Summary: It was the last fews hours that Jesus had with his disciples. What did he emphasize to them during this last night before his death? What was most important for them to remember?
What Was on Jesus’ Mind?
April 5, 2009
We begin the observance with one of the most excellent times of the year in the Christian religious tradition: Holy Week. It begins with Palm Sunday (today) culminating in the celebration of the Easter season that begins next Sunday and lasts forty days. The kids paraded around earlier waving palm branches as part of this Palm Sunday celebration. We have a very special worship experience on Thursdays of Holy Week where we reenact some of the special moments in preparation for the remembrance of Good Friday—the day Jesus would die on the cross for us.
Here is the setting… it is the beginning of a holy Jewish celebration called Passover. Jesus is coming into Jerusalem to celebrate it as most righteous Jews (tsadiqs) would. But the people who heard the teachings of Jesus and saw the miracles that he performed anticipated the coming of God’s Kingdom in its fullness through Jesus. So they welcomed Jesus as a king. They welcomed Jesus as the Christ—the Messiah. They put him on a colt or donkey and put palm branches and coats on the road as he came into the city singing “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
On Thursday, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples, which is why followers of Jesus gather together all over the world for two thousand years for special times of worship. On Thursday evening, Jesus spent an extended amount of time giving some last instructions to his disciples. I’ve recently spent some considerable amount of time rereading all the gospel accounts. Luke gives a brief snippet of what Jesus taught on that Thursday evening while John provides us with four whole chapters of his teachings. There seems to be a theme that keeps coming up in John 14-17. Since this was Jesus’ last opportunity to pour into his disciples before he would be crucified, this is what Jesus deemed vitally important. It is what he didn’t want them to forget. It was one of the last things that Jesus had on his mind.
And as I looked at these teachings, I can see how sometimes we can get distracted from being what Jesus wants us to be. We sometimes do good stuff and wonderful ministry as Christians and as churches but we forget the primary stuff that Jesus emphasizes in John right at the end.
It is kind of like these two volunteer fire departments that I read about. In this area of Texas, the volunteer fire departments take pride in their ability to do a great job. They often are very competitive with nearby fire departments. Rivalries are common. Two departments often competed in training exercises where one would show how efficient they were to the other and vice versa. Of course, the rival would be watching for any and all mistakes. One afternoon, a drill was scheduled where an abandoned house would be set on fire and then the fire put out. The setting of the house on fire and the extinguishing of the fire had standards and regulations that were to be followed.
Both fire departments arrived as one watched the other watch the other flawlessly execute the setting and extinguishing of the fire. It was perfection. They nailed it! No mistakes in procedure even in the slightest. Everything was done in record time. Of course the performing fire department began immediately to brag to their rivals egging them on to top their flawless performance.
Suddenly the celebration ended when the owners of the house arrived. They were at the wrong house. They had followed all the details and were exceptionally efficient at their job except that they had missed their primary purpose by setting fire to the wrong house.
How often do we forget what it means to love God? How often do the people of God simply fail to focus on what is most important? Jesus understood this on the night before his crucifixion. This is why he didn’t talk about miracles and making sure that his disciples were going to teach the right doctrine or dogma. He focused on one thing: koinonia.
Throughout these four chapters of John, Jesus keeps coming back to this idea of koinonia. “Make them one.” “The world will know that we are his by the love that we show one another.” I think Jesus knows how easily we get distracted and Jesus knows what the most effective strategy of the devil to destroy the work of God: divide God’s people.
What Was on Jesus’ Mind? Koinonia
Jesus spends much of the other time describing what this looks like and what true koinonia looks like. As we prepare for to remember his crucifixion and prepare to celebrate Easter, we need to seriously consider this aspect. If Jesus placed this on such a high priority, then it seems to me that we should also be placing this as a priority if not the priority of our lives. So I have two aspects of this. First if his disciples are going to have this koinonia, which is a fellowship of love in the fullest sense, then Jesus says that we will be walking with God.