The love of Jesus for people is repeatedly illustrated in scripture,
but he had a special bond with the small group of brothers who he
trained and sent out into the world to lay the foundation for the
Besieged by huge crowds who had heard of His miraculous works, He
seldom asked questions before healing the sick, the blind, the deaf,
along with lepers and paralytics.
Jairus came, asking for help for his daughter, near death. She was
healed. The woman with the hemorrhage for years simply touched his
robe and the power flowed out of Him and stanched the flow.
The centurion asked for aid for his ailing servant and it was done.
Jesus gave sight to a blind man and in what would seem to be mystifying
told him not to tell anyone of the miracle, as if a person with
new sight could keep it a secret from family and friends.
Singly and in large groups they came, sometimes the curious just
to see the show and hear power-preaching and others with the plaintive,
"Jesus, Master, help me, help mine." He gave them not
only love and the message of salvation but the very healing they
needed to bring relief and hope to themselves or loved ones.
Jesus' healing love washed over the poor, the halt, the lame. Sometimes
they had faith in Him and found cures. Others he healed without
any indication they believed but it seems they would have had to
after they marveled at the sound bodies where serious defects prevailed
Jesus' love came from the Father and pointed to repentance, faith,
baptism and redemption--eternity with Him and other believers.
But as much as Jesus loved all people, He had a special fondness
and love for his immediate disciples--a unique relationship, tempered
and molded by living together, united as they banged up against
the hard doors of life.
These close followers were his cronies. They had special ties that
people develop over years of getting to know each other almost as
well as they know themselves, although they had only three years
together before they dispersed to spread the Gospel.
What were some of the special signs of love that Jesus had for his
intimates? He wanted them around. He was jealous of their companionship.
They shared in His sorrows and in His achievements.
Jesus and His followers were invited to the wedding feast at Cana.
Where He went, they went. He was proud of them, he enjoyed their
stories, the rundown on their day, the good and the bad.
He wanted, even needed them, just as we covet the companionship
and support of those we love. He even relished the blundering, gruff,
rambunctious style and peasant personality of the "Big Fisherman,"
the man called Peter who was to play such a great role as Jesus'
top-kick. Peter, maybe a top sergeant then, was to become the five-star
general of the Jesus army, the church.
We don't know specifically whether Jesus knew beforehand that He
would perform his first public miracle at Cana. That was a miracle
that invoked wonder, awe and glory--and the first time His power
shined publicly. Certainly it must have caused quite a stir among
his compatriots. They must have been glad they were in His throng.
But Christ's closest friends were also there when He visited his
hometown of Nazareth. When He read from the Torah in the synagogue
and revealed He was the Messiah, the villagers who should have admired
and been stunned with awe, disparaged Him instead: "Isn't this
the son of Mary and Joseph and don't his sisters and brothers live
here?" Their eyes were blind to the reality of the King of
heaven and earth in their presence.
At Cana, power and amazement. At Nazareth, a putdown, perhaps embarrassment
and certainly disappointment: "Local boy is a false prophet."
Yet Jesus chose to have His best friends there when he bombed in
his hometown. His mother Mary must have shed some tears that could
be regarded as the precursor of those at the cross where her son
hung mortally wounded in body and heart. When dying, how He must
have wished that His friends could be there to give Him at least
scant comfort, but virtually all had fled in terror, as did Peter
who denied Him three times as Jesus had prophesied.
Even in discouraging times, He saw something wonderful in His people.
He gave deeply and unstintingly. He loved them exactly as they were.
On the other hand, Jesus expected a lot from his followers: deprivation,
sacrifice to the point that virtually all died loyal to their faith.
Luke Nine tells us that he called the twelve together and gave them
power ordinary men had not had up to that point. And He sent them
out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. So they went from
village to village, scripture says, "proclaiming the Good News
and healing everywhere."
Like a responsible leader, or even a conscientious father, Jesus
checked up on their accomplishments. Luke Nine, Verse Ten says,
"On their return, the apostles gave Him an account of all they
The cohesiveness of this little band could only have been forged
by the warm, loving concern Jesus lavished on His fortunate cohort.
They trekked long distances on foot through the dusty roads of Palestine
to towns like Samaria, Jerusalem and Jericho or sailed in fishing
boats on the Sea of Galilee. All the while, Jesus was imparting
His gifts of wisdom and knowledge and love and all that He later
confirmed through the Holy Spirit.
Sometimes they would withdraw from the thousands of people and the
hectic, tiresome grind it must have been at times in the enervating
hot climate of the Middle East.
Although busy in ministry, they would spend some quiet time together.
During one respite scripture informs us, Jesus "took them with
Him and withdrew to a town called Bethsaida where they could be
During these sessions, there must have been some revelry and joyous
occasions. They worked, too, on learning, Jesus teaching and the
apostles going through an educational process. He was laying the
foundation for a church that would exist for thousands of years.
Sometimes they worked on petitions to the Father, with prayer meetings.
