“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.”
During Jesus’ ministry He had been indicating to His followers for some time that His “hour” had not yet come (Jn. 2:4; 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20). This climactic, divinely appointed “hour” was, of course, the hour of His death, the “hour” to which God’s redemptive efforts had been pointing since Genesis 3. This was the hour of the Son’s glorification (12:23), the hour for Him to be “lifted up” to “draw all men” to Himself (12:32).
Jesus would “depart out of this world” to return to the Father. John’s use of the word “world” refers to the mass of lost humanity (1:10), the very “world” the Father loved so much that He would ransom it with the life of His only Son (3:16-17; Mk. 10:45). God’s love for the world is manifest in His aim to draw the lost out of it and unto Himself.
Those who are drawn out of the world become something new and distinct from the world. The world has its “own” and Jesus has His “own” (15:19). Those who belong to the world are those who hate and reject Jesus (15:18-25). Those who belong to Jesus are His disciples, the people of God, what would become the church of Christ. He prayed for our protection and unity and future glory (17:9-26). For though He left the world and went to the Father, we who believe in Him must remain until the “hour” of our departure comes (2 Tim. 4:6).
Jesus had loved His own all along but in John 13, in these final moments of His life, John says, “He loved them to the end.”
There are a few different ways to understand John’s wording here. The ESV, NASB, RSV and NKJV all render John 13:1, “he loved them to the end.” If “to the end” [eis telos] is to be understood temporally, we might say, “He continued to love them to the very end of His life.” But “to the end” could also mean “utterly” or “to the uttermost,” hence the NIV’s paraphrase, “He showed them the full extent of His love.”
Either way, Jesus’ love for His own is such that it extends beyond the very limits of our imagination. In John 13, He exhibits His ultimate, self-sacrificing love by washing the feet of His disciples, which was really done in anticipation of His greatest act of love, His sacrificial death on the cross. “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn. 15:13)
Jesus loves us to the very end and to the uttermost. In the cross, we see the full extent of love and it cannot be calculated. God gives us the full measure of that fathomless love in His Son. We can never experience a more soul-satisfying love than what we have in Christ.
Grounded firmly in the rich soil of this love we could seek to explore its every dimension for 10,000 years and not exhaust it in the least. God’s love can be known but its infinite nature is such that it surpasses knowledge (Eph. 3:17-19). Even though we can’t fully appreciate the depth of God’s love let us make it our aim to try with thanksgiving.
In last week’s article we noted the emphasis in Christians preaching “the Lord Jesus” in Antioch (Acts 11:20). Those who responded in faith to the message about the Lord “turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21) to become members of the church of the Lord (Acts 2:47). Then, Barnabas exhorted these new converts to remain “faithful to the Lord” (Acts 11:23). We don’t know the details of his teaching but Luke’s summary in the book of Acts clearly emphasizes the centrality of “the Lord” Himself.
If we want people to be “faithful to the Lord” then we must “preach the Lord.” Jesus must be front and center in our teaching. When anything else becomes central to our teaching we cease to “preach the Lord Jesus.”
However, some have gone to an extreme by ignoring some very important issues connected with the Lord. They say, “Preach the Man, not the plan” or “Preach the Man, not the church.” This may sound pious on the surface but ignoring the Lord’s teaching on how to become part of His kingdom or the Lord’s teaching on the kingdom itself is actually preaching something OTHER than Jesus and will result in something other than salvation.
Preaching “The Man” includes preaching “The Plan”
How can one preach Jesus while ignoring what Jesus said about entering His kingdom? To ignore Jesus’ teaching on faith and repentance is to preach something other than “the Lord.” Remember when Jesus commissioned His apostles to go out into the world and “make disciples of all nations” they were to also baptize them and teach them His doctrine (Mt. 28:19-20; cf. Mk. 16:16). In other words, preaching Jesus must include instruction on how one ought to respond to Him in faith.
