1, 2. How does Jesus spend his last evening with his apostles, and why are these final moments precious to him?
AS HE gathers his apostles in an upper room of a house in Jerusalem, Jesus knows that this is his last evening with them. The time is near for him to return to his Father. In a matter of hours, Jesus will be arrested and his faith tested as never before. Yet, not even his impending death can distract him from the needs of the apostles.
2 Jesus has prepared the apostles for his departure, but he still has more to say to strengthen them for what lies ahead. So he spends these last precious moments teaching them vital lessons that will help them to remain faithful. His words are among the warmest and most intimate that he has ever shared with them. Why, though, is Jesus more concerned about his apostles than about himself? Why are these final hours with them so dear to him? The answer is, in a word, love. His love for them is profound.
3. How do we know that Jesus did not wait until his final evening to show love to his followers?
3 Decades later when introducing his inspired account of the events of that evening, the apostle John wrote: “Because he knew before the festival of the passover that his hour had come for him to move out of this world to the Father, Jesus, having loved his own that were in the world, loved them to the end.” (John 13:1) Jesus did not wait until that night to demonstrate love to “his own.” Throughout his ministry, in ways large and small, he gave proof of his love for his disciples. We do well to examine some of the ways he showed his love, for by imitating him in this regard, we prove ourselves his genuine disciples.
4, 5. (a) Why did Jesus need patience in dealing with his disciples? (b) How did Jesus respond when three of his apostles showed a lack of vigilance in the garden of Gethsemane?
4 Love and patience go together. “Love is long-suffering,” observes 1 Corinthians 13:4, and long-suffering involves patiently putting up with others. Did Jesus need patience in dealing with his disciples? Indeed, he did! As we saw in Chapter 3, the apostles were slow to cultivate humility. More than once, they got into arguments about who was the greatest among them. How did Jesus react? Did he get angry and respond with irritation or resentment? No, he patiently reasoned with them, even when “a heated dispute” over this issue arose on his last evening with them!—Luke 22:24-30; Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 9:33-37.
5 Later on that final night, when Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane with the 11 faithful apostles, his patience was tested yet again. Leaving eight of the apostles, Jesus took Peter, James, and John deeper into the garden. “My soul is deeply grieved, even to death,” Jesus told them. “Stay here and keep on the watch.” He went a short distance away and began praying fervently. After praying at length, he returned to the three apostles. What did he find? In this, his hour of greatest trial, they were fast asleep! Did he berate them for their lack of vigilance? No, he patiently exhorted them. His kind words showed an understanding of the stress they had been under and of their weaknesses.* “The spirit, of course, is eager,” he said, “but the flesh is weak.” Jesus remained patient that evening, even when he came and found them asleep not one but two more times!—Matthew 26:36-46.
6. How can we imitate Jesus in our dealings with others?
6 It is encouraging to note that Jesus did not give up on his apostles. His patience eventually bore fruit, for these faithful men learned the importance of being both humble and vigilant. (1 Peter 3:8; 4:7) How can we imitate Jesus in our dealings with others? Elders especially need to exercise patience. Fellow believers may approach an elder with their problems when the elder himself is tired out or distracted by his own concerns. At times, those in need of help may be slow to respond to counsel. Nevertheless, patient elders will instruct “with mildness” and will “treat the flock with tenderness.” (2 Timothy 2:24, 25; Acts 20:28, 29) Parents also do well to imitate Jesus in showing patience, for at times children may be slow to respond to counsel or correction. Love and patience will help parents not to give up in their efforts to train their children. The rewards of such patience can be great indeed.—Psalm 127:3.
Caring for Their Needs
7. In what ways did Jesus care for the physical and material needs of his disciples?
7 Love is evidenced by unselfish deeds. (1 John 3:17, 18) It “does not look for its own interests.” (1 Corinthians 13:5) Love moved Jesus to care for the physical and material needs of his disciples. He often acted in their behalf even before they voiced their needs. When he saw that they were tired, he suggested that they accompany him “privately into a lonely place and rest up a bit.” (Mark 6:31) When he sensed that they were hungry, he took the initiative to feed them—along with thousands of others who had come to hear him teach.—Matthew 14:19, 20; 15:35-37.
8, 9. (a) What indicates that Jesus recognized the spiritual needs of his disciples and provided for them? (b) When on the stake, how did Jesus show his deep concern for the welfare of his mother?
