Have you ever noticed all the different ways Jesus loved his disciples?
If you were going to tell someone you loved them, what would you say? How would you say it? There are so many possibilities. Just saying the words, “I love you,” doesn’t always convey love does it?
It’s about the tone of voice, the circumstances, your facial expressions and body language, the sincerity in your heart. A lot more than just words goes into letting someone know you love them.
And if you were going to show someone you loved them, what would you do? To them? For them? With them? Again, there are lots of ways to show someone you love them, sometimes without even saying a word. Actions often express much more love than words ever could.
We all need love
The one thing we all need in life, more than anything else, is love. We need to love, and be loved, by others. We need to love God and experience God’s love for us. When this happens, when we love and feel loved, the challenges we face and the problems that pile up in our laps don’t seem quite so serious as they did before.
But a lot of people have a hard time loving. They have not felt the love of a parent or a friend, a teacher, a co-worker, a fellow church member. And sometimes folks think God is mad at them or is punishing them. They don’t feel His love. Sometimes they even don’t think they deserve it.
So how do we learn to love and be loved, more than we have in the past?
A request from a listener
Several weeks ago, I got an email from Sue, a regular listener to The Bible Speaks to You Podcast and she shared this after listening to a recent episode.
“I was struck by your mentioning again that Jesus told us to love one another as “I have loved you” – when he was addressing his disciples. I wondered if you might do a deep dive into ways in which Jesus showed love to his disciples.”
First, I want to thank Sue for making this request. And second, if there’s a topic you’d like me to talk about on The Bible Speaks to You Podcast please let me know. At the end of the episode I’ll share the best way to contact me.
So, how did Jesus love his disciples?
I’ve talked about this in bits and pieces in various episodes over the last three years. (Yes, it’s been three years that I’ve been doing this podcast.)
But today, thanks to Sue’s email, I’m going to focus specifically on some of the ways Jesus loved his disciples. And, spoiler alert, this means he’s giving us an example to follow.
Think for a minute of all the things Jesus said and did to and with his disciples. How did he talk to them? How did he treat them? How did he spend time with them? What did he do for them? What did he not do for them?
I think it would be safe to say, that everything Jesus said and did was an expression of love in one way or another. Why? Because Jesus was here on earth as a direct result of God’s love for all mankind. Jesus was, and is, the full expression of God’s infinite, impartial love for the whole world.
The very first Bible verse I ever memorized was
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 KJV
Jesus was the manifestation of God’s love
Since Jesus was the love of God for all mankind made manifest in the flesh, it’s pretty safe to conclude that everything Jesus did was an expression of God’s love for mankind.
And to be more specific, everything Jesus said or did with his disciples was an expression of love, not just his love for them, but God’s love them as well.
So let’s look at some examples of how Jesus’s words and actions revealed how he loved his disciples.
Jesus was true to himself
First and foremost, Jesus was true to himself and his purpose. He practiced what he preached. If he hadn’t, he couldn’t have accomplished what he did. Yes, this was being faithful to God, but it was also a demonstration of love to his disciples.
If Jesus had not been obedient to all God ordained him to do, his words would have been hollow and his actions superficial. It was a deep act of love for his disciples, and that includes you and me, for Jesus to live in obedience to his heavenly Father. It gave substance to everything he said and did.
Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for someone is to be who God made you to be. Be faithful to God and you will be able to express more love for someone else, even if you have to be firm with them or say “No” sometimes.
Jesus practiced what he preached
Remember when Jesus said,
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. Matthew 5:44 NKJV
What if Jesus had, at some point later in his ministry, told his disciples how much he hated the Pharisees? What effect would that have on them? What would that teach them? Would it bring clarity to his message or confusion? Especially since he had taught them earlier to love their enemies.
But the fact that he was true to his teachings, especially in private, was a great swelling of love being expressed, so that his disciples could see how to put his teachings into practice in their daily lives.
Jesus chose his disciples
Another way Jesus specifically showed love to his twelve disciples, was to choose them as apostles, which simply means in Greek, “messenger, or he that is sent.”
Here were these twelve ordinary guys, nobody special in the eyes of the world, but Jesus chose them, he valued them. He saw something in their hearts that he treasured. If you had been chosen as one of the twelve, wouldn’t you feel incredibly loved?
But that was just the beginning of how Jesus loved them.
Jesus taught his disciples
He taught them publicly and privately. There are several examples of this, especially when Jesus was telling his parables. He said to the crowds
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. Matthew 13:24, 25 KJV
You can read the whole parable in Matthew 13. Try to imagine how the crowd responded to this parable. They knew about tares and wheat and how the roots would become entangled so you couldn’t pull out the tares. But they probably didn’t get the deeper meaning of what this had to do with the kingdom of heaven. Not even the 12 disciples understood it.
Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. Matthew 13:36 KJV
And then Jesus proceeded to explain exactly what the parable meant. This was an act of love.
And again, I’ll point out, not just love for those twelve men in the privacy of someone’s house. It was in love for you and me, and the whole world. We have the record of that private little teaching moment and can continue to learn from it. Jesus was loving you and me at that very moment.
Jesus taught by example and gave them responsibility
Jesus also expressed love in the way he taught his disciples by his example.
I hinted at this with the idea of loving your enemies. But think about this in light of how the disciples witnessed Jesus preach the gospel and heal multitudes of people before he sent them out to do the same.
Hearing and seeing Jesus preach and heal was an act of love toward the disciples. It opened their hearts to what was possible and when Jesus sent them out to preach and heal, they were better prepared to believe they could do it.
