Are You Among Those Loved by God?
“He that has my commandments and observes them, that one is he who loves me. In turn he that loves me will be loved by my Father.”—JOHN 14:21.
1, 2. (a) How did Jehovah show his love for humankind? (b) What did Jesus institute on the night of Nisan 14, 33 C.E.?
JEHOVAH loves his human creation. In fact, he loves the world of mankind “so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) As the time for observing the Memorial of Christ’s death approaches, true Christians should more than ever be conscious that Jehovah “loved us and sent forth his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins.”—1 John 4:10.
2 On the night of Nisan 14, 33 C.E., Jesus and his 12 apostles assembled in an upper room in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, commemorating the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt. (Matthew 26:17-20) After celebrating this Jewish festival, Jesus dismissed Judas Iscariot and instituted a commemorative supper that was to become the Christian Memorial of Christ’s death.a Using unfermented bread and red wine as emblems, or symbols, of his physical body and blood, Jesus had the 11 remaining apostles share together in this communion meal. Details on how he proceeded are given by the Synoptic Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke and by the apostle Paul, who termed it “the Lord’s evening meal.”—1 Corinthians 11:20; Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19, 20.
3. In what important ways is the apostle John’s account of Jesus’ final hours with his disciples in the upper room different from others?
3 Interestingly, the apostle John made no mention of the passing of the bread and wine, perhaps because by the time he wrote his Gospel account (about 98 C.E.), the procedure was well established among the early Christians. (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) However, under inspiration, John alone supplied us with some vital information regarding what Jesus said and did just before and just after He instituted the Memorial of His death. These thrilling details fill no less than five chapters of John’s Gospel. They leave no doubt as to the kind of individuals God loves. Let us examine John chapters 13 through 17.
Learn From Jesus’ Exemplary Love
4. (a) How did John emphasize the dominant theme of Jesus’ meeting with his disciples when he instituted the Memorial? (b) What is one important reason why Jehovah loves Jesus?
4 Love is a prominent theme throughout these chapters containing Jesus’ parting counsel to his followers. In fact, various forms of the word “love” occur there 31 times. Jesus’ deep love for his Father, Jehovah, and for his disciples is nowhere made more apparent than in these chapters. Jesus’ love for Jehovah can be deduced from all the Gospel accounts of his life, but only John records that Jesus explicitly stated: “I love the Father.” (John 14:31) Jesus also stated that Jehovah loves him and explained why. He said: “Just as the Father has loved me and I have loved you, remain in my love. If you observe my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have observed the commandments of the Father and remain in his love.” (John 15:9, 10) Yes, Jehovah loves his Son because of his implicit obedience. What a fine lesson for all followers of Jesus Christ!
5. How did Jesus demonstrate his love for his disciples?
5 Jesus’ profound love for his followers is underscored at the very beginning of John’s account of Jesus’ final meeting with the apostles. John related: “Now, 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) On that memorable evening, he gave them an unforgettable lesson in lovingly serving others. He washed their feet. This was something that each of them should have been willing to do for Jesus and for their brothers, but they held back. Jesus performed this humble task and then said to his disciples: “If I, although Lord and Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash the feet of one another. For I set the pattern for you, that, just as I did to you, you should do also.” (John 13:14, 15) True Christians should be willing and happy to serve their brothers.—Matthew 20:26, 27, footnote; John 13:17.
Follow the New Commandment
6, 7. (a) What important detail does John supply concerning the institution of the Memorial? (b) What new commandment did Jesus give his disciples, and what was new about it?
6 John’s account of what occurred in the upper room on the night of Nisan 14 is the only one that specifically mentions the departure of Judas Iscariot. (John 13:21-30) Harmonizing the Gospel accounts indicates that only after this traitor was gone did Jesus institute the Memorial of His death. He then spoke at length with his faithful apostles, giving them parting counsel and instructions. As we prepare ourselves to attend the Memorial, we should be intensely interested in what Jesus said on that occasion, and all the more so because we certainly want to be among those whom God loves.