8 Jesus recognized the spiritual needs of his disciples and provided for them. (Matthew 4:4; 5:3) In his teaching, he often gave them special attention. The Sermon on the Mount was delivered especially for the benefit of his disciples. (Matthew 5:1, 2, 13-16) When he taught with illustrations, “privately to his disciples he would explain all things.” (Mark 4:34) Jesus foretold that he would appoint a “faithful and discreet slave” to ensure that His followers would be well-fed spiritually during the last days. This faithful slave, composed of a small group of Jesus’ spirit-anointed brothers on earth, has been providing spiritual “food at the proper time” ever since 1919 C.E.—Matthew 24:45.
9 On the day of his death, Jesus showed in a touching way his concern for the spiritual welfare of his loved ones. Picture the scene. Jesus was on the stake, suffering excruciating pain. In order to draw breath, he evidently had to push himself up with his feet. This no doubt caused him severe pain as the weight of his body tore at the nail wounds in his feet and his scourged back rubbed against the stake. Speech, which involves breath control, must have been difficult and painful. Yet, just before he died, Jesus spoke words that showed his deep love for his mother, Mary. Seeing Mary and the apostle John standing nearby, Jesus, in a voice loud enough for bystanders to hear, said to his mother: “Woman, see! Your son!” Then to John, he said: “See! Your mother!” (John 19:26, 27) Jesus knew that the faithful apostle would care not just for Mary’s physical and material needs but also for her spiritual welfare.*
10. How can parents imitate Jesus as they care for the needs of their children?
10 Caring parents find it beneficial to reflect on Jesus’ example. A father who truly loves his family will provide for them materially. (1 Timothy 5:8) Balanced, loving family heads make time for occasional rest and recreation. More important, Christian parents provide for their children’s spiritual needs. How? Such parents arrange for a regular family Bible study, and they endeavor to make these study sessions upbuilding and enjoyable for their children. (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) By word and example, the parents teach their children that the ministry is an important activity and that preparing for and attending Christian meetings is an essential part of their spiritual routine.—Hebrews 10:24, 25.
Willing to Forgive
11. What did Jesus teach his followers about forgiveness?
11 Forgiveness is a facet of love. (Colossians 3:13, 14) Love “does not keep account of the injury,” states 1 Corinthians 13:5. On a number of occasions, Jesus taught his followers the importance of forgiveness. He urged them to forgive others “not, Up to seven times, but, Up to seventy-seven times”—that is, an unlimited number of times. (Matthew 18:21, 22) He taught them that a sinner should be forgiven if upon being rebuked, he shows repentance. (Luke 17:3, 4) Jesus, however, was not like the hypocritical Pharisees, who taught by word only; he also taught by example. (Matthew 23:2-4) Let us see how Jesus demonstrated his willingness to forgive even when a trusted friend let him down.
12, 13. (a) In what way did Peter let Jesus down on the night of His arrest? (b) How did Jesus’ actions after his resurrection make it clear that he did more than just preach forgiveness?
12 Jesus had a close relationship with the apostle Peter, a warmhearted man who at times was impulsive. Jesus recognized the good qualities of Peter and extended special privileges to him. Peter, along with James and John, personally witnessed certain miracles that the rest of the 12 did not get to see. (Matthew 17:1, 2; Luke 8:49-55) As we noted earlier, Peter was one of the apostles who accompanied Jesus farther into the garden of Gethsemane on the night of His arrest. Yet, that same night when Jesus was betrayed and taken into custody, Peter and the other apostles abandoned Jesus and fled. Later, Peter proved brave enough to stand outside while Jesus was illegally tried. Still, Peter then became fearful and made a serious mistake—three times he lyingly denied that he even knew Jesus! (Matthew 26:69-75) How did Jesus react? How would you have responded if a close friend let you down in such a way?
13 Jesus was prepared to forgive Peter. He knew that Peter was crushed by the weight of his sin. After all, the repentant apostle “broke down and gave way to weeping.” (Mark 14:72) On the day of His resurrection, Jesus appeared to Peter, likely to comfort and reassure the apostle. (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5) Less than two months later, Jesus dignified Peter by letting him take the lead in giving a witness to the crowds in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:14-40) Let us remember, too, that Jesus did not hold a grudge against the apostles as a group for abandoning him. On the contrary, after his resurrection, he still called them “my brothers.” (Matthew 28:10) Is it not clear that Jesus did more than just preach forgiveness?
