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“To Know the Love of the Christ”

“To Know the Love of the Christ”

1-3. (a) What moved Jesus to want to be like his Father? (b) What facets of Jesus’ love will we examine?

 HAVE you ever seen a little boy trying to be like his father? The son may imitate the way his father walks, talks, or acts. In time, the boy may even absorb his father’s moral and spiritual values. Yes, the love and admiration that a son feels for a loving father moves the boy to want to be like his dad.

2 What about the relationship between Jesus and his heavenly Father? “I love the Father,” Jesus said on one occasion. (John 14:31) No one can possibly love Jehovah more than this Son, who was with the Father long before any other creatures came into existence. That love moved this devoted Son to want to be like his Father.​—John 14:9.

3 In earlier chapters of this book, we discussed how Jesus perfectly imitated Jehovah’s power, justice, and wisdom. How, though, did Jesus reflect his Father’s love? Let us examine three facets of Jesus’ love​—his self-sacrificing spirit, his tender compassion, and his willingness to forgive.

“No One Has Love Greater Than This”

4. How did Jesus set the greatest human example of self-sacrificing love?

4 Jesus set an outstanding example of self-sacrificing love. Self-sacrifice involves unselfishly putting the needs and concerns of others ahead of our own. How did Jesus demonstrate such love? He himself explained: “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his life in behalf of his friends.” (John 15:13) Jesus willingly gave his perfect life for us. It was the greatest expression of love ever made by any human. But Jesus showed self-sacrificing love in other ways as well.

5. Why was leaving the heavens a loving sacrifice on the part of God’s only-begotten Son?

5 In his prehuman existence, the only-begotten Son of God had a privileged and exalted position in the heavens. He had intimate association with Jehovah and with multitudes of spirit creatures. Despite these personal advantages, this dear Son “emptied himself and took a slave’s form and became human.” (Philippians 2:7) He willingly came to live among sinful humans in a world “lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) Was that not a loving sacrifice on the part of God’s Son?

6, 7. (a) In what ways did Jesus show self-sacrificing love during his earthly ministry? (b) What touching example of unselfish love is recorded at John 19:25-27?

6 Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus showed self-sacrificing love in various ways. He was totally unselfish. He was so absorbed in his ministry that he sacrificed normal comforts to which humans are accustomed. “Foxes have dens and birds of heaven have nests,” he said, “but the Son of man has nowhere to lay down his head.” (Matthew 8:20) Being a skilled carpenter, Jesus could have taken some time off to build a comfortable home for himself or to make beautiful furniture to sell so that he would have had some extra money. But he did not use his skills to gain material things.

7 A truly touching example of Jesus’ self-sacrificing love is recorded at John 19:25-27. Imagine the many things that must have occupied the mind and heart of Jesus on the afternoon of his death. As he suffered on the stake, he was concerned about his disciples, the preaching work, and especially his integrity and how it would reflect on his Father’s name. Really, the entire future of mankind rested on his shoulders! Yet, just moments before he died, Jesus also showed concern for his mother, Mary, who was apparently a widow by then. Jesus asked the apostle John to look after Mary as if she were John’s own mother, and the apostle thereafter took Mary to his home. Jesus thus arranged for the physical and spiritual care of his mother. What a tender expression of unselfish love!

“He Was Moved With Pity”

8. What is the meaning of the Greek word that the Bible uses to describe the compassion of Jesus?

8 Like his Father, Jesus was compassionate. The Scriptures describe Jesus as one who reached out to those in distress because he was deeply moved. To describe the compassion of Jesus, the Bible uses a Greek word that is rendered “moved with pity.” Says one scholar: “It describes . . . an emotion which moves a man to the very depths of his being. It is the strongest word in Greek for the feeling of compassion.” Consider some situations in which Jesus was moved by a deep compassion that compelled him to act.

9, 10. (a) What circumstances caused Jesus and his apostles to seek out a quiet place? (b) When his privacy was disturbed by a crowd, how did Jesus react, and why?

9 Moved to respond to spiritual needs. The account at Mark 6:30-34 shows what principally moved Jesus to express his pity. Picture the scene. The apostles were excited, for they had just completed an extensive preaching tour. They returned to Jesus and eagerly reported all that they had seen and heard. But a large crowd gathered, leaving Jesus and his apostles no time even to eat. Ever observant, Jesus noticed that the apostles were tired. “Come, you yourselves, privately into an isolated place and rest up a little,” he told them. Boarding a boat, they sailed across the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee to a quiet place. But the crowd saw them leave. Others also heard about it. All of these ran along the northern shoreline and arrived on the other side ahead of the boat!

