The Importance of Community

The Final Week of Jesus 2020: Day 3

Yesterday, we asked the question: If you knew you only had a few days left to live, what would you do? This is the question Jesus was facing. He knew He only had a few short days left until He went to the cross. As we look at the events that unfolded during His final week, it becomes clear what Jesus valued in this world: His followers and His community. We have already seen how Jesus cared for His followers, acting both as guide and protective Father. Today, we get a better understanding of just how important relationships were (and are!) to Jesus.

The Greatest Commandment

During His final days, the religious leaders continued to test Jesus and question Him. In Matthew 22, an expert in the law crafted a question that should stump the self-proclaimed Savior: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36) He may have been an expert in the Law of Moses, but that doesn’t trump Jesus, the guy who actually created it! Normally, Jesus would answer a question with a question of His own. Not this time.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ -Matthew 22:37-39

If you listen to the One Verse Devotional podcast, you know Jesus is quoting Scripture. Specifically, Jesus is reciting one of the high, holy prayers of the Jewish people: The Shema. It’s found in Deuteronomy 6. Jesus used the law to shut down this “expert” in the law. As my son would say… Savage!

Jesus gave us what He considers to be the two greatest commandments, and what do they say? Love God, love people. The two greatest commandments are all about building deep relationship with God and loving relationships with people. Yes, these are commands. They are rules. But buried deep within these commandments is the potential to develop God-inspired relationships.

The Last Supper

The Last Supper is one of the greatest examples of Jesus’s desire for community and deep relationships. During their time in the Upper Room, Jesus and His followers experience several moments of relational intimacy together.

The disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’” -Matthew 26:17-18

During the Passover, every Jewish citizen would celebrate Passover. This was the last opportunity for Jesus to spend time with the ones who were closest to Him. This fact was not lost on Jesus. As you read the different accounts of that evening in the Gospels, it’s obvious that Jesus was creating a special event none of them would ever forget.

As they celebrated the Passover meal, Jesus took the bread and the cup, gave thanks, and gave us communion. Jesus gave us an opportunity to commune with Him. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word, commune, as being able to communicate intimately. One of the final acts of Jesus on this earth was to give us the ability to communicate deeply and intimately with Him.

As soon as He finished communion, the Gospel of John tells us that Jesus…

“got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” -John 13:4-5

Surely, the disciples would never forget this evening. As if communion wasn’t special enough, Jesus adds another layer of relationship and intimacy. In an extreme act of humility, the Master Jesus takes the role of servant and washes the dirt, filth, and manure from the feet of His disciples. Jesus taught a valuable lesson that night: True Love serves.

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. -John 13:14-15

This wasn’t a one-time event. Jesus is passing on the power of intimate community to us. He calls us to love and serve each other. Jesus shows us that relationships, both with God and with each other, are the most important elements of life.

Family and Friends

It’s easy to think of Jesus as a loner. Yes, He had the disciples, but wasn’t Jesus the constant teacher, always slightly away from the group? He was so far ahead of the disciples, wouldn’t it be hard for Him to relate to them? I think the exact opposite is true. I’ve often wondered how amazing those nights, traveling in the wilderness, would have been. I love camping, so one of my favorite images is Jesus and the disciples sitting around the fire after a long day of teaching. You won’t find that verse in the Bible, but these were a bunch of men walking around the countryside and half of them were fishermen. I’m sure they had some amazing meals over a warm fire!

During the final week of Jesus, we also see how much Jesus valued His earthly friends and family. Yes, Jesus had friends! Not only did He have the twelve, He also had His “inner three” disciples. And John referred to Himself in His Gospel as the one whom Jesus loved. John could be considered the best friend of Jesus while He was on this earth. Outside of His disciples, Jesus also valued His friendship with Mary, Martha, and their brother, Lazarus. Yes, the same Lazarus Jesus raised from the dead! They lived in Bethany, which happens to be the very place Jesus spent most of His nights during His final week on this earth.

“He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night. – Matthew 21:17

On at least two separate occasions, Jesus traveled from Jerusalem to Bethany during this week to stay the night. We don’t know for certain where He stayed, but it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to assume it was with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Once again, as He faced His final days on earth, Jesus spends it with His closest community.

One of the most heart-wrenching scenes of the crucifixion comes from the Gospel of John. We are familiar with the torture that Jesus had to endure, but I’m thankful that John included this story in his account of Jesus’ death. Jesus is hanging on the cross, in severe pain for all to see, when John writes:

Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. -John 19:25-27

As Jesus hung on the cross, He carried the weight of humanity. He was the perfect sacrifice, born to die for every person who has ever lived. Yet, in that moment of salvation, He was still a son. Jesus looked up and saw His mother. With the weight of our sin on His shoulders, Jesus made sure His mom would be taken care of. He looked at John (remember: best friend. The one whom Jesus loved) and charged him with the care of Mary, His mother. As I’m writing this, my eyes are getting misty #truth

Jesus isn’t a Savior who keeps His distance. While He was on this earth, He was intimately connected to His family and friends. He valued relationships and deep community. This was never more evident than in His final week before going to the cross.

The same is true today. Jesus still values relationship and community. He even told us in John 14 that He is going to prepare a place for us. Why? So we can be with Him in perfect community.

Reflection: 

  • How are you engaging with God in deeper relationship and community?
  • How are you developing relationships with people through servant love?

 

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