In preaching “The Man” one will inevitably be teaching “The Plan.” One must surely explain that His public ministry began with baptism when He was anointed with the Holy Spirit and declared to be the Son of God (Mt. 3:15-17). Beginning with a symbolic death, burial and resurrection and ending with a literal death, burial and resurrection Jesus “fulfilled all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15). Neglecting the command to be baptized (Acts 10:47-48) turns “preaching Jesus” into telling a nice story: “Wow, Jesus sounds like an amazing guy!” We will learn some great morals but in the end we are still left dead in our sins and transgressions (Eph. 2:1-2).
The clearest example of this is found in Acts 8:26-40. Philip came upon a man reading a prophecy about Jesus in the scroll of Isaiah. Confused, the man asked for some help understanding this mysterious text. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35). We are not given any detail about their study together but we do know Philip preached the gospel from Isaiah 53 and that his teaching included instruction on how to respond to the gospel in faith. They came across some water and the man said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:37)
Evidently, in “preaching Jesus,” Philip taught the man the necessity of having his sins washed away in baptism. Clearly, we are not “preaching Jesus” if we leave out how to respond to Him in faith. The Christians from Cyprus and Cyrene, along with Barnabas, were doing the same thing in Antioch. In “preaching the Lord Jesus,” they were teaching their audience the plan of salvation to which they responded in faith having “turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:20-23).
Preaching “The Man” includes preaching “The Church”
In preaching Jesus there must also be by necessity some teaching about His church, especially in the confused religious climate in which we live today. In preaching the Lord Jesus, how can one ignore teaching what He purchased with His blood that was shed on the cross? (Acts 20:28) His beloved bride He died to sanctify? (Eph. 5:22-33) His body of which He is the head? (Eph. 1:22-23) His kingdom of which He is King? (Col. 1:13-14)
The list could go on but suffice it to say, to “preach the Lord Jesus” requires teaching about the kingdom family of His redeemed people. To leave out the church in our instruction in making disciples is to leave out a great deal of Christ’s teaching. He came to build His church (Mt. 16:18), a distinct group of people called out from the world to live lives of holiness. This was His mission! In coming to seek and save the lost He was building a holy habitation for God to dwell (Eph. 2:19-22).
One cannot preach the King by leaving out how to enter His kingdom or what being part of His kingdom is all about. Some are baptized into Christ without understanding the responsibilities of discipleship. They want to have their sins forgiven but have no interest in working in the kingdom. Well, it doesn’t work that way. One cannot have citizenship without discipleship. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).
When we “turn to the Lord” we receive all of the attendant blessings (Eph. 1:3) but we also agree to take on the weighty responsibility of discipleship (Lk. 14:25-33). We are told to “renounce all that [we have]” to take up our cross and follow Jesus wherever He goes, even unto death (Rev. 2:10).
If you want to be baptized to receive the forgiveness of sins but are not willing to work for the Master then you haven’t really “turned to the Lord” at all. Remember, the Lord Himself said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 7:21) And it is said of Jesus that He is “the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb. 5:9). Let us be sure to preach the Man, the plan and the church (cf. Acts 20:27).
The prophet Isaiah said the “law” & the “word of the LORD” would “go forth” from Jerusalem (Isa. 2:1-3). In that “word” the Lord would teach us “his ways” and “paths”. I believe Peter spoke this “word” on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem after the death and resurrection of Jesus. And “those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” (Acts 2:41)
What “word” goes forth from us? I sometimes wonder if our “word” is more centered around the church than the Lord of the church. Do we preach an institution that saves or the Savior? Clearly, Peter’s words in Acts 2 were all about the Lord Himself, how Jesus was the Messiah foretold in the prophets and how He was resurrected from the dead and made Lord of all. This is the only “word,” Jesus and His ways and paths, that can effect salvation in the lives of our neighbors.
When the “word of the LORD” is received by faith it causes the Lord to “add” one to His universal church (Acts 2:47). The church grows by preaching the “the Lord Jesus,” like Barnabas had done in Antioch (Acts 11:20). When those who heard responded in faith they “turned to the Lord” (Acts 11:21), thus, becoming part of the Lord’s church, and were exhorted to remain “faithful to the Lord” (Acts 11:23). Notice, he preached “the Lord” not the church; they “turned to the Lord” not the church; and were to “remain faithful to the Lord” not the church.
