, we will consider why so many found Jesus approachable.