One of the occasions that surprises people about Jesus and challenges his followers was when he washed his disciples’ feet, recorded in John 13. John gives a preface to the footwashing: ‘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.’
Those who have read the Gospel of John from its beginning will note that John several times writes about an hour that had not arrived. Now he says that it has come. He also informs us that the only word that can describe what Jesus had done already for his disciples and what he was about to do for them is the word ‘love’.
Jesus had loved them before he met them face to face. His love was seen in the gentle and compassionate way he discipled them. He revealed his love by protecting them from spiritual danger. And he showed his love by his willing commitment to go the cross and pay the penalty their sins deserved.
His love for them at the time of the footwashing was remarkable, given their behaviour and interests. They were focussed on which of them should be the greatest. They also showed their ignorance of many basic lessons in the questions they asked Jesus. Yet he loved them and showed it by washing their feet and then going to the cross on their behalf.
What does this mean for us? Here are some suggestions. First, Jesus is totally committed to completing in our lives the work of grace that he commenced. Just as these disciples had their quirks and failures, so have we. But Jesus will not let us go – because he loves us.
Second, Jesus has loved us with the various aspects of love that he displayed to his disciples. He loved us with pity when we were in our sins and came to save us. On the day he met with us, his love was marked by great joy. Since then he has, in love, gently and compassionately taught us how to live the Christian life and he has protected us by his loving intercession on our behalf in God’s presence. Each believer is surrounded by the love of Jesus.
Third, how long will Jesus love us? He will love us through every trial that comes our way; whatever else may cease, the love of Jesus will not. He will love us unto the end of our earthly journey; he will be there to warm our hearts as we sense the cold touch of death and he will be there to embrace us the moment we breathe the pure air of heaven. He will love us for ever in the presence of the Father.
Fourth, Jesus loved us to the limits when he took our place on the cross. His voluntary sacrificial death is the grandest display of love that can ever be revealed. It was in this display of love that Paul gloried because he followed ‘the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me’.