We are more than half way through Holy Week. Jesus has made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem; the disciples are with Him and now we are at Thursday night – the Last Supper. This was the last time that Jesus would eat with His disciples until He returned after the resurrection. Good Friday, the day of the crucifixion, is tomorrow. And then the glory of Easter on Sunday. But tonight, it’s a different story.
We don’t know what the disciples were thinking. Perhaps that they were about to celebrate the Passover with Jesus. But I doubt that they realized the solemnity of the occasion. Jesus had different plans for them. After all, the apostles had followed Jesus for three years, observing Him and learning from Him. But they still didn’t really GET it. And yet, here they were.
Jesus knew it was the last time that they would be together. What was going through the mind of Jesus? It seems that He was taking this last opportunity to teach them a final lesson – the capstone of His teaching. And all kinds of things happened that evening that none of them could have ever predicted.
We have all learned about Jesus washing the feet of the disciples after removing his outer robe and placing a towel around His waist. Peter couldn’t bear the thought of having his feet watched by Jesus, but eventually relented when Jesus told him it must be so… there’s a lesson here.
And then there was the first communion. Jesus broke the bread, symbolizing the broken body of Christ, then followed it by the passing of the wine – representing the blood of Jesus. Almost every Christ follower has celebrated this ritual many times. Whether you think of it as the Last Supper, the Eucharist, Communion or some other term, we all know this sacrament first occurred at the Last Supper.
But Jesus wasn’t done there – no, far from it. He went on to deliver a message on the true vine and the branches. He talked about producing fruit and implored the disciples to abide in Him. That means to “remain” in Jesus. He also taught on the coming ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, after Jesus departed and returned to the Father. This was pretty much the first time that the apostles had heard of the Holy Spirit, but Jesus wasn’t about to let this opportunity pass.
And then, Jesus prayed. No only for the disciples or for Himself, but for all future believers. In other words, Jesus prayed for us – Christians living today were mentioned in a prayer that Jesus prayed 2000 years ago. That just seems remarkable to me! We were, in some small way, part of the original Last Supper!
So what were the final instructions of Jesus to his beloved disciples? Well, that they were to serve one another, demonstrated by the washing of feet. And that they were to love one another as He had loved them. But there was more. Jesus wanted them to remain connected to Him – because apart from Him they couldn’t accomplish anything. This was demonstrated in the teaching about the vine and the branches. By the way, Jesus tells them to “remain” in Him 10 times in this section of His teaching.
And then… Jesus introduces the ministry of the Holy Spirit who will come after Jesus has left. Finally, Jesus talks about unity and the fact that He and the Father are One. He wants believers to be unified and to act as ambassadors of Christ to the world. What a complex lesson Jesus taught that evening. And to think that the disciples thought they were just going to have a nice quiet dinner together. But if you stand back a bit and think about it, the evening of the Last Supper represented the final lessons and instructions of Jesus to the disciples. The culmination of three years of teaching came this evening.
So here we are, more than 20 centuries later, still learning about Jesus from the lessons that He taught that evening. Tonight’s verse is from the apostle John. He was there at the Last Supper and decades after the event, John memorialized his recollections in the Gospel that bears his name. John was the one who recorded the words of Jesus as they pertain to us today. He tells us, in John 17:20-23, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
My encouragement this evening is that Jesus is alive and active in our everyday lives. My prayer is that we may all study the words of Jesus and realize that His message was not just for those around Him at the time, but for all believers through all eternity. He wants us to remember to produce fruit, remain in Him, to love one another and to be in unity with one another. That’s a tall order from our Savior, but we have His help. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…