10 Was Jesus upset that his privacy was disturbed? Not at all! His heart was touched by the sight of this crowd, numbering in the thousands, who awaited him. Mark wrote: “He saw a large crowd, and he was moved with pity for them, because they were as sheep without a shepherd. And he started to teach them many things.” Jesus saw these people as individuals having spiritual needs. They were like sheep straying helplessly, having no shepherd to guide or protect them. Jesus knew that the common people were neglected by the coldhearted religious leaders, who were supposed to be caring shepherds. (John 7:47-49) His heart went out to the people, so he began teaching them “about the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:11) Notice that Jesus was moved with pity for the people even before seeing their reaction to what he would teach. In other words, tender compassion was, not the result of his teaching the crowd, but rather the motive for his doing so.

“He stretched out his hand and touched him”

11, 12. (a) How were lepers regarded in Bible times, but how did Jesus respond when he was approached by a man “full of leprosy”? (b) How might Jesus’ touch have affected the leper, and how does the experience of one doctor illustrate this?

11 Moved to relieve suffering. People with various ailments sensed that Jesus had compassion, so they were drawn to him. This was especially evident when Jesus, with crowds following him, was approached by a man “full of leprosy.” (Luke 5:12) In Bible times, lepers were quarantined so as to protect others from contamination. (Numbers 5:1-4) In time, however, rabbinic leaders fostered a heartless view of leprosy and imposed their own oppressive rules. a Notice, though, how Jesus responded to the leper: “There also came to him a leper, pleading with him even on bended knee, saying to him: ‘If you just want to, you can make me clean.’ At that he was moved with pity, and he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him: ‘I want to! Be made clean.’ Immediately the leprosy vanished from him.” (Mark 1:40-42) Jesus knew that it was unlawful for the leper even to be there. Yet, instead of turning him away, Jesus was so deeply moved that he did something unthinkable. Jesus touched him!

12 Can you imagine what that touch meant to the leper? To illustrate, consider an experience. Dr. Paul Brand, a leprosy specialist, tells of a leper he treated in India. During the examination, the doctor laid his hand on the leper’s shoulder and explained, through an interpreter, the treatment that the man would have to undergo. Suddenly, the leper began to weep. “Have I said something wrong?” the doctor asked. The interpreter questioned the young man in his language and replied: “No, doctor. He says he is crying because you put your hand around his shoulder. Until he came here no one had touched him for many years.” For the leper who approached Jesus, being touched had even greater meaning. Following that one touch, the disease that had made him an outcast was gone!

13, 14. (a) What procession did Jesus meet when approaching the city of Nain, and what made this an especially sad situation? (b) Jesus’ compassion moved him to take what action in behalf of the widow of Nain?

13 Moved to dispel grief. Jesus was deeply moved by the grief of others. Consider, for example, the account at Luke 7:11-15. It took place when, about halfway through his ministry, Jesus approached the outskirts of the Galilean city of Nain. As Jesus got near the gate of the city, he met a funeral procession. The circumstances were especially tragic. A young man who had been an only son had died, and the mother was a widow. Once before, she had likely been in such a procession​—that of her husband. This time it was her son, who perhaps had been her only support. The crowd accompanying her may have included additional mourners chanting lamentations and musicians playing mournful tunes. (Jeremiah 9:17, 18; Matthew 9:23) Jesus’ gaze, however, became fixed on the grief-stricken mother, no doubt walking near the bier that carried the body of her son.

14 Jesus “was moved with pity” for the bereaved mother. In a reassuring tone, he said to her: “Stop weeping.” Unbidden, he approached and touched the bier. The bearers​—and perhaps the rest of the crowd—​came to a halt. With the voice of authority, Jesus spoke to the lifeless body: “Young man, I say to you, get up!” What happened next? “The dead man sat up and started to speak” as if awakened from a deep sleep! Then follows a most touching statement: “And Jesus gave him to his mother.”

15. (a) The Bible accounts about Jesus’ being moved with pity show what connection between compassion and action? (b) How can we imitate Jesus in this regard?

15 What do we learn from these accounts? In each case, notice the connection between compassion and action. Jesus could not see the plight of others without being moved with pity, and he could not feel such compassion without acting on it. How can we follow his example? As Christians, we have an obligation to preach the good news and to make disciples. Primarily, we are motivated by love for God. Let us remember, though, that this is also a work of compassion. When we feel for people as Jesus did, our heart will move us to do all we can to share the good news with them. (Matthew 22:37-39) What about showing compassion to fellow believers who are suffering or grieving? We cannot miraculously cure physical suffering or raise the dead. However, we can put compassion into action by taking the initiative to express our concern or provide appropriate practical help.​—Ephesians 4:32.