7 The very first instruction Jesus gave to his disciples after instituting the Memorial of his death was something new. He declared: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:34, 35) What was new about this commandment? A little later that evening, Jesus clarified matters, stating: “This is my commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you. No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:12, 13) The Mosaic Law commanded the Israelites to ‘love their fellow as themselves.’ (Leviticus 19:18) But Jesus’ commandment went further. Christians were to love one another as Christ loved them, being willing to sacrifice their very lives for their brothers.
8. (a) What does self-sacrificing love involve? (b) How do Jehovah’s Witnesses manifest self-sacrificing love today?
8 The Memorial season is an appropriate time to examine ourselves, individually and as a congregation, to see if we really have this distinguishing mark of true Christianity—Christlike love. Such self-sacrificing love could mean, and sometimes has meant, that a Christian would risk his life rather than betray his brothers. More often than not, though, it involves our being willing to sacrifice our personal interests in order to help and serve our brothers and others. The apostle Paul was a fine example in this regard. (2 Corinthians 12:15; Philippians 2:17) Jehovah’s Witnesses are known throughout the world for their self-sacrificing spirit, helping their brothers and their neighbors and expending themselves to communicate Bible truth to their fellowmen.b—Galatians 6:10.
Relationships to Be Treasured
9. To maintain our precious relationship with God and his Son, what are we happy to do?
9 Nothing could be more precious to us than to be loved by Jehovah and his Son, Christ Jesus. To have and feel this love, however, we must do something. On that final night with his disciples, Jesus said: “He that has my commandments and observes them, that one is he who loves me. In turn he that loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will plainly show myself to him.” (John 14:21) Since we treasure our relationship with God and with his Son, we joyfully obey their commandments. This includes the new commandment to show self-sacrificing love and also the order Christ gave after his resurrection “to preach to the people and to give a thorough witness,” endeavoring to “make disciples” of those who accept the good news.—Acts 10:42; Matthew 28:19, 20.
10. What precious relationships are open to the anointed and to the “other sheep”?
10 Later that night, in answer to a question put to him by the faithful apostle Judas (Thaddaeus), Jesus said: “If anyone loves me, he will observe my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our abode with him.” (John 14:22, 23) Even while still on earth, anointed Christians, called to reign with Christ in heaven, have a particularly close relationship with Jehovah and with his Son. (John 15:15; 16:27; 17:22; Hebrews 3:1; 1 John 3:2, 24) But their “other sheep” companions, whose hope is to live forever on earth, also have a precious relationship with their “one shepherd,” Jesus Christ, and with their God, Jehovah, provided they prove to be obedient.—John 10:16; Psalm 15:1-5; 25:14.
“You Are No Part of the World”
11. What sobering warning did Jesus give his disciples?
11 During this last meeting with his faithful disciples before his death, Jesus gave a sobering warning: If a person is loved by God, he will be hated by the world. He declared: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you. Bear in mind the word I said to you, A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also; if they have observed my word, they will observe yours also.”—John 15:18-20.
12. (a) Why did Jesus warn his disciples that the world would hate them? (b) What would it be well for all to consider as the Memorial approaches?
12 Jesus gave this warning so that these 11 apostles and all true Christians after them would not be discouraged and give up because of the world’s hatred. He added: “I have spoken these things to you that you may not be stumbled. Men will expel you from the synagogue. In fact, the hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God. But they will do these things because they have not come to know either the Father or me.” (John 16:1-3) One Bible lexicon explains that a form of the verb here rendered “stumbled” means “to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey; to cause to fall away.” As the time to observe the Memorial approaches, all would do well to reflect on the life course of faithful ones, past and present, and imitate their example of steadfastness under trial. Do not allow opposition or persecution to cause you to desert Jehovah and Jesus, but be resolved to trust and obey them.
