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Chapter 12

That Wonderful Friendship with the Twelve

Preceding the last phase of the Master’s life here on earth a considerable change has taken place. His popularity is not so great as it was the preceding two or more years. He has many devoted followers, but the great crowds have fallen away. The frailty of human nature has played its part.

At one time the crowd had been so great, and the enthusiasm so unbounded, that then and there they would take him and make him King. Many a lesser man would have accepted it, would have justified himself and reached out to receive the sceptre — entranced for the moment, and not foreseeing the trouble to main-tarn the kingship later on. Many a lesser mind would have succumbed to the ‘dream of grandeur’ and been willing to give battle to steal it, if need be, from another. Again the real genius of the Master asserts itself. His life and his truth have always to do, not with a material, but with a spiritual Kingdom. This is one reason why many of his former enthusiastic followers have fallen away from him.

Some begin to doubt, and justly, they think. If he is our deliverer, the Messiah, what has he done? What is he doing? For wellnigh three years now we have been following him and nothing has occurred. I am getting nothing out of it. Is he a false leader like others we have put our trust in — the others who have failed us? No well-to-do people, no respectable or rather leading people, with an exception here and there, are following him. The temple authorities do not endorse him. They do not even believe in him. They think and they openly say that he is an impostor. They are sending spies to watch him in order to get evidence that they may excommunicate him; for he is misleading the people, by teaching them things not in their formulated code. He even abuses them, calling them hypocrites, vipers, and children of vipers. Perhaps he has his reasons; but it bodes no good for us.

They say that the scribes and the Pharisees and the priests he speaks so bravely of — for good or ill God only knows — and even the high priest would kill him if they could find a charge sufficient to win the approval of the Roman authorities. They have cautioned him, they have dared him, they have warned him; but instead of being sensible he is growing bolder all the time. They say he is even thinking of going up to Jerusalem to do his teaching and his acts of healing right in their own sacred precincts. Little does he dream of their power. He either does not know or he does not think of the other teachers and prophets who have been killed, and quickly killed, for smaller offences.

Even his disciples, at least some of the twelve, begin to question and at times to weaken. Their patience is not inexhaustible, anymore than their understanding at times of his teachings and his purpose. Where are they getting? What are they getting? They had left all to follow him. He has heard this repeated more than once. Misunderstandings between them, even rivalries, begin to take form. It requires at times the utmost patience on the part of the Master to cope with their unlettered ignorance.

Silently and patiently he bears with them, hoping always for the best and never losing his faith, but secretly wondering many times whether, when he is gone, they will be grown to sufficient stature to carry on. As he realises that his time is growing shorter here, the more materially ambitious some of them seem to become. This costs him at times no little concern. Always patient and kind and trusting, he finds occasions when it seems necessary to administer an open rebuke. His understanding of human nature is so great, however, that he always bears with them. His supreme faith enables him always to trust them.

Even near the closing week two of the twelve, James and John, sons of thunder, come to him — and one account says the mother came with them — and say: ‘Teacher, we would that thou shouldst do for us whatsoever we shall ask of thee. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? And they said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and one on thy left hand, in thy glory.’ Looking out for their own position, you see, and personal gain. Again it requires patience, patience and ingenuity, on the part of the Master.

The account continues: ‘And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.’ Luke then later says that this same contention, amounting almost to a quarrel, continued even as they were gathered together at the last supper. On this same night, almost in astonishment, but gently as always, Jesus turned to Philip and said: ‘Have I been so long a time with you and yet hast thou not known me?’ Once to Peter he said: ‘Are ye also without understanding?’ Other related occurrences indicate all too clearly what he had to contend with. Then, at or near the end, one betrayed him, one denied him, and all the rest weakened and ran away, at least for the time being.

He had no thought of establishing an organisation, a church — only a new knowledge and a new spirit that would bring a new life and a new vitality into the organisation already established — yet he realised how much depended upon the group of twelve he had selected and had so patiently instructed in order that his truth might carry on. It is easy therefore to understand his great patience and his
almost infinite faith in them; and it is a worthy and a fully deserved tribute to say that, later when the real test came, they did prove their first faith, and in a wonderful manner.

One of the most beautiful things in all history, with its touches of pathos, is the concern of the Master for the friendship and comradeship of this little band of rugged, untutored but earnest and receptive men as they ate together for the last time the feast of the Passover.

Superb and touching is his gratitude for their companionship and their confidence, his concern for their welfare and their safety, his faith that they would measure up to his expectations in using the truth that he would leave with them and, through them, with the world that he loved, and that in a few hours he knew he was to leave. And then his concern for them at the final brief parting scene at Gethsemane, near the gate, ready. When the officers of the Sanhedrin with the light of their torches come with his betrayer to arrest him, he says: ‘I am he.’ And he adds, for the disciples: ‘If therefore ye seek me, let these go their way.’

We miss much of this close relationship if we do not get the full significance of his opening statement, when a few hours before he sat down with them in the upper room at the little inn where they were known and where they had often stayed before — to eat with them the last: time: ‘With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer. (Luke xxii. 15.) It was there that he gave them his final instructions, his final unfolding of the truth as it pertained to him and to them, the truth which knit them together in a bond of union that he felt would have in it a timeless element.

It was there that he threw into the Passover feast a personal element which would, he conceived, make an abiding and compelling memory of their life and work and fellowship together, for many years to come. He longs for this union, this comradeship, to live on, and above all for it to bind them to a carrying-on of the work, the spreading of his truth which they had laboured with him to accomplish.

He spoke as always in his own and their own Aramaic tongue. ‘Eat my body and drink my blood,’ in the Aramaic idiom, means, literally, endure suffering and hard work. It is a familiar form of expression still used by a small branch of the Assyrian people, who represent the oldest existing Christian Church; who think and talk in their native Aramaic tongue, and who today live almost identically the same life as did the people among whom Jesus was born and lived, and to whom he gave his message.

‘I through my truth, my new message of life, am the new covenant’ — this he would estabhsh in their consciousness. Unquestionably we get the real and full purpose of the Master when we combine the true content of the Aramaic idiom with his injunction to his disciples, as they ate together this annual historic meal of their people. It was to be a binding together of their work, of their friendship, their comradeship, when they assembled together in another year to celebrate this same Passover feast. They were to do it remembering him, and to think of this their last observance of it together.

Whether he intended it to be an observance for any others than his immediate group of disciples, no one but he will ever know — no one but he. That it has been frightfully abused in the past, the historic past, we all know. That today dogma has put into it a material content such as the spiritual sense of the Master never could have meant, and indeed would most bitterly condemn, we all know.

As a memorial of his life and his love, of the new covenant of his truth, impregnated always with the spiritual content which he intended, it can be made a very beautiful and sacred and useful sacrament. The fullness of its Aramaic meaning, the meaning which he had in mind to live in and to work for his truth — brings with it a saving power; saving for the life of the individual and saving for the life of the world. ‘I am the light of the world,’ he said, but he could be that only as each individual. and a sufficient number of individuals should receive the truth and give it real being and expression in life.

In this and in all that went before, the essential genius of the Master and his one continuing purpose had to do with the things of the spirit. His great concern was that his teachings be so understood. He had to use material terms and illustrations, in order to get his meaning and his truth into the material, unspiritual minds of his hearers. And then many times he had to go back and explain to them the real spiritual import. Even his disciples were prone to drag his teachings down and interpret them in a material sense. He had to use terms with which they were familiar, terms and objects and forms of expression they knew, even at the risk of making his message liable at times to a material interpretation.


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