14. Why do we need to learn to forgive others, and how can we demonstrate a readiness to forgive?
14 As disciples of Christ, we need to learn to forgive others. Why? Unlike Jesus, we are imperfect—as are those who may sin against us. From time to time, we all stumble in word and in deed. (Romans 3:23; James 3:2) By forgiving others when there is a basis for mercy, we clear the way for our own sins to be forgiven by God. (Mark 11:25) How, then, can we demonstrate a readiness to forgive those who may sin against us? In many cases, love helps us to overlook the minor sins and shortcomings of others. (1 Peter 4:8) When those who have wronged us are sincerely repentant, as Peter was, surely we want to imitate Jesus’ willingness to forgive. Rather than holding a grudge, we wisely choose to let go of resentment. (Ephesians 4:32) By doing so, we contribute to the peace of the congregation as well as to our own peace of mind and heart.—1 Peter 3:11.
Demonstrating His Trust
15. Why did Jesus trust his disciples despite their shortcomings?
15 Love and trust go hand in hand. Love “believes all things.”* (1 Corinthians 13:7) Moved by love, Jesus demonstrated a willingness to trust his disciples despite their imperfections. He had confidence in them and believed that at heart they really loved Jehovah and wanted to do His will. Even when they made mistakes, Jesus did not question their motives. For example, when the apostles James and John evidently got their mother to request that they sit beside Jesus in his Kingdom, Jesus did not doubt their loyalty or dismiss them as apostles.—Matthew 20:20-28.
16, 17. What responsibilities did Jesus delegate to his disciples?
16 Demonstrating his trust, Jesus delegated various responsibilities to his disciples. On the two occasions when he miraculously multiplied food and fed the crowds, he delegated to his disciples the responsibility of distributing the food. (Matthew 14:19; 15:36) In preparation for his final Passover, he assigned Peter and John to go to Jerusalem and get things ready. They took care of obtaining the lamb, wine, unleavened bread, bitter greens, and any other necessary items. This was no menial assignment, for celebrating the Passover in the proper manner was a requirement of the Mosaic Law, and Jesus had to live up to that Law. Besides, later that evening Jesus used the wine and the unleavened bread as important symbols when instituting the Memorial of his death.—Matthew 26:17-19; Luke 22:8, 13.
17 Jesus saw fit to entrust his disciples with even weightier responsibilities. As we noted earlier, he delegated to a small group of his anointed followers on earth the important responsibility of dispensing spiritual food. (Luke 12:42-44) Recall, too, that he placed in the hands of his disciples the weighty commission to preach and make disciples. (Matthew 28:18-20) Even now, though invisible and ruling from heaven, Jesus entrusts his congregation on earth to the care of spiritually qualified “gifts in men.”—Ephesians 4:8, 11, 12.
18-20. (a) How can we show trust and confidence in fellow believers? (b) How can we imitate Jesus’ willingness to delegate? (c) What will be discussed in the next chapter?
18 How can we follow Jesus’ example in our dealings with others? Our showing trust and confidence in fellow believers is an expression of our love. Let us remember that love is positive, not negative. When others disappoint us, which is bound to happen from time to time, love will keep us from quickly assuming that their motives are bad. (Matthew 7:1, 2) If we keep a positive view of our fellow believers, we will treat them in ways that build up rather than tear down.—1 Thessalonians 5:11.
19 Can we imitate Jesus’ willingness to delegate? It is beneficial for those who have positions of responsibility in the congregation to delegate appropriate and meaningful tasks to others, trusting them to do their best. Experienced elders can thereby provide necessary and valuable training for qualified younger men who are “reaching out” to help in the congregation. (1 Timothy 3:1; 2 Timothy 2:2) This training is vital. As Jehovah continues to speed up Kingdom growth, qualified men will need to be trained to care for the increase.—Isaiah 60:22.
20 Jesus provided us with a marvelous example in showing love to others. Of all the ways that we can follow him, imitating his love is the most important. In the next chapter, we will discuss the greatest expression of his love for us—his willingness to give his life.
The apostles’ sleepiness was induced by more than physical tiredness. The parallel account at Luke 22:45 says that Jesus “found them slumbering from grief.”
Mary was apparently a widow by then, and her other children were evidently not yet disciples of Jesus.—John 7:5.
This, of course, does not mean that love is gullible or naive. It means, rather, that love is not unduly critical or suspicious. Love refrains from hastily judging the motives of others or concluding the worst about them.