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. Matthew 10:1 NIV
They knew it was possible because they had seen Jesus heal. When he gave them the authority or power to heal as he did, they were prepared. This was an act of love, the shepherd guiding his sheep.
And in this process, he sent them off two by two. In other words, he wasn’t with them. He gave them responsibility. He trusted them. This too was an act of love. How can you and I follow that example?
Jesus rebuked his disciples
One of the most important ways Jesus showed love for his disciples was when he rebuked them. This happened on more than one occasion.
One time Jesus was headed to Samaria but was not welcomed by folks there. James and John over reacted a bit.
And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”
But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village. Luke 9:54-56 NKJV
Jesus often rebuked the disciples’ lack of faith
For example, when he had been asleep on a boat filling with water in the middle of a fierce storm, the disciples woke him up and basically accused Jesus of not caring if they drowned.
After he stilled the storm,
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 4:40 NIV
I would imagine that before this incident on the stormy sea in a little fishing boat full of water, that the disciples thought they had a lot of faith. But for Jesus to ask why they were so afraid and if they still had not faith, is quite a rebuke.
I think Jesus was perhaps saying to them: “Hey look guys, you’ve seen me heal lots of people. I just fed 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. Did you honestly think God would not protect you and me during the storm. Where is your faith? Why didn’t you trust God more?”
This rebuke, along with all the times Jesus rebuked his disciples, was an act of love. It was a teaching moment. It was an opportunity to turn them more closely to God. That’s what they needed.
And again, there are lessons for us as well in these situations.
Jesus was patient
One of the most tender ways Jesus showed his love for his disciples was his incredible patience with them. He always answered their questions, and he dealt with their doubts and fears.
As I already mentioned, he explained the deeper meaning of the parables when they asked him. But especially as his ministry was coming to a close, the disciples had lots of questions. There was so much going on they just didn’t understand. Jesus knew this and was patient with them.
These three chapters along with Chapter 17 of John have some of the most powerful and poignant examples of the way Jesus loved his disciples.
Jesus prepared his disciples for what would happen
Jesus knew he would about to be crucified and resurrected, and that not too long after that he would depart this world. His disciples had been dependent on his personal presence for guidance and support during his ministry. But he was about to leave them.
So what is the loving thing to do in a situation like that? Jesus prepared them, as best as they could grasp it, that he would be crucified, that he would return, but then he would not be with them personally.
But the beauty of this moment is that he promises them they will have what they need. He will send the Comforter, or Advocate, the Spirit of Truth to guide them and remind them of everything he has taught them.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.
But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. John 14:16, 17, 26 NLT
Because Jesus loved his disciples, he would leave them
Try to imagine how the disciples are taking all this in. It’s pretty overwhelming. And they don’t digest everything Jesus is telling them, especially about the crucifixion and resurrection. But this whole idea of a Comforter or Advocate sounds pretty good. But then Jesus drops this bombshell on them.
But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:7 NIV
Wait!!! I can almost hear them saying, “We don’t want you to go away. Why can’t we have you and the Comforter?”
And why is that loving?
If Jesus was with them personally, as he had been for the last three years, they would keep depending on him to do what he was empowering them to do. In effect he had to wean them of personal dependence on him.
Jesus wanted them to rely on God
He loved them so much, he wanted them to rely completely on God for everything. And the Holy Spirit, or Comforter, the Advocate, would help them do just that.
Jesus points this out when he says,
In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. John 16:26, 27 NIV
Once again, Jesus is preparing his disciples for what is to come and assuring them that they’ll have everything they need. This, once more, is Jesus loving his disciples.
How can this apply to you and me? How do we prepare our children, our students, our employees, or those we’re helping, to trust in God completely? Do we want people to be dependent on us personally or be empowered to trust God in every situation?
In Chapter 17 of John Jesus again expresses his love for his disciples; he prays for them. And this time he specifically mentions you and me as well. You’re probably very familiar with this prayer, but I encourage you to read it again in the context of how much Jesus loves all those who ever have and ever will believe on him.
Jesus continues to teach and prepare the disciples
After the crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus is reunited with his disciples for 40 days. During this time, he once again teaches them and prepares them for when he will no longer be with them. This is love in action.
I have given just a quick look at a few of the many ways Jesus expressed love to his disciples. You could take anything and everything he said and did and ask the question: “How does this express Jesus’s love for his disciples?” And while you’re at it, ask how it expresses his love for you?
How did Jesus love his disciples? He sums it up this way:
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.There is absolutely no way to measure or intellectually grasp this infinite and tender yet powerful love God has for Christ. But we can begin to perceive and experience it spiritually. John 15:9 NIV
We need to ponder and embrace this love. Jesus loves us the way the Father loves him.
Are you willing to open your heart to and accept that kind of love?
James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
John 3:16 KJV
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Matthew 5:44 NKJV
44 “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.
Matthew 13:24, 25 KJV
24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
Matthew 13:36 KJV
36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.
Matthew 10:1 NIV
1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
Luke 9:54-56 KJV
54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”
55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.
56 “For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.
Mark 4:40 NIV
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
John 14:16, 17, 26 NLT
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.
17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.
26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
John 16:7 NIV
7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.
John 16:26, 27 NIV
26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf.
27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.
John 15:9 NIV
9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.There is absolutely no way to measure or intellectually grasp this infinite and tender yet powerful love God has for Christ. But we can begin to perceive and experience it spiritually.