How Great is the Love of Christ for His Own1
Whenever I begin to wonder whether or not the children’s song is correct when it says, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so,” I turn to John 13 and read some of the most remarkable and reassuring statements in God’s Word. Continue reading . . .
Whenever I begin to wonder whether or not the children’s song is correct when it says, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so,” I turn to John 13 and read some of the most remarkable and reassuring statements in God’s Word.
“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)
This opening paragraph to what has come to be known as the Upper Room Discourse of Jesus, describes what appear on the surface to be three reasons Jesus couldn’t possibly love us the way we need him to. And yet he does. Consider this.
(1) First, it appears that things are totally out of control, running amok, almost as if Jesus is himself being swept away by the swift march of events, like objects being carried away by the rapidly rising rushing waters of the Mississippi. Satan is beginning his assault on Judas Iscariot, prompting him to betray Jesus. The Jewish religious leaders are plotting against him. Pontius Pilate, Herod, and the crowds in the city are all postured to contribute their part to his eventual crucifixion. It almost seems as if history itself is slipping through God’s fingers!
But this is no barrier to Jesus loving his own, for at no time did he ever lose control over himself or the events of history. He knows who he is, where he has come from, what he’s going to do, how much it will cost, and to whom he is going once it’s all over.
At no time during his earthly life, at no time during your earthly life, does Jesus cease to be sovereign. Whether tornadoes, terrorist bombings, beheadings, the rise or fall of the stock market, deteriorating health, the confusion and turmoil of an impending Presidential election, or the rebellion of a child, our Lord is ever in control. All that was made by him is still sustained through him and will ultimately prove to be for him.
Crawl with me, as it were, inside the head of Jesus. John tells us what he was thinking and feeling in this crucial hour.
“Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father” (v. 1). As you know, I’m a grammar geek. Here is one more example. It’s in the possessive pronoun “his”. I love possessive pronouns. They figure prominently in this passage. Jesus knew that “his” hour had come. Jesus loved “his” own who were in the world. God had given all things into “his” hands. What a glorious word, a comforting and reassuring word. Now, why do I say that?
This first use of the word “his” reminds us that what was about to transpire didn’t surprise him or catch him off guard. This is what he was born to do. The hour decreed by his Father has arrived. Not all the political maneuverings of the Romans nor the religious scheming by the Jewish leaders could derail, disrupt, or delay “his hour” from coming. God is in absolute control. Until now, the religious leaders and Roman military could lay nary a hand upon him. But now “his” hour had come. The time had finally come for the Son of Man to be delivered up, voluntarily and joyfully, into the hands of his enemies.
We so often think that the swirl of world events and the ever increasing series of tragedies that confront us daily are a surprise to God or perhaps so engage and entangle him that he forgets about us. NO! The greatest crisis of all human history is about to unfold, namely, the crucifixion of the Son of Man, and yet in the midst of it all he is thinking about his own. As much as Jesus might appear to be in the grip of his enemies, they themselves are firmly in the grip of God who is working all things according to his sovereign purpose.
(2) Often times, power and authority get in the way of love. When people are promoted and praised and find themselves in a position of authority they tend to forget others. They are absorbed in their own achievements, they are enamored with their own press clippings, and all others suddenly become expendable and less important. Admit it: it’s hard to be passionately concerned for others when your head is swelled with thoughts of your own importance. But not Jesus. Look again at v. 3. Jesus again knew that “the Father had given all things into his hands.”
By “all things” he had in mind not just the disciples who loved and followed him but also Judas Iscariot who was about to betray him. All of these were his to do with as he pleased. Satan was his to do with as he pleased. Pontius Pilate and Herod and all the rulers of both Rome and Israel were his to do with as he pleased.
With all the power of heaven and earth at his disposal, he chose to think of his own. Remember, he said he could have called 12 legions of angels to deliver him had he so chosen (Matt. 26:53). With the authority to blast Judas and Satan and Pontius Pilate into the next galaxy, he thinks only of his own.
Try to imagine the disciples sitting around the table that night, looking intently at the face of Jesus. What was racing through their minds? Perhaps questions like: “What’s he thinking about? What’s on his mind?” I’ll tell you exactly what he was thinking about. Jesus was saying to himself: “It’s all mine. I am the Lord and Sovereign King over everything. My Father has put all things in my hands.”
His mind is filled with thoughts of the power and dominion and authority and glory and honor that have been given him by his Father. And it was precisely then, at that very moment, with images and ideas of his authority swirling around in his head that he rose from supper and girded himself with a towel and got down on his knees and washed his disciples’ feet (vv. 4-5)! Instead of letting thoughts of his own greatness exempt him from serving others, instead of using the truth of his own preeminence and power to justify ignoring their needs, instead of his own exalted position leading him to think that this rag-tag group of sinners was beneath his dignity as Lord of the Universe, he loved and serve them by washing their feet.
Stunning! In the midst of such indescribable turmoil and impending arrest and crucifixion, all he could think about was loving and serving his “own”.
(3) Often the knowledge of our derivation and our destination gets in the way of us thinking about anyone but ourselves. In other words, when we take into consideration where we’ve come from and where we’re going, we find that such turns our thoughts inwardly and away from any focus on or concern for others. Some people think that since they come from aristocracy, being blue-bloods, as it were, they have no business mingling with, much less serving the lower classes of society.
Not Jesus. Look at v. 3. Jesus was thinking about the fact that “he had come from God” and that he “was going back to God.”
Clearly this refers to his thoughts concerning his pre-existent glory and majesty and mutual love between the Father and Spirit in the fellowship of the Godhead (see John 17:1-5). Perhaps he is thinking of the echo of angelic praise. Perhaps he’s reflecting on the adoring worship of the four living creatures or the sustained cry of “Holy, Holy, Holy” coming from stunned seraphim surrounding his throne. It may also be a reference to his sense of divine mission. It certainly refers to his expectation of being exalted once again to that place and experience of glory that his state of humiliation had temporarily interrupted.
And yet, knowing full well who he was, knowing and reflecting on the glory that was his from eternity past, the glory that would be his for eternity future, he still chose to think about others . . . his own. John couldn’t have been any clearer: while such thoughts were swirling around in his head he was fixated on the love he had for his own (v. 1).
These three obstacles notwithstanding, Jesus loves his own. Nothing could deter him, nothing could derail his loving purposes for his people. Such is the love of Christ for his own. Such is the love of Christ for you.