THE TENDERNESS OF JESUS
How tender Jesus was towards them in His last hours with them! His language betrayed His feelings – sorrowful, compassionate, and protective. Look at the way He spoke to them. John 14-17 is full of His tender tones. He was aware that they had not grasped the implication of His many warnings that He was going to suffer and die at the hands of the religious leaders. Their ears and their understanding were closed until after the resurrection.
They would feel abandoned when He was torn from them and nailed to a cross. This was not how it was supposed to be. They had each other, but of what use was that when their rabbi was gone – dead and buried.
He reassured them, time and again that this was not the end.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me . . . I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am. (John 14: 1; 3b)
This was much bigger than they ever imagined. He was not just any rabbi about to leave them unexpectedly. He was Jesus, their Messiah, the Son of God, and what He said had huge implications for them and for their future. They needed to understand that this was only a part of the process that was going somewhere, and they were an integral part of it.
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14: 18)
What did that mean to them? Jesus had spoken often of the Father. They knew that God was His Father, but what about them? He had often taught them that God was their Father. They were to address Him as Father in their prayers. But, at the same time, it was Jesus who represented the Father to them. What would happen when He was no longer there? Would they lose the sense of God’s acceptance of them as His sons? Would they once again feel like orphans?
Jesus read their hearts. They needed to know that, even if He went away, He would not leave them fatherless. He would send one who would take His place and do what He did. The Holy Spirit would be in them to reassure them that they were the true sons of the Father, no matter what.
For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ (Rom. 8: 15)
He knew that they could not handle any more teaching. By this time they were bewildered by their circumstances and beyond absorbing what Jesus had to tell them. He would first allow them to get over the shock of His sudden arrest and the terrible things that would happen to Him, and His even more shocking resurrection. He assured them that the Holy Spirit who was coming in His place, would pick up where He left off and take them on beyond where they were at that moment in their understanding.
I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on His own; He will only speak what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. (John 16: 12-14)
Jesus understood their human frailty. He rebuked them for sleeping while He was agonising in the Garden of Gethsemane. He had asked them to stay awake and keep watch while He prayed but instead, they fell asleep. Who could blame them? It was late at night. They had just eaten the Passover meal and drunk wine. They had been through an emotional “wringer’, with Jesus saying and doing things that made no sense to them.
They saw their Master in deep emotional agony, serious, urgent, agitated, but they could not figure out what it was about. They did not understand the significance of the moment. So they went to sleep. Hadn’t Jesus many times gone off alone to pray while they took the opportunity to catch a nap? So what was so different about this time? They had no idea what awaited Him or them, in the next few hours.
But His sharp rebuke was followed by tender words.
Then He returned to His disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Could you men not watch with me for one hour?’ He asked Peter. ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing but the body is weak.’ (Matt. 26: 40-41)
It’s almost as if He were saying, “I understand, guys, that you are tired. I know that your intentions were good but your flesh caved in. But, at a time like this you need to stay awake because the time for testing is on us. It’s not the time to sleep now.”
“Tenderness is what happens to you when you know you are deeply and sincerely liked by someone. If you communicate to me that you like me, not just love me as a brother in Christ, you open up to me the possibility of self-respect, self-esteem and wholesome self-love.” (Brennan Manning, The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus, Ch. 1, page 25).
In Jesus, the disciples found not only one who loved them, but one who liked them, enjoyed their company, loved their banter, wanted to be with them, dealt gently with them, understood their weakness, believed in them, stood by them, rooted for them and, in the end, gave His life for them.
Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15: 13-14)
Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
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