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. (John 13:1)
As I read the account of the most famous supper of all, I can see them all in my mind- the 12 chosen disciples and Jesus, ascending the stairs to the upper room. The Twelve had no idea what was about to unfold; how nothing would be the same after that night.
The Passover meal prepared, they took their seats and listened to Jesus declare his desire to eat this meal with them before he suffered. They had heard this talk before, yet it never seemed to sink in. Instead, they began to argue over who was the greatest. Jesus quickly reminded them with his words, and then his actions, that true greatness is found by humbling oneself to serve.
At the onset, it seemed this would be an occasion for frustration and annoyance on the part of Jesus. After all, these men had been with him for three years. Had they not learned anything? Did they not understand? Yet, John began his account of the upper room with these words: Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
Kneeling on the ground, he began to wash their feet, one by one. One more lesson. One more act of everyday love before demonstrating the greatest love of all. Through the years, Jesus had healed a disciple’s family member, provided them with food, calmed the raging sea, and patiently taught them when they were slow to understand. The washing of their dusty, dirty feet was his final act of servant love before his arrest later that night.
He loved them to the end. What a beautiful way to describe the thorough love of our Savior; and what confidence this gives that he will also love us- those who are his own- to the end.
Earlier in John’s gospel account, he recorded these words of Jesus: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27-18). What utter grace and amazing love! Our Shepherd has made our salvation secure. We who are his sheep can never be taken from him.
A few short years later, the Apostle Paul gave us this same encouragement in his letter to the Philippians. He wrote, “He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). By His grace, God’s saving purpose will be fulfilled when Christ returns in glory. Until that appointed time, he will keep his sheep so that they might reign with him forever.
Later in his life, John wrote about this most glorious and anticipated day. In the last few chapters of Revelation, he described the new Heaven and the new Earth- a place where all things will be made new, and our tears will be wiped away. Truly, those written in the Lamb’s book of life will be kept and loved not only until the end but through eternity.
And so my mind goes back once more to those men in the upper room. They really didn’t know how their lives were about to change, or what this would mean for all of humanity. As the night would continue to unfold, they would witness the betrayer leave their midst, and they would become the first partakers of the elements of the new covenant. To their surprise, their night would end in a garden with the arrest of their Lord; an arrest that would lead to many sons being brought to glory.
I can only imagine how John must have replayed all of this in his mind as he sat down to write the account of that night. It’s impossible to know what he must have felt, or if he wrote through many tears. Yet, we know his reflection in accordance with the Holy Spirit left us with this beautiful beginning: having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. This is the love of our Savior. The love that secures us forever in him.