“Father, Forgive Them”

16. How was Jesus’ willingness to forgive evident even when he was on the torture stake?

16 Jesus perfectly reflected his Father’s love in another important way​—he was “ready to forgive.” (Psalm 86:5) This willingness was evident even when he was on the torture stake. Subjected to a shameful death, with nails piercing his hands and feet, what did Jesus speak about? Did he call out to Jehovah to punish his executioners? On the contrary, among Jesus’ last words were: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”​—Luke 23:34. b

17-19. In what ways did Jesus demonstrate that he forgave the apostle Peter for denying him three times?

17 Perhaps an even more touching example of Jesus’ forgiveness can be seen in the way he dealt with the apostle Peter. There is no question that Peter dearly loved Jesus. On Nisan 14, the final night of Jesus’ life, Peter told him: “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Yet, just a few hours later, Peter three times denied even knowing Jesus! The Bible tells us what happened as Peter uttered his third denial: “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.” Crushed by the weight of his sin, Peter “went outside and wept bitterly.” When Jesus died later that day, the apostle may well have wondered, ‘Did my Lord forgive me?’​—Luke 22:33, 61, 62.

18 Peter did not have to wait long for an answer. Jesus was resurrected on the morning of Nisan 16, and evidently on that same day, he made a personal visit to Peter. (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:4-8) Why did Jesus give such special attention to the apostle who had so vigorously denied him? Jesus may have wanted to assure the repentant Peter that he was still loved and valued by his Lord. But Jesus did even more to reassure Peter.

19 Some time later, Jesus appeared to the disciples at the Sea of Galilee. On this occasion, Jesus three times questioned Peter (who had three times denied his Lord) as to Peter’s love for him. After the third time, Peter replied: “Lord, you are aware of all things; you know that I have affection for you.” Indeed, Jesus, who could read hearts, was fully aware of Peter’s love and affection for him. Yet, Jesus gave Peter an opportunity to affirm his love. More than that, Jesus commissioned Peter to “feed” and “shepherd” his “little sheep.” (John 21:15-17) Earlier, Peter had received an assignment to preach. (Luke 5:10) But now, in a remarkable demonstration of trust, Jesus gave him a further weighty responsibility​—to care for those who would become Christ’s followers. Shortly afterward, Jesus gave Peter a prominent role in the activity of the disciples. (Acts 2:1-41) How relieved Peter must have been to know that Jesus had forgiven him and still trusted him!

Do You “Know the Love of the Christ”?

20, 21. How can we fully come “to know the love of the Christ”?

20 Truly, Jehovah’s Word beautifully describes the love of the Christ. How, though, should we respond to Jesus’ love? The Bible urges us “to know the love of the Christ, which surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:19) As we have seen, the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry teach us much about Christ’s love. However, fully coming “to know the love of the Christ” involves more than learning what the Bible says about him.

21 The Greek term rendered “to know” means to know “practically, through experience.” When we show love the way Jesus did​—unselfishly giving of ourselves in behalf of others, compassionately responding to their needs, forgiving them from our hearts—​then we can genuinely appreciate his feelings. In this way, by experience we come “to know the love of the Christ, which surpasses knowledge.” And let us never forget that the more we become like Christ, the closer we will draw to the one whom Jesus perfectly imitated, our loving God, Jehovah.

a Rabbinic rules stated that no one should come within four cubits (about six feet) (1.8 m) of a leper. But if a wind was blowing, the leper had to be kept at least 100 cubits (about 150 feet) (45 m) away. The Midrash Rabbah tells of one rabbi who hid from lepers and of another who threw stones at lepers to keep them away. Lepers thus knew the pain of rejection and the feeling of being despised and unwanted.

b The first part of Luke 23:34 is omitted from certain ancient manuscripts. However, because these words are found in many other authoritative manuscripts, they are included in the New World Translation and numerous other translations. Jesus was likely referring to the Roman soldiers who executed him. They did not know what they were doing; they were ignorant of who Jesus really was. He perhaps also had in mind Jews who called for his execution but would later put faith in him. (Acts 2:36-38) Of course, the religious leaders who instigated that execution were far more reprehensible, for they acted knowingly and maliciously. For many of them, no forgiveness was possible.​—John 11:45-53.