Who is Jesus?
John opens this new section of his Gospel with an amazing conglomeration of glorious realities. It is like a musician plans the overture to a symphony. John stresses that Jesus knew that his hour had come, he was going to return to his Father, he knew that the Father had put all things under his power. So now he declares his incredible love for his followers who will continue his work in the world.
The original Greek of 13.1 is impossible to translate without losing the fullness of its significance. He loved his own ‘eis telos’. Let us look together a little at the meaning of this expression.
The NIV chooses this understanding of ‘eis telos’ with the words ‘the full extent of his love’. Certainly the Greek does signify the amazing fullness of Jesus’ love for us. There is no limit to his love. We cannot conceive of any greater love, for this is total love which holds nothing back.
In the Old Testament there is a long history of God’s ‘loving kindness’. What riches lie in the Hebrew word ‘chesed’ which describes God’s continuous love for his people Israel throughout their history despite their frequent rebellion and sin. That ‘chesed’ comes to its climactic perfection in the love of Jesus for his people who remain in this world of sin while Jesus is being raised out from this world (John 13.1). They desperately need his love. The word ‘telos’ is used also in Romans 10.4 where Christ is said to be the ‘telos’of the Law. Paul is declaring that the Law of God points forward to the coming of Jesus and is superbly complete and perfect in Christ to whom it points. So also the love of Jesus brings everything in life and history to its perfect goal and perfection. What more could we desire than being loved by Jesus?
The extent of his love for us relates also to the climax of his coming to this world. Jesus’ declaration of his love follows from the statement that Jesus knew that his hour had come. He loves us so much that he even goes to the cross for us. It is in the cross that the glory of his love for us is shown. Jesus is glorified in the cross. We have just celebrated Good Friday and remembered that the agony of the cross is the out-working of his amazing love. His love cannot be separated from his suffering. The declaration of his love in John 13.1 is followed in the very next verse by the horror of his betrayal by one of his own chosen disciples.
Of course we shall revel in the wonder of being loved by the Lord of all glory. The warmth and comfort of his love enfolds us wonderfully. Now this love leads on to Jesus’ new commandment (not just a gentle exhortation!) that we are to love one another (John 13.34). Such love is the hallmark of those who believe in and follow Jesus.
When my wife and I worked in Indonesia, we heard of six Muslim men in fanatically Muslim Acheh in North Sumatra. One Sunday they relaxed and gossiped while sitting on a wall which happened to be opposite a Chinese church. After the morning worship the Christians streamed out of the church – and the six men watched them with fascination. They asked themselves what could possibly give those people such expressions of love on their faces as they related together. The six men agreed to sit on that wall again the next Sunday so that they could again observe the Christians’ faces and loving relationships. Afterwards they asked the Chinese pastor how they too could experience such love. They came to faith in Jesus that morning and fled to Java that afternoon to avoid being killed.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”. The Father loves his Son, Jesus loves us, we are to love one another, others will then join us in the glory of the Lord’s love for us. Brilliant! Hallelujah indeed!