Lessons from the Upper Room

This is a talk I was asked to give in an LDS Sacrament Meeting on Easter 2014.  I was asked to discuss the Savior’s teachings found in John 13.

In the church, we often have Super Saturday activities where we do some Saturday type of project but bigger and better than we’d normally do on a given Saturday. I feel like Easter is somewhat of a Super Sunday. Every week, we set aside Sunday as the Sabbath to commemorate the Resurrection. Easter is the same thing but it receives more emphasis and therefore a little more cause for reflection.

To better experience the Easter holiday, I do my best to envelope myself in the Easter story. I watch the church’s videos and try to incorporate the scriptures surrounding the final days of Christ’s mortal ministry into my daily personal and family scripture study. Our Family Home Evening lesson and Primary lessons easily gravitate to the topic. I would say that, for the most part, I have watched our Savior and marveled at the magnificence of what He has done for each of us. I’ve felt the spirit testify of the truthfulness of what he’s done and gained a greater appreciation for His sacrifice. As I’ve studied for this assignment, I’ve found myself trying to be in His shoes–trying to understand what it must have been like for my elder brother to do what He did. As with anything, I believe the greater we understand an example we’re given, the more likely we are to be able to repeat what we’ve been shown. I hope that you’ll be able to imagine with me what it must have been like for the King of Kings to descend below them all and become the Savior of all mankind.

As Jehovah, He witnessed the brutality of the old testament. He witnessed the suffering of Job. He had seen the physical and emotional pains of millions before Him. To some extent, He anguished with all of them through their countless miseries. As if that wasn’t enough, He also knew of things to come and knew of the pains that were yet to be. For the last 3 decades, as Jesus of Nazareth, the concept of pain had become less of a theoretical grief as He had, no doubt, been through a variety of painful experiences during His mortal life.

All of this must have weighed on His mind as He made His triumphal entrance into the city of Jerusalem. He was returning to Jerusalem to complete his mortal ministry. As He considered the suffering of the Atonement that must take place in the coming week, there must have been some fear in his heart. He knew He would suffer for all the pains of this world that there ever were or that ever would be. His feeling of anxiety alone is hard to comprehend. For some of us, the closest we come to such anxiety begins when we set an uncomfortable doctors appointment or when a member of the Bishopric extends an invitation to speak in Sacrament Meeting.

With all of this weighing on his mind, Christ taught in the temple, cleansed the temple, and saw and taught about the widows mite. Among other things, He taught the Parable of the Ten Virgins and the Parable of the Talents. By the time He walked into that upper room on the night before his crucifixion, He had already told His disciples when He would die and had even been anointed in preparation for his impending death. Even with all of this, only He knew what lay ahead, and perhaps not even He could understand the depth of pain He would have to endure.

In this upper room, Jesus partook of the passover meal with His apostles. One of those twelve of whom He could most rely, left the supper to betray Him. It was in the midst of this meal, that the heavy laden master stood up, changed his attire, and proceeded to wash the feet of his apostles as only a servant would. At this hour, Jesus Himself was the one who seemingly needed such a kind and reassuring comfort, yet there is no record that anybody in turn washed the Savior’s feet. It was never about Him.

It was after all of this and after this great selfless act of service that Jesus said these words in John 13:34, “As I have loved you, love one another.” As I have loved you. That’s the easily glanced over piece of that teaching. I think we all understand that we are to love one another as is clearly taught here. The question is how did Jesus love His apostles and how did He show that love. As He said earlier that night, “For I have given unto you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”

I’d like to offer four ways that the Savior showed His love:

  1. He Gave ServiceFirst, let’s look at what He actually did. He washed the disciples feet. Perhaps He dressed as a servant to better drive home the point that He was providing service in His admonition to serve one another. After His brief explanation, He tells them, “if ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”I scoured the internet trying to find just the right story of somebody who provided service and was happier in return, maybe of somebody who was downtrodden and rescued through the service they gave. We’ve all heard these stories in conference or in talks much like this. Better yet, I believe we all have stories just like this. If you’ve forgotten your own, I’d encourage you to go find a new one. When Jesus said “whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it”, it encompassed all of His commandments. When we serve others, it doesn’t take very long to find that you have unknowingly served yourself. Happy are ye if ye do this.
  2. He Shows an Active LoveWe often talk of the pure love of Christ in terms of the Atonement itself. While this was a great event that clearly shows the phenomenal love that Christ has for all of us, for the most part, His love can be seen through small acts of kindness or what Nephi referred to as the tender mercies of the Lord. When Jesus discussed His love with the Apostles in the upper room, He had not yet suffered for them. Thus, there was no one single event to look to but hundreds of small things that showed a deep and real love. I am quite certain that the tender mercies of the Lord are not at all trademarked and there would be no prosecution if we endeavored to follow this great example in creating tender mercies for those whose lives we touch.
  1. He Put Others FirstWhen Christ was in these anxious hours, He yet was thinking of the Apostles. He gave them comfort, He taught them. He even made it easier for Judas to do what He would do in his early dismissal from dinner. From all accounts, there is little to suggest He even gave a thought about what He must go through until mere minutes before it happened. There was no grieving. There is no record of a downtrodden Redeemer who bemoaned his destiny throughout the night. The mere thought of it is outrageous. In every aspect, He helped those around Him.
  1. His Love Never FailethChrist’s anguish certainly didn’t end with the clean feet in the upper room and neither did his simple acts of compassion. When He needed peace and comfort, He gave the apostles the reassurance of the Holy Ghost as the Comforter. He told them “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” He even tells them, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid”.In John 16, we read that Jesus continued to give the apostles comfort to an increasing measure. At the end of the chapter, we read “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”

    How could He even be speaking of cheer and joy when the agony of all the human race lies mere moments away? That is just how He spoke, even to the bitter end. That’s what He always did and always does. That’s what He asks us to do.As he was arrested, he healed the ear of one of the aggressors. On the cross, he took a minute to make sure his mother would be cared for. He even asked forgiveness for those who carried out his crucifixion.

    This is what charity is. This is what we speak of. Charity is not a happy-go-lucky, sun is always shining, life is perfect principle of the gospel. Christ gave the commandment to love one another and the example to serve when He was at the door of the furnace looking in. How then can I shrink from my duties when life isn’t going my way? How can I think it is ever okay to treat others poorly because life has treated me the same? How can I put off helping until my needs are met?

In 1989, Jeffrey R. Holland, then a newly called member of the Seventy shared the following:

“Life has its share of some fear and some failure. Sometimes things fall short, don’t quite measure up. Sometimes in both personal and public life, we are seemingly left without strength to go on. Sometimes people fail us, or economies and circumstance fail us, and life with its hardship and heartache can leave us feeling very alone.

“But when such difficult moments come to us, I testify that there is one thing which will never, ever fail us. One thing alone will stand the test of all time, of all tribulation, all trouble, and all transgression. One thing only never faileth—and that is the pure love of Christ.”

I testify that limitations and barriers in our lives are set by the limitations and barriers we allow on the love we show to others. On the other hand, I testify that if we will hurdle those barriers and ignore supposed limitations to show others the kind of love that they deserve, our life will be filled with the joy that Christ promised His apostles on that pivotal night in the upper room.

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