One of the last things Jesus said before dying was “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” That “them” might have included his disciples. Maybe that’s why, before his ascension, Jesus came back to have a few more words with them. As a human himself, he knew their weaknesses. And, after all, some of the last things he heard his disciples say included their own assessment of how great they were. Jesus had to remind them it must not be that way among them—that the greatest among them must be like servants.  

Such wisdom came to them by trial and error. Peter would eventually deny even knowing Jesus when such knowledge proved dangerous. But after the Master was crucified, Peter took this error to heart and would later use it as a key lesson for other deniers (Acts 3:17-19):

Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away.

The rest of Christ’s disciples became experts in their weaknesses too. They used that knowledge to become great servant-teachers. Their teaching keeps coming back to us, as Jesus did for them in Sunday’s gospel reading from Luke (Lk 24:35-48), to remind us we have someone who knows us and our weaknesses and keeps forgiving us—as long as we do the same for others. As Jesus’s favorite disciple, John, teaches us in our second reading, that’s how we show we know our Master: by his spirit which we embody (1 Jn 2:1-5a):

But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one. He is expiation for our sins, and not for our sins only but for those of the whole world. The way we may be sure that we know him is to keep his commandments.

All of those commandments are based on a dominant family trait and refer to our Father’s chief identifying characteristic: Love.

–Tom Andel