Reading through the gospels to get a better understanding of Jesus’ life and ministry, one verse stands out: John 13:1: “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” This verse seems to be an accurate description of the unfailing love that characterizes Jesus, and digging deeper, I asked myself: “Who is the “THEM” that Jesus loved to the end?”
We know that Jesus loved the outcasts, sinners and those who society wrote off as unworthy, treating them as such. We read of His unconditional love for them, and see how lavishly He loved them, compassionately interacting with them; yet in this passage, the “THEM” that John is referring to are “His own”: those He called to be His followers, the men who spent the three years of Jesus’ ministry right at His side.
In spite of being “His own”, and experiencing His compassion and power every day, at times it seemed like they simply didn’t “get it.” This is the same group of men who participated in the miracle of feeding the 5,000 and a few hours later “cried out for fear”. They are the ones who could not heal the epileptic boy because of their unbelief (Matt. 17:14-20). His closest followers were the very ones who fell asleep on the mountain when Jesus, transformed, was talking with Moses and Elijah (Luke 9:28-36).They were often rebuked by their Master with harsh words such as “How is it that you have no faith?” “How long shall I bear with you?” These same men were arguing about who would be greater in the kingdom when He was predicting His sacrificial death to them, and they were His best friends who later would go with Him to Gethsemane and fall asleep three times (not once!!) while He was agonizing with the weight and ugliness of the sin of the world, struggling to accept His cruel death as God’s plan for their own salvation! They just didn’t get it. Later they would abandon Him, deny Him, and go so far as to be willing to return to their pre-Christ employment and activities. He knew all of that had happened and was yet to happen, yet “He loved THEM to the end.”
Looking at “His own” who were so “loved to the end” gives me greater awe of Christ’s love for me. I read of their doubts and it shames me to recall the many times in my own life that I didn’t completely trust in His power. I am appalled by their reactions, and realize how often I cling to my own opinions or desires, not understanding His plans. It puzzles me how they could fall asleep in such a crucial moment as when Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, not acknowledging that my reactions to life situations are sometimes all about my comfort and not His glory; that I’m not watchful in prayer, either. How often I just don’t “get it”, either!
“He loved THEM to the end”? Praise God, He did! His love towards them didn’t depend on their performance, but on who He was: God Himself, full of grace and compassion. Will He love ME to the end? Thank God, His love towards them assures me that He will love me with the same unconditional Father- love… “to the end”! While that truth gives me confidence, and assures me that it will never change, I also have to realize that I have a responsibility to Him who loved me so. Jesus elaborated on His love, and left His disciples instructions as to what to do with that love. He said in John 15:9: “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love.” My desire today is to know that love; to believe it, share it, appreciate it, rejoice in it, let it transform my life, and praise Him for it.