It was an important element of their relationships. At times, Jesus
was the prayer leader. In a verse of Luke we encounter the phrase:
"One day, He was praying alone in the midst of His disciples."
Through personal example, Jesus was stressing the power and necessity
In John 17, He interceded with the Father for His closest followers,
joining his prayer with theirs, another indication of the unity
of His love for the apostles and of their love for Him and the Father.
Jesus prayed for those the Father had given Him. And in His great
pledge that has great significance for Gentiles, He adds:
"I pray not only for these
"But for those also
"Who through their words
"Will believe in Me.
"May they all be one.
"Father, may they be one in us,
"As You are in Me
"And I am in You."
Jesus proved to be the "Bridge Over Troubled Water,"
the lasting link of love that binds us--just as it did his colleagues
then--to the Father.
The love Jesus had for his little community was unlimited, as we
would expect in our God, although Jesus, being human also, could
also love as a man. A beautiful example comes in John 13, before
the Passover festival. Jesus wraps a towel around His waist and
washes His apostles feet, a very lowly task for a Jew, much less
the Messiah, the "I AM" of the Old Testament.
Peter puts him off; Jesus insists, Peter goes the extra mile: "Lord,
not only my feet but my hands and my head." And Jesus urges
upon His friends, and upon us, that same sort of humility and service
and promises, "happiness will be yours if you behave accordingly."
He emphasizes an important lesson: that dramatic, flamboyant, media-blitz
actions don't find favor with Him. It's the behind-the-scenes service
to others that counts. As John says, "He showed how perfect
His love was for those who were His in the world."
And in a message of all-consuming love, later fulfilled in the cross,
Jesus refers to "My little chidren," saying:
"I give you a new commandment:
"Love one another;
"Just as I have loved you,
"You must also love one another.
"By this love you have for one another
"Everyone will know
"That you are my disciples."
The dimensions of Jesus' love for His inner circle were amply
demonstrated at the final dinner before he perished on the cross.
As the liturgical language for the Eucharistic feast we indulge
in today says, "He always loved those who were His own, and
before He died He showed the depth of His love."
He would soon depart from his followers physically in a horrible,
degrading death that would test their faith. And so He left them
a part of Himself. It was as intimate, yet as mysterious, a gift
of any heritage that the God-man Jesus could bestow: His "body"
and His "blood."
We can't really comprehend it. Like other issues concerning God,
the bottom line is a matter of faith, not necessarily understanding
in human terms for God's ways "are higher than your ways and
My thoughts than your thoughts," as the prophet Isaiah puts
it in Chapter 55.
At that last supper, Jesus' prayer was put simply but beautifully
over two very popular commodities, bread and wine. His sacred words
described them in that 2,000-year-old liturgical event as His body
and the cup of salvation, His blood, and ordained this commemorative
event to be continued down through the ages.
Is there any indication that this largely illiterate and disparate
band of occasionally quarrelsome disciples knew what Jesus was about
at the time? It's doubtful. To them it must have been another of
those "hard sayings" He expounded at times.
It very well could have been regarded as a standard Passover meal
with an extra flourish to make them scratch their heads. Their perplexing
leader often acted in ways beyond their comprehension.
It wasn't until Jesus breathed forth the Holy Spirit upon them that
they better understood what had taken place. Luke 24:45 explains:
"He opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures."
Thanks to the missionary outreach for which Jesus had trained them,
Christianity exploded in the Jewish community and across the pagan
world. Word spread of the magnificence and significance of the Messiah,
who had graced Palestine and the spiritual citadel of Jerusalem,
the cradle of the Jewish and Christian faiths. (Islam had not yet
The consecration of the bread and wine was another act of perfect
love by Jesus, just as His death on the cross proclaimed his love
for followers and the whole fabric of mankind.
The partaking of the bread and wine in common in the context of
His death and resurrection became a hallmark for His community.
To this day, we share in the grace of His sacrament of love and
commemoration, just as His chosen few did that night before he was
insulted, rejected, tortured and slain as an atonement for the sins
As another mark of loyalty to His own, Jesus gave priority to reuniting
with them after His resurrection. He could have appeared at Herod's
palace or at the residence of political leaders or even the temple
to disprove the Sanhedrin responsible for his death and say, "This
proves I AM God."
But no, He chooses to once again greet his warmest friends, such
as the plucky women who remained with Him at the cross as He suffered.
During those final days before His resurrection, he decided to have
a rural breakfast of fresh fish with two of his companions. He met,
too, at the Upper Room with fearful disciples, making sure that
"Doubting Thomas" was there to check out His wounds.
It seems that He wanted to show clearly the durability and divine
character of his mission. Like friends and family members who deeply
love each other, in final hours before His ascension to the Father,
He not only bid goodbye but pledged to return in the final days
of our world. In the interim, He would not forget them and leave
them "as orphans."
The love of Jesus: constant; everlasting, blanketing His band of
believers then and Christians today.
As Paul observes in 1 Corinthians 13, showing us "the most
excellent way": "Love always protects, always trusts,
always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."
And he concludes the chapter by declaring, "Now these three
remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."