John 13:1, “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.”
The historical church tradition of Lent is upon us. As with Advent, we Protestants as a whole do not participate in the season of Lent in an official capacity as a church. I agree with that statement. I only participate because I love liturgy. Praying the same prayer and participating in the same yearly event can seem like legalism to some, but to me, it’s a constant reminder that my mind and heart need to be continually reoriented to the Word of God.
Lent also serves as a time to focus on the Word of God as what it is: food for my spiritual soul. “As the deer for water, so I long for You, O God.”
When I take the time to fast from something, whether food, social media, or anything else that takes up my time or energy, I am reminding not only my intellect but also, and more importantly, my desires, that Christ is above all; the giver is to be treasured far above the gift. The spiritual water of Christ is of more value than the water I drink from the tap. The nourishment from God’s Word sustains me more than the food that fills my stomach.
During this Lent, I decided to focus specifically on John 13-17 during my reflections, which is the final discourse of Christ to His disciples before the events of the cross.
When the Patriarchs knew their time was soon to come to part from this world, they used their final speech to impart words of wisdom, blessings, admonishments, and encouragements. They spent their remaining time sharing what mattered most to who mattered most to them.
From reading through these chapters, Christ did the same. The chapter begins with the time of the Passover, which remembered the most iconic event in Old Testament Israel’s history. And of which Christ is the fulfillment.
I take note of the phrase “when Jesus knew that His hour had come,” and am reminded once more of the sovereignty of God found throughout Scripture.
Christ knew exactly when His hour to depart from the world was because God had ordained the specific moment in history His crucifixion would take place (Acts 4:26-28). Dwelling on that is food enough for a lifetime. Yet that isn’t even the most wonderful thought found in this 13th chapter of the book of John. What’s even more wonderful to me, is what the event is grounded in God’s love.
“Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”
God’s sovereignty is based on His love. “In love He predestined us,” does the book of Ephesians read. Christ loved His own, even to the end; even when that end meant He must endure the cross, despising its shame. We read He did so for the “Joy that was set before Him.”
What a thought to reckon with amid depression or heartache, or while struggling with my feelings of unworthiness. Take heart, my soul, Christ died to save you – yes you – sinner that you are, unworthy as you are. He chose you, and He grounded it in His sovereign love.
Unfortunately, some love does fade. Christ Himself said, “the love of many will grow cold.” I see that today. Failed marriages, broken friendships, split churches, family grievances; these prove Christ’s words true. Yet what do I find in this first verse of John 13?
“He loved them to the end.”
Christ’s love on earth never changed, it never stopped, never grew cold, never became indifferent, never backed down. Christ’s love held true to the end. The love that drove Him to heal the sick and give sight to the blind was the same love that drove Him to the cross, where he cried, “it is finished.”
I am a sinner. I have sinned, and I will continue to sin to my dying days. Yet Christ has already loved me to the end because He already paid for my sins – past, present, and future – for all time on the cross. Each one of my specific Hell-deserving sins were paid for on that cross. All of them.
“My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more.”
And I cry when I continue that section of the blessed hymn, “It is well with my soul.”
It is well with my soul because God has made it well in Christ alone. And what God has made well, He will keep well – even to the end.
True love, God’s love, is the kind that is with us to the end and will usher us into His marvelous kingdom, where He alone will be praised for all eternity.