Gone Only Bodily
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
This verse begins the second part of John=s Gospel, and foreshadows the theme of the book=s remaining chapters. Here, on Jesus= night of betrayal, we begin to enter the Holy of Holies of the New Testament.
John 13:1a (Holman) Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father.
This chapter is overshadowed with thoughts of departure. It is a paradox for Jesus to speak of departing.
Jesus departed from the Father though He never really left Him; now Jesus was returning to the Father, without really departing from us. In a sense, Jesus can never depart.
Only Jesus= physical presence was leaving. Bodily, He would not be with the disciples long. Jesus was going home. It would be good to be home, but the departure would be painful.
The coming days would be hard for Jesus and the disciples. Jesus will die, the disciples will be scattered. Knowing the disciples would be lonely, bewildered, and frightened, Jesus must have felt like a dying father whose main anxiety is leaving behind helpless orphans.
These were telling moments for Jesus. When parting, we tend to drop our masks. We are eager to find some word to say, some way to put our whole soul into a look, some embrace to put our whole strength into that will express all our love, and be a joy to two hearts for ever after to remember (Maclaren).
Even for Jesus, the pain of separation became a key unlocking hidden chambers of His heart. What did the key unlock, what was found within? Love.
John 13:1b Having loved His own who were in the world . . .
What a contrast B God surrounded by Galilean fishermen. The scene highlights Divine love. People of high standing joined Jesus= cause, but He never put aside His humble, lowly fishermen to make room for more respectable followers.
To be Jesus= companions, we would have selected titans like Luther, Calvin, Knox, Spurgeon, and Moody; leaders like Alexander and Caesar; wealthy men like Nicodemus, Lazarus, and Joseph of Arimathea.
But Jesus by-passed angels, kings, and sages to choose poor unlettered commoners as his companions. It is easy to love loveliness. We all do it. But do we love the unlovely? Jesus does.
Jesus picked these disciples, and us, because of His gracious love. We were unworthy when He first dealt with us. We have been unworthy every day since. Our acceptance is grounded entirely in His unmerited favor.
John 13:1c . . . He loved them to the end.
Jesus not only picked the Twelve. He stayed with them. This is a miracle in itself. He loved them Ato the end@; to the uttermost. The phrase denotes degree and duration.
He loved them though they were, like us, ambitious, cowardly, dull, forgetful, prejudiced, quarrelsome, skeptical, selfish, slow learners, treacherous, unloving, and weak (among other things).
Even with all their flaws, it was impossible for them to break through Jesus= fence of love. Once hedged in, they were bound to Him with strands of love stronger than steel. Nothing could tear them from Jesus= heart.
Even Judas could not escape His love. Jesus made him treasurer, allowed him a seat of honor at the Last Supper, and called him AFriend@ (Matthew 26:50) after the betrayal.
The more the Twelve hurt Jesus, the more He seemed to love them. The more unworthy they were of His favor, the more intensely His love flamed. He could easily have become bitter or resentful, but even in the shadow of the cross, Jesus thought of them.
Though He was the One about to die, Jesus comforted them. ALet not your heart be troubled . . .I will not leave you comfortless . . .I will come again.@ He consoled them! Jesus= own sufferings could not diminish His love for the disciples.
The Twelve typify us all. Do we ever doubt the Lord=s love for us? Look at how Jesus continued to love the disciples. He remained faithful to them, He will remain faithful to us.
Do we consider ourselves weak? Jesus= three closest friends fell asleep in the Garden while He agonized in prayer. He asked them, ACould ye not watch with me one hour?@ But even this did not lessen His love. When the soldiers came, He said of His disciples, ALet these men go@ (John 18:8).
Have we sinned? Look at Peter. He rebuked Jesus, Christ called him ASatan@ (Matthew 16:21-23), Peter openly denied the Lord, and cursed. But when Jesus left the tomb, He commanded the angel to mention Peter by name. The angel told the ladies, AGo tell His disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you to Galilee@ (Mark 16:7). Jesus even used Peter to preach the sermon at Pentecost.
After the Ascension, Jesus could have enjoyed Heaven, basked in the love of faithful angels, and forgotten about us sinners here, but no. He intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father.
Stephen=s cry brought Him to His feet. He struck down Saul B not to kill him, but to save him, a fact so stunning that the believers in Damascus could not believe it.
I heard of a boy who loved a pet canary. Every morning he enjoyed hearing it sing. One morning no music came from the cage. The bird was panting, very sick. The inevitable was obvious. The little boy sat down and sobbed.
Do you think the little boy loved the bird any less because it could not sing? No, he actually loved the bird more than he ever had before. So, too, the Lord loves us when we may not be as pleasant as we were before.
Others may love for a while and then grow cold, but Jesus is the essence of constancy, the embodiment of unchanging love. Even in Israel=s rebellion, He told them, AI have loved you with an everlasting love@ (Jeremiah 31:3).
Whatever our condition, God loves us, and will gladly forgive us if we will repent and turn from sin.
We may feel ours is a special case, too hard for even the Lord=s love to overcome, but Ano temptation has overtaken you except what is common to humanity@ (I Corinthians 10:13).
AAs a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He knows what we are made of, remembering that we are dust@ (Psalm 103:13-14).
This consoles us when we fall into sin. Jesus knows we are weak and struggling. He sees the devil stalking us like a roaring lion. He knows our life is difficult, and loves us through it all.
When Jesus saved us He knew everything we would become and do, but He took us anyway. We will never do anything Jesus did not foresee.
No new evidence will ever be presented against us which would change His affection toward us. Before He chose us, He bad already taken everything against us into account.
Does His grace promote sin? No. His love, when rightly understood and appreciated, is so strong that we ever strive to live worthy in response. Our goal must ever be to live for Christ at the highest possible level of holiness.