Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.
The poet Edgar Guest said that he would rather see a sermon than hear one any day. With today’s Scripture text we get to see a living sermon about Jesus’ love. Here is a parable in action, as Jesus not only talks about His love, but shows it: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
In the face of betrayal by Judas, cursing denial of Him by Peter, and desertion by the others, Jesus loves them to the very end. The outpouring of His love happens on the night when His disciples are bickering about who is the greatest. Pride does not allow them to wash the others’ feet. But Jesus, “knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands”, takes in those very hands the disciples’ dirty feet to wash them. Supreme authority assumes supreme humility.
In the coming days of Lent we will discover the Father’s love as a key theme of this Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17). In just these five chapters of John, the word “love” occurs thirty-one times, compared to only six times in the first twelve chapters. We will find few scenes in the Gospel story so revealing of the nature and extent of the Father’s love as this one. Come what may, Jesus reveals the Father’s love for us all the way “to the end”.
As a teenager Samuel Trevor Francis (1834-1925) stood on London’s Hungerford Bridge ready to bring his miserable life to an end. But as he peered into the dark depths of the River Thames, he remembered the love of Jesus for him. Later Francis wrote a poem about Jesus’ unending love that was made into the great hymn, “O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus”. The hymn likens Jesus’ love for us to the unfathomable depths and power of the sea:
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!
What are there in Jesus’ actions today to know; to feel; to do?