The Glorious Diversity of Christ’s Love for His Own1
In an earlier article I pointed out the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that Jesus overcame to loving his own. Continue reading . . .
In an earlier article I pointed out the seemingly insurmountable obstacles that Jesus overcame to loving his own. They are found in John 13:1-5. Here is the passage again.
“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:1-5)
A close look at this passage reveals five features or characteristics of the love that Jesus has for you and me.
(1) First, we read in v. 1 that “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
What’s the point of describing his disciples as being “in the world”? It seems so obvious, so trite. Of course they are “in the world.” Where else could they be? Surely, something more is intended by this phrase.
I believe it is John’s way of magnifying the love of Christ by highlighting their unloveliness. Jesus didn’t wait for them to experience final glorification in heaven before he loved them. He didn’t suspend his love for them on their being perfect, sinless, spotless, pure, and rid of all those annoying habits and personality quirks that would otherwise appear to make them unfit for being loved.
Jesus loved his own in the midst of their weakness and immaturity and ignorance and brokenness! And he loves you in the midst of yours as well! As his eyes glanced around the room he saw men whose failures were obvious, yet he loved them. There was Matthew who probably still struggled with greed, who perhaps still lamented leaving such a high paying job to follow Jesus. Then there was Andrew, possibly dealing with lingering resentment against his brother Peter for being so prominent among the disciples and having been chosen to be part of the inner circle. And I hardly need to comment on Peter’s repeated failures and impulsive actions. He knew them all. He knew everything about them. He knew things deep in their souls that not even they had discovered: their secret sins, their lust, greed, pride, etc.
They were still in the world and the world, to a certain extent, was still in them. But he still loved them. Don’t miss this point. It wasn’t in anticipation of their final deliverance from sin and corruption that he loved them. He didn’t blink at their sin and weakness and frailty and say, “Well, one day they’ll be loveable. One day they’ll finally live up to my expectations. One day they’ll deserve my affection.” No, he loved them then, while they were yet in the world, while they were yet weak and immature and broken and unwilling to stand by him in his hour of greatest need.
Do you struggle to believe that God truly loves you now? Are you inclined to think that he will only love you once you’ve cleaned your house and received a substantial pay increase at work and overcome all your sinful habits and your pride and your doubts and your bitterness? Jesus knew their sinful fantasies and he knows yours as well. He knew their arrogant ambition, their secret sins, their lust and fears and anxiety, and he knows yours as well. But he kept on loving them while they were yet in the world, and he will keep on loving you as long as you are in the world!
(2) Second, note in v. 1 that “he loved them to the end.” The NIV renders this phrase, “he showed them the full extent of his love,” with emphasis on love in its highest intensity. But I believe the word “end” more likely refers to his impending death, hence he loved them “to his last breath.” Thus he loved them “all the way to the cross.” In spite of all that he was about to endure, he never stopped loving them.
In any case, the point is that he never grew weary in his love for them. His love never wavered, never weakened, never waned. When he most needed to be loved, he loved. With every reason in the world not to love them, at least from a human perspective, he loved them all the way to the end: unendingly, unceasingly, incessantly, without pause or hesitation or a second thought.
Think of it. Peter is about to deny him three times. All the others are about to run off into the night, frightened beyond words, leaving him to face his accusers alone. Dare I say that you and I would have acted in the same way? And yet his love for them (and for us) continued, unchanged and undiminished, all the way to the end.
(3) Third, and again in v. 1, notice how those whom he loved are described: “his own.” His own peculiar and personal possession. They are “his own” because they were given to him by his Father and he will redeem them by his blood (see John 6:37-39; 10:29; 17:2). Although he is the sovereign proprietor over all things, he has a special affection for “his own.”
I find it significant that it doesn’t say he loved “his disciples” or “his followers” or “believers” or “his sheep” or even “his friends.” They and we are here described as “his own”!
You who don’t feel you belong to anyone else, you are “his own”! You who live alone and doubt if anyone cares, you are “his own”! You who live in fear that you may never achieve anything of significance in this life, you who think of yourselves as complete failures, you are “his own”! You who often wonder aloud, “Why would anyone ever want me?” you are “his own”!
The Creator of heaven and earth regards you as “his own”! You may find yourself saying, “I’m not much in the eyes of others, but when it comes to Jesus, I’m ‘his own’”!
Whether you are in the office or at school or down in the dumps or over the hill or driving a car or eating your breakfast, you are now and ever will be “his own”! You may hate your job, or be wondering if your spouse will ever love you the way you hoped they would, you are now and ever will be “his own”!
You may never read your name in the local newspaper or hold office in the church, but you are now and ever will be “his own”! I have no way of providing you with a guarantee that your physical and financial and marital circumstances will ever change, but I can guarantee you now and forever that if you believe in Jesus you are “his own”!
Were ever more precious and endearing words spoken? Was there ever a more glorious privilege, a more exalted position, a more intimate relationship?
To be continued . . .