13. What did Jesus request in behalf of his followers in a prayer to his Father?
13 In his closing prayer before leaving that upper room in Jerusalem, Jesus said to his Father: “I have given your word to them, but the world has hated them, because they are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world. I request you, not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one. They are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:14-16) We can be sure that Jehovah watches over those whom he loves, to strengthen them as they keep separate from the world.—Isaiah 40:29-31.
Remain in the Father’s Love and in the Son’s Love
14, 15. (a) To what did Jesus liken himself, in contrast with what ‘degenerate vine’? (b) Who are “the branches” of “the true vine”?
14 During the intimate conversation he had with his faithful disciples on the night of Nisan 14, Jesus likened himself to “the true vine,” in contrast with the ‘degenerate vine’ of unfaithful Israel. He said: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the cultivator.” (John 15:1) Centuries earlier, the prophet Jeremiah recorded these words of Jehovah to his renegade people: “I had planted you as a choice red vine . . . So how have you been changed toward me into the degenerate shoots of a foreign vine?” (Jeremiah 2:21) And the prophet Hosea wrote: “Israel is a degenerating vine. Fruit he keeps putting forth for himself. . . . Their heart has become hypocritical.”—Hosea 10:1, 2.
15 Rather than producing the fruitage of true worship, Israel fell into apostasy and produced fruit for itself. Three days before his final meeting with his faithful disciples, Jesus told the hypocritical Jewish leaders: “I say to you, The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.” (Matthew 21:43) That new nation is “the Israel of God,” made up of 144,000 anointed Christians, who are likened to “the branches” of “the true vine,” Christ Jesus.—Galatians 6:16; John 15:5; Revelation 14:1, 3.
16. What did Jesus urge the 11 faithful apostles to do, and what can be said of the faithful remnant in this time of the end?
16 Jesus told the 11 apostles present with him in that upper room: “Every branch in me not bearing fruit he takes away, and every one bearing fruit he cleans, that it may bear more fruit. Remain in union with me, and I in union with you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remains in the vine, in the same way neither can you, unless you remain in union with me.” (John 15:2, 4) The modern history of Jehovah’s people shows that the faithful remnant of anointed Christians have remained in union with their Head, Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 5:23) They have accepted cleansing and pruning. (Malachi 3:2, 3) Since 1919, they have brought forth Kingdom fruitage in abundance, first other anointed Christians and, since 1935, an ever-increasing “great crowd” of companions.—Revelation 7:9; Isaiah 60:4, 8-11.
17, 18. (a) What words of Jesus help the anointed and the other sheep to remain in Jehovah’s love? (b) How will attending the Memorial help us?
17 To all anointed Christians and their companions, Jesus’ further words apply: “My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples. Just as the Father has loved me and I have loved you, remain in my love. If you observe my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have observed the commandments of the Father and remain in his love.”—John 15:8-10.
18 We all want to remain in God’s love, and this moves us to be fruitful Christians. We do this by seizing every opportunity to preach the “good news of the kingdom.” (Matthew 24:14) We also do our utmost to manifest “the fruitage of the spirit” in our personal lives. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Attending the Memorial of Christ’s death will strengthen us in our resolve to do this, for we will be reminded of God’s and Christ’s great love for us.—2 Corinthians 5:14, 15.
19. What further help will be discussed in the following article?
19 After instituting the Memorial, Jesus promised that his Father would send his faithful followers a “helper, the holy spirit.” (John 14:26) How this spirit helps the anointed and the other sheep to remain in Jehovah’s love will be examined in the following article.
a For 2002, as calculated Biblically, Nisan 14 begins at sundown, Thursday, March 28. That evening, Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world will assemble to commemorate the death of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
b See the book Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses, chapters 19 and 32.
• What practical lesson in loving service did Jesus give to his disciples?
• With respect to what is the Memorial season an appropriate time for self-examination?
• Why should we not be stumbled by Jesus’ warning about hatred and persecution by the world?
• Who is “the true vine”? Who are “the branches,” and what is expected of them?
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Jesus gave his apostles an unforgettable lesson in loving service
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Christ’s disciples obey his command to show self-sacrificing love