So the universal church is the product of God’s work of salvation and the vehicle through which He continues His work of salvation. Jesus the Savior saves through Christians sharing the word about Him. We deviate from this pattern when we put more emphasis on the “church” than in the “Lord” in the “word” we share with others.
In fact, it was emphasis laid on the institutional aspect of the church that eventually led to apostasy. The universal body of people was seen as a corporate “society” that took precedence over “the word of the LORD,” His “ways” and “paths.” Soon, this church with all its councils and synods was regarded as the authority rather than the word itself. But what will judge us on the last day: the Lord’s “word” or the “church”? Let us be sure “the word of the LORD” is going forth from us!
“The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.”
In Matthew 8:23, Jesus got on a boat to escape the crowds and cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. After being interrupted on his way to the boat (vv.19-22) He took some much needed rest. What made Jesus’ nap so strange was that it took place during a “storm” so savage that the boat was being “swamped by the waves” (v.24). It’s not hard to imagine why Jesus was so exhausted. He had been going non-stop from His sermon on the hill (Mt.5-7) straight to a stream of miracles (Mt.8:1-17).
During the storm, Jesus’ disciples woke Him, saying, “Save us Lord; we are perishing” (v.25), to which Jesus replied, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (v.26a) This probably did not seem an appropriate time for a lecture on faith. After all, the boat was being pummeled by waves! It would seem like a perfectly good time to be afraid.
Why did Jesus scold their lack of faith at this fearful time? First of all, Jesus had already said they would go to the other side of the lake (v.18) and His words are always true. And let’s not forget all of the previous miracles these disciples had witnessed (vv.1-17). So, Jesus expected His word and His past displays of power to be enough for His disciples to trust Him. Is our position any different today?
After rebuking the disciples, Jesus “rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was great calm” (v.26). The disciples’ response says it all: “What sort of human is this?” (v.27). The disciples knew of only one being who could wield that kind of power: the God of Israel! Just as the Lord had done for Israel during the Exodus, Jesus had done for His disciples. “O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O Lord, with your faithfulness all around you? You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.” (Psa. 89:8-9) In the calming of the sea of Galilee, Jesus is viewed in the same light of the God of Israel.
Who is this Jesus? Merciful Jesus, who shows kindness to social zeros; Compassionate Jesus, who heals the suffering; Authoritative Jesus, who displays His rule and power; And here, Jesus, the God of Israel!
It seems that no matter how long a loved one lives we are seldom ready to say goodbye to them. Even when someone close to us has lived his “three score and ten”, when he passes away we always wish we had a bit more time with them. We want one more long talk, one more cup of coffee, to hear “I love you” one more time, to hear one more word of wisdom or guidance or to ask one more question. After they are gone we ask, “Why did never ask him about that?” But it is too late. It doesn’t matter how old the person is, we never seem to have enough time.
When a person is taken “before their time” we especially feel robbed. But even when a person has lived so long that they are on “borrowed time,” as the saying goes, we still feel like there were things left unsaid and undone. Does a person ever really feel “closure”? There is a certain phenomenon that takes place when life progresses at a natural pace: Time quickens the closer to the end. “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Even though we always knew of the inevitability of death we are rarely prepared to deal with it when it finally arrives. Indeed, knowledge is not the same thing as preparedness.
There came a time when Paul had to say goodbye to a group of loved ones. He would never see them again and their parting was sorrowful (Acts 20:37-38). Yet Paul could confidently say, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). Paul made sure he told his friends everything they needed to know. Everything was on the table.
What about you? Maybe there are things that have been left unsaid to someone close to you for far too long. There will be a last time you speak with that person. Have you told them you love them? Have you shared the gospel with them? Have you apologized for past wrongs? If not, I can almost guarantee you will regret not having done so.
Don’t let any more time pass before saying what needs to be said or doing what needs to be done. “What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (Jas. 4:14)