Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
Now when it was time for supper, the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son, to betray him. Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into his hands, that he had come from God, and that he was going back to God. So he got up from supper, laid aside his outer clothing, took a towel, and tied it around himself. Next, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel tied around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who asked him, “Lord’ are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus answered him, “What I’m doing you don’t realize now, but afterward you will understand.”
“You will never wash my feet,” Peter said.
Jesus replied, “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me.”
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.”
“One who has bathed, Jesus told him, “doesn’t need to wash anything except his feet, but he is completely clean. You are clean, but not all of you.” For he knew who would betray him. This is why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
When Jesus had washed their feet and put on his outer clothing, he reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are speaking rightly, since that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done for you.John 13:1–20
“Truly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
“I’m not speaking about all of you; I know those I have chosen. But the Scripture must be fulfilled: The one who eats my bread has raised his heel against me. I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am he. Truly I tell you, whoever receives anyone I send receives me, and the one who receives me receives him who sent me.”
Quotes from Chapter 22
Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.John 13:1
The heart of Christ for sinners and sufferers does not flash with tenderness occasionally or temporarily, sputtering out over time. Gentleness and lowliness of heart is who Christ is steadily, consistently, everlastingly, when all loveliness in us has withered.
In going to the cross, Jesus did not retain something for himself, the way we tend to do when we seek to love others sacrificially. He does not love like us.
We love until we are betrayed. Jesus continued to the cross despite betrayal. We love until we are forsaken. Jesus loved through forsakenness.
We love up to a limit. Jesus loves to the end.
Looking back, John says, Jesus had “loved his own who were in the world.” Looking forward, “he loved them to the end.”
His ministry to this point has been utterly demanding—he has been tired and hungry, physically; misunderstood and mistreated by his friends and family, relationally; cornered and accused by the religious elite, publicly. But what is all this compared to what now lay before him?
What happened at the cross, for those of us who claim to be its beneficiaries?
It is beyond calculating comprehension. The righteous human wrath we feel—the wrath we would be wrong not to feel—is a drop in the ocean of righteous divine wrath the Father unleashed.
God punished Jesus not for the sin of just one person but many. What must it mean when Isaiah says of the servant that “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6)? What was it for Christ to swallow down the cumulative twistedness, self-enthronement, natural God hatred, of the elect? What must it have been for the sum total of righteous divine wrath generated not just by one man’s sin but “the iniquity of us all” to come crashing down on a single soul?
If he was sweating blood at the thought of God’s abandonment (Luke 22:44), what was it like to go through with it?
In the presence of this mental anguish the physical tortures of the crucifixion retire into the background, and we may well believe that our Lord, though he died on the cross, yet died not of the cross, but, as we commonly say, of a broken heart.1B.B. Warfield
When communion with God has been one’s oxygen, one’s meat and drink, throughout his whole life, without a single moment of interruption by sin—to suddenly bear the unspeakable weight of all our sins? Who could survive that? To lose that depth of communion was to die. The great love at the heart of the universe was being rent in two. The world’s Light was going out.
This is not to say the Son lost his Father’s love absolutely; the Trinity cannot be broken in that sense. And though three persons, this is still one God, so we must be careful how we speak about the relations between the Father and the Son. Instead it is to say that the experience of the Son as a real human, and standing in for all the elect, was to lose a sense of the love of God and an experienced open channel of communion with the Father. Turretin explains the cross as the loss of the experience of the Father’s love but not the absolute loss of the Father’s love.2 The forsakenness on the cross should primarily be understood as a forsakenness of Jesus (representing sinful humanity) by God, not primarily the divine Son by the Father.
Love in him is essential to his being. God is love; Christ is God; therefore Christ is love, love naturally. He may as well cease to be, as cease to love…Bunyan
Love from Christ requires to taking beauteousness in the object to be beloved. It can act of and from itself, without all such kind of dependencies. The Lord Jesus sets his heart to love them.3
When the apostle John tells us that Jesus loved his own to the end, John is pulling back the veil to allow us to peer into the depths of who Jesus is.
This is not who Christ is indiscriminately. The text says it is “his own” whom he loves to the end. “His own” is a phrase used throughout John to refer to Christ’s true disciples, the children of God.
To those who are not his own, Jesus is a fearful judge, one whose wrath cannot be assuaged or dampened; the Bible teaches that Jesus will one day be “revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:7, 8). That passage goes on to say those who do not belong to Christ “will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction” (1:9).
But for his own, Jesus himself endured that punishment. He set his heart on his own. They are his.
There is not the meanest, the weakest, the poorest believer on the earth, but Christ prizes him more than all the world.4John Owen
Christ loved his own all the way through death itself. What must that mean for you? It means, first, that your future is secure. And it means, second, that he will love you to the end. Not only is your future secure, on the basis of his death; your present is secure, proven in his heart. He will love you to the end because he cannot bear to do otherwise.
- B.B. Warfield, The Person and Work of Christ (Oxford, UK: Benediction Classics, 2015), 133.
- Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, 3 vols., trans. G. M. Giger, ed. J. T. Dennison (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1997), the fourteenth topic of which (in vol. 2) is “The Mediatorial Office of Christ”.
- Bunyan, Works, 2:16-17
- John Owen, Communion with God (Fearn, Scotland: Christian Heritage, 2012), 218.
- How is Jesus’ love different from our love?
- What does Romans 5 and John 13 say to forsake us would be?
- What happened at the cross? Reflect on what actually happened, what Jesus went through, did, and accomplished.
- Read Psalm 22:1. Why are these words so profound? How was Christ forsaken?
- Who does Jesus love to the end?
- Who does “his own” refer to?
- What is Jesus to those who are not his own?
- What will ultimately happen to those who are not his own?
- How much does Christ love his own and what does that mean for them?