The Love of Christ, John 13. 1
J. Boyd Nicholson, St. Catharines, Canada
John 13-17 has been called 'The Central Teaching of Jesus Christ'. The Lord Jesus would soon be crucified and go back to the Father. The disciples were full of questions as they thought of being left on earth without the visible presence of their Lord and Saviour. One key to the contents of these chapters is found in the two contrasting phrases, 'out of this world' and 'in the world', v. 1. These introduce the disciples, and all who love the Lord, to the unfailing work of Christ 'out of this world' on behalf of His people who are stilt left 'in the world', 13. 1.
In chapter 13, the Lord cleanses the feet of 'his own', vv. 4-5. Today, 'out of this world', He applies the water of the word to cleanse His people's walk, from defilement by contact with the world. In chapter 14, He answers the prayers of His own, vv. 13-14. It is His present joy in heaven to hear His people's prayers. In chapter 15, He purges the lives of 1 lis own that they may bear much fruit, vv. 1-16. The Father raises up the branches and removes the dead wood, v. 2. The Lord Jesus cleanses them by applying the living word, v. 3. In chapter 16 He reveals Himself by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, vv. 7-15. He ever delights to make Himself known to His own, still 'in the world'. In chapter 17, He intercedes for His disciples and 'for them also which shall believe . . .' v. 20. So today, 'out of this world', He 'ever liveth to make intercession for them', Heb. 7. 25.
In chapter 13, there are five great lessons from the lips of the Master. The first is in verse 1. 'A Lesson on Love'. In this verse thete are three objects of the love of Christ. He loves the Father's will, He loves the Father Himself, and He loves the Father's children,
His love for the: Father's will is evident by the reference to 'his hour'. The Lord Jesus moved through life according to a divine schedule. Not by the hours of the clock, but that hour planned in the eternal ages. That hour was uniquely 'his hour', bound up in the Father's will.
His love for the Father Himself is seen by the fact that the Lord Jesus was going 'unto the Father'. It was not the comforts of His heavenly home, the praise of Heaven, nor the service of His angels for which He longed. It was to return, with longing love, to 'the Father'.
His love for the Father's children is clearly stated and expanded by the words 'he loved them unto the end' (utterly). 'His own' refers in John 1. 11 to Israel. They 'received him not'. Does He love them still? Hear His own words, 1 have loved thee with an everlasting love' Jer. 31. 3. In John 13, 'his own' refers in a special way to those disciples. They were His own by creatorial right, by elective choice, and as a gift from the Father, John 17. 6. They, with us also, are His own by redemptive purchase. He knew that they would all forsake Him and flee in His hour of deep distress. He knew what coldness of heart and worldliness would mark us out, upon whom the ends of the age have come. Can He love us still?
His love is causeless. Human love needs a cause, 1 John 4. 19. Divine love does not look for a reason to love. He loves only because He loves! Deut. 7. 7-8. He loves the unlovely and the unlovable. We hated Him without a cause, John 15. 25. He has loved us without a cause.
His love is ceaseless. Human love can end and beloveds of the past can be forgotten. The sobs of abandoned children testify that even that most wonderful human love, a mother's love, may die. But His love for us will never fail through endless ages, 1 Cor. 13. 8.
His love is changeless. Human love can change and even turn to hate. The divorce courts testify to this fact. But since He Himself is changeless, Heb. 13. 8, His love can never fade, no, not forever.
The love of Christ is unquenchable, S. of S. 8. 7. The many waters of distance, of darkness, or of depths, cannot extinguish the eternal flame of His love. It is inseparable, Rom 8. 38-39. Things physical, spiritual, temporal, spatial, and things universal, cannot sever that golden link of love. It is immeasurable, save only by the fourfold dimensions of the cross, 'breadth, and length, and depth, and height', infinitely reaching out in every direction to the vanishing point of the ages, Eph. 3. 18. It is incomprehensible and passes knowledge, Eph. 3. 18-19. It can be proclaimed but it cannot be explained. It can be enjoyed, but it cannot be exhausted. It is the joy of earth and the theme of heaven.
It is the appreciation of that wonderful love that calls forth the song of heaven, Rev. 1. 5. It draws forth the worship of His people in the gatherings of the saints. It sends forth His own into all the world to declare His gospel. It binds up the sorrowing, builds up the weakling, holds up the stumbling and lifts up the fallen. Oh! what a wonderful love is this.
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my heart, my heart, my all!