Edited and supplied by the Golden Candlestick Trust.
Reading: John 13:1-19,21.
There are several things that become a message to us in this
chapter, but we will all agree that this incident is the great
example of love - "Having loved His own which were in the world,
He loved them to the uttermost" (John 13:1, R.V. margin).
You recognise that this incident occurred near the end of the
life of the Lord Jesus on the earth, which means that He had had
all the experience of these men and knew what kind of men they
were. Of course, He knew what He was choosing when He chose them:
"for He himself knew what was in man" (John 2:25). He knew what a
poor lot they were and all their faults and weaknesses. He knew
just exactly how they would behave and how this phase of their
relationship with Him would end. He knew beforehand what Judas
would do, and indeed, exactly what they would all do. Yes, He knew
them before He chose them - and then He chose them. And it says:
"Having loved them... He loved them to the uttermost". It was not
just that He loved them to the end. The Word says: 'He loved them
without any reserve'; 'He gave them wholehearted love'. It is the
most wonderful thing that you can think about.
It means that His love was never quenched by evil. He knew all
about these men, all about Judas, but evil never quenched His
love. It is stronger than all the evil, all the faults, and all
the failures. What a lot you and I owe to that love! Where would
we be today if His love could have been offended and put away
because of what we are? He knew them; He chose them; He loved
them; and nothing that came up in them changed His love.
That is the first thing about His love: it is unchanged by
evil. Indeed, it is the evil that brings out the love.
The second thing is: how condescending is His love! You notice
what it says here. John has read the heart of the Lord Jesus and
says: "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into
His hands" (v.3). The Father had given all things into His hands;
by the gift of the Father He possessed everything. He was put into
that great position of having all things given to Him by the
Father. I wonder what we would do if that were true of us! I am
afraid we would be very superior people and look down upon one
another. We would think of other people as hardly worth our
consideration! "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all
things into His hands, and that He came forth from God, and goeth
unto God, riseth from supper... and He took a towel." What
meekness there is in this love! What a descending to the level of
men! That is the love of Christ: coming down from the highest
heights to serve such men for their salvation.
Then another thing is seen here: this love is above all class
distinctions. "Ye call Me Master, and Lord: and ye say well; for
so I am" (v.13). And presently He will say of them: 'Servants' ...
"A servant is not greater than his lord" (v.16). All class
distinction goes where there is the love of Christ. He is not
acting as Master and Lord, but as a servant. The love of Christ
knows no class distinctions, and with Him all are on the same
level. The love of Christ puts us all on the same ground, and it
is the ground which He Himself has taken.
Another thing: this love of Christ is practical love, not just
sentimental love. The Lord Jesus was not saying, 'I love you' or
putting His hand on their shoulders and saying, 'My beloved
brother'. He was not just overflowing in sentimental love; He was
putting that love into action. The love of Christ is always active
love, the love which does things, not only says things. We have
all had people call us 'beloved brother' or 'beloved sister', and
we have lived to be very sorry for some of those very people have
done us the greatest hurt in life. Yes, they call us 'dear
brother', but they do us much hurt. The love of Christ is not like
that. His love is active love; and He proved it was true love by
what He did, and 'actions always speak louder than words'.
Then, the love of Christ is cleansing love. In His love
for His disciples He washed their feet, and I think their
spiritual feet needed more washing than their physical feet! He
knew that and that is why He said: 'Do you know what I have done
to you? Well, you do not know now, but you will know afterwards'.
His great love in the cross was the great cleansing love. True
love is cleansing love; it helps people to get rid of the dust of
this earth that is on their spiritual feet.
Another thing: this love of Christ was full of spiritual
meaning. He said: 'Do you know what I have done?' They might
have said: 'Yes, of course we know. You have washed our feet'. And
He would have said: 'Oh, no, I have done much more than that. I
have taught you a great lesson for life. I have taught you that
Divine love is like this, and you have come to learn something by
My spirit, by My disposition. This is what love is. I have only
acted a great spiritual truth. There is more in this towel and
this basin and this water than you can see with the natural eye.
It is the love behind all this, it is a love which conveys a great
spiritual meaning.' The true love of Christ is always instructive
Now the last thing. Do you notice the position in which John puts
this story? The other Gospel writers have put the Passover right
at the end and then, immediately it is over, they go to
Gethsemane, then to the cross. But John does not do that. He tells
us something more than the others do, that after this Passover
Jesus began to teach His disciples many things. And what is the
first thing that He will teach them? We pass into chapters
fourteen, fifteen and sixteen which are mostly about the coming of
the Holy Spirit. He is speaking about 'that day' - "In that day"
(John 16:23). What day? The day when the Holy Spirit will come.
"If I go, I will send Him unto you" (John 16:7). I think it is
very beautiful of John to have put it there.
What is your reaction to what I have been saying? I am sure you
are saying, as I do: "Yes, that is all true of the Lord Jesus and
of His love. That love was quite true of Him in all those ways: it
was never set aside by evil or by the faults or failures of other
people." All these things were true of His love, but what about
me? I have to go right down before this and say: "No, that is not
a picture of me. That is not the love that I have. I fail in all
these things. If somebody does me some harm my love does not just
overcome it. I fail at all points where Jesus triumphed." And yet
He said that that has to be true of us as it is true of Him. Oh,
how can that be? John immediately goes on to say that the Holy
Spirit is coming - "And when He is come what is now impossible to
you will then be possible", because the Holy Spirit is the Spirit
of Jesus and all things are possible if the Holy Spirit is in us.
I am not surprised that He goes by the name of 'the Comforter'!
When I see the Lord Jesus and His love, and then see myself, I
need a comforter more than anything else. Jesus says: 'The
Comforter will come. He will be in you and He will abide with you
for ever. What is now impossible to you will then be possible.'
I think that is a good word with which to come to the Lord's
Table: the message of His unfailing love.