Uncannily, as I was reflecting on the Last Supper of our Lord, I heard a station playing “Can you feel the love tonight” (From the Lion King.) Listening to the words, I thought of the love that must have been present on Jesus’ final night on earth; that (Maundy Thursday) night when he commanded his apostles to love and instituted the sacrament of Love.
The song echoes in the background – Can you feel the love tonight? How its laid to rest. It seems so appropriate .. a love hymn of worship.
Jesus knew his life and mission will soon end. He loves his friends so dearly but the hour has come to return to His Father. It is time to say goodbye.
It is the most momentous farewell in the history of man. God became man and dwelt among us. And now he is leaving us.
The success of Jesus’ entire mission could hinge on what memories, message and instructions he leaves behind. What is the single most important instruction or act in the final hours of his life as he bids farewell to his beloved friends?
I try to imagine his feelings in that Upper Room, to understand the extraordinary chain of events and His command “Love one another as I have loved you”.
He has worked with these disciples, loves each in a different way . He has planned a very special ‘passover’ meal, made preparations well in advance. It will also be his own ‘passover’.
Judas: who he knows will betray him – yet he does not leave him out of the farewell meal. Rather, looks at him with love and understanding – “Go and do what you have to do.”
Peter: Jesus knows that Peter is weak and cannot be relied on as a friend in times of trouble, yet He draws him close for the final hours in the garden; looks with compassion on his weakness. Peter, you will deny me three times. Left unspoken – I still love you. I have still chosen you to lead my flock.
Power hungry “materialistic” apostles: who just before the meal were arguing about who would hold the most favoured position. Perhaps they were following Jesus for some personal benefits. Yet He loved them and gathered them close in those final hours.
Perhaps the only ones not included in that circle of love that night were the “self righteous ones” – the Pharisees who followed the letter of the law. All the others were there:
- Simon the Zealot – the political agitator against Rome.
- The tax collector who betrayed his people to the Roman authorities;
- The apostles on the periphery , those we do not hear much about;
- Also Thomas – the one who was forever doubting and wanting proof – someone much like me who wants to see and touch with my own eyes and hands.
What a motley crowd Jesus chose to love and impart his mission to 🙂
How could he express his love for them before he leaves? On the morrow, they will be confused, empty, frightened. How could he reassure them of his continuing love? How would we react if we were with our loved ones in our final hour?
Acts of love, words of love, pour out of Him that night. Surely it should be called the night of love?
They have walked in to the party with dusty feet yet no-one volunteered to wash their feet, as traditionally done by the servant of the household. Here is an opportunity to express love instead of bickering about prestige and position. Jesus takes up a basin and tenderly washes their feet. Then he gently advises them :
No slave is greater than his master; and no messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know this truth how happy you will be if you practice it.
“Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples.”
There are other words he speaks – all of them are words of guidance, direction, comfort, hope, consolation. He can’t give them enough. They are words spoken by someone bidding farewell. Listen carefully :
You cannot go where I am going. Later you will follow me.
Do not be worried and upset.
Believe in God and believe in me also.
There are many rooms in my Fathers house.
But Lord – We do not know how to get there ?
I am the Way the Truth and the life. No one goes to the Father except by me.
If you love me you will obey my commandments.
His final words all carried nuances of love.
Love one another as I have loved you.
A branch cannot bear fruit by itself; It can only do so if it remains on the vine.
My Father’s glory is shown by you bearing much fruit.
The greatest love a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them.
You did not choose me, I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the fruit that endures.
His prayer was filled with love.
Father I want them to be ONE JUST AS YOU AND I ARE ONE.
He knew it was not going to be easy and so he promised to send the Helper to stay with the. (With us!). And he went one step further to assure them he would not abandon them : whatever you ask of the Father in my name he will grant you.
And he yet again entreated : Remain in me; remain in my love.
The group of twelve amazingly managed to remain in his love; to let the world know that they were disciples of love by the love that they showed one another. They went out from that Upper Room and changed the world with that one commandment – “Love one another as I have loved you.”
It is not easy. It takes practice. But it has to be done. Jesus did not issue an invitation to love. He issued a command. “Love as I have done.” Dying so that others might live is another consequence of following this Man who set crazy, impossible standards.
The question is : Do we follow him in this manner?
The test of discipleship is hard if not impossible. Yet, if you ask almost anyone how to become a good pianist, seamstress, painter, or tennis player, the answer is always the same: PRACTICE!
Similarly with discipleship We have to work at it, practice and nurture it by means of grace until we learn to love one another as he has loved us.
The ‘night of love’, and the Sacrament of Love, has made this possible.
Credit: picture extracted and modified from utube video link above.
Bible quotes : majority from John 13 – 17.