Experiencing the Passionate, Honest Love of Jesus

A stone is tossed into a still pond, and from its point of entry ripples circle out, wider and wider. In the same way, Jesus enters human existence, piercing the surface between the eternal and the here-and-now, and love washes continually from him in wave after wave, flowing out beyond him, touching all in its path, ultimately encircling the whole of creation. God's love surges through Jesus in every direction.

Jesus is not stingy with his love. The Gospel writers make that clear. Jesus expresses his love for all his disciples and longs deeply for their companionship. But one disciple, who many assume was John, seems to have a uniquely intimate relationship with Jesus. Numerous times in the Gospel that bears his name he is referred to as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Whether it was a close bond of love or a big brother/little brother type relationship, John names and claims this special relationship with Jesus.

There is a glimpse of this close connection between Jesus and this disciple during the final meal Jesus had with his disciples in the Upper Room (John 13:21-26). Jesus washes his disciples' feet and explains that he is thereby giving them an example of sacrificial servant-love, the kind of love that is willing to get down and dirty to help others. Then, as he reclines with his companions at the Passover dinner table, Jesus becomes troubled in spirit and declares, "Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me."

A shockwave of distress trembles through the disciples gathered around the table. They look at each other, wondering who this betrayer might be. In the midst of this intense moment the writer slips in an interesting detail: One of his disciples -- the one whom Jesus loved -- is reclining next to him; Simon Peter motions to him to ask Jesus who he's talking about. So while reclining next to Jesus, this disciple asks Jesus, "Lord, who is it?" And Jesus indicates it is Judas by handing him a dipped piece of bread.

As they are dining together, during a moment heavy with emotion and confusion, this beloved disciple pulls closer to Jesus and lays his head back on his rabbi's chest. The original Greek indicates that this beloved disciple "was reclining ... in the bosom of Jesus."

The disciple's head rests serenely on his master's chest; he trusts in Jesus' love, and rests in a place of acceptance and safety, a place of supreme trust and unashamed love.

This vignette offers us a breathtaking message: Jesus welcomes our affectionate devotion. In our mind, our spirit, our heart, our innermost being, we too can express our love by resting against the bosom of Jesus and he will not push us away. He will welcome us into his embrace. It is a symbiotic relationship of loyal love and trust, one that is true now and forever will be true.

This is the love Jesus lived with his disciples: It was easy and honest and clear. It was fervent without shame or restraint.

Jesus expressed a wide range of emotions with his followers, but love was the foundation of them all. It was all part of the complete package of authentic emotions felt and expressed by the passionate Jesus.

Adapted from 'The Passionate Jesus: What We Can Learn from Jesus about Love, Fear, Grief, Joy and Living Authentically' (SkyLight Paths Publishing).