Imagine if you would, what it would be like to have devoted the last three years engaged in an intense apprenticeship under the tutelage of an renowned teacher or expert in a specialized field. No doubt, in three years time, you would see many things that stand out to you. You would probably have many memories that you would never forget. You have learned the ins and outs of the trade that you were learning, and you would be quite familiar with what your master expected. Now imagine that time was coming to an end. Clearly, the master would want to give you some final lessons to leave with you at the forefront of your thinking. When we come to John 13-17, that is exactly what we see. We see Jesus, the Master, giving his disciples some final words over a meal before His death, and resurrection. In this introductory post, my goal is to dive into John 13:1 and briefly discuss the setting of the discourse, as well as the overall purpose of John’s Gospel, as well as share three truths John reveals to us about the love of Christ.
“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.”
Setting and Purpose
“Now before the Feast of the Passover”
John 13:1 gives us the setting of this discourse. This meal was the Passover meal, and it occurred “before the Passover festival”, which indicates that this is most likely Thursday evening, the start of Friday the 15th of the Jewish month of Nissan. The Passover of course points back to God delivering His people out of the land of Egypt. It is in the final Passover meal they share that Jesus offers the discourse. John differs in his account of the upper room fellowship from the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Unlike the Synoptics Authors, John does not include the meaning and institution of the Lord’s Supper. Why does John take a different route? In order to answer this question, we must be aware of the author’s intent in writing. John himself gives a purpose for his writing in John 20:31. “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing in Him you may have life in His name.”
Throughout the entire book, John has this goal underlying everything He is writing. Everything that is being written reveals Jesus as the Savior. Jesus himself time and time again reminds His disciples that central and climactic act of His life is not the miracles He performed, nor the discourses He delivered, but rather it is His death in the place of sinners. Multiple times throughout the book, Jesus makes it known that His “hour” had not come (Jn 2:4, 7:8). During the week leading up to this final Passover, Jesus declares that His hour had arrived, the hour of his glorification, i.e. His departure from the world and return to the Father (12:23). This is the event that is central to the book as a whole. Jesus throughout the book reveals Himself both publicly and privately as the Savior and the Son of God. In the first half of the book (1:19-12:50), also known as the “Book of Signs”, Jesus is revealing who He is publicly through signs (usually miraculous) that would either create or enhance faith (2:1-11; 2:14-17; 4:43-54; 5:1-15; 6:1-15; 9:1-7; 11:38-44). In the Second half, also known as “The Book of Glory” (13:1-20:31) we get an inside look to Jesus’ ministry to His disciples, also meant to enhance faith in who He is. In the first part to this second half of the book, we are given a detailed account of the final Passover meal Jesus would have with His disciples.
A Glorious Love
Though John 13:1 is a verse that reveals the setting of the following chapters, this introductory verse to the discourse reveals the glorious unending and unfailing love of Christ for his people. Before everything is talked about in the discourse, and before the scourging and crucifixion would take place, John gives us something to keep in mind as we go through the rest of his book. “…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.” In this verse, John reveals to us three things about the love of Christ.
1. His Love for His People is Like No Other
“having loved his own who were in the world”
The object of Christ’s love in this verse is his people who were in the world, but not of the world. The term “world” is important in these chapters, evidenced by the fact that it is mentioned forty times. While the term “world” (kosmos) is used in various ways in John’s Gospel, it often carries negative overtones with it. When carrying a negative connotation, it is used to, as Carson says, “describe the created order (especially of human beings and human affairs) in rebellion against its maker (e.g. 1:10; 7:7; 14:17, 22, 27, 30; 15:18-19; 16:8, 20, 33; 17:6, 9, 14).” Recognizing this profoundly deepens our understanding of God’s love. John uses this term so often in this sense to make a distinction between His own people, and those of the world. Christ has a people who are His own in the world. They are not a nameless, faceless group. His people consist of “whoever believes in Him” (3:16). They are those who have been “chosen out of the world” (15:16). They are those who have heard His voice and followed Him (10:27) as a result of new birth brought about by the Spirit (3:3-6; 6:63) and drawing to Christ by God the Father (6:44). In following Christ, they have been given eternal life, and no one can snatch them away, for they are eternally kept by God (10:28). Therefore, their residency is with Him, and their identity is in Him. These are the object of Christ’s redeeming love, although the world rejects and hates them (15:18-25). The world embraces and loves its own, while Christ embraces and loves His own. Therefore, Jesus is telling his disciples (then and now) “Although you live in a world that hates me, and will hate and reject you, I love you with a special, redeeming love that belongs to you and you alone.” Therefore, if you have turned from your sinful ways, and have followed Christ, know that all of these truths apply to you. Rest daily in the fact that God loves you with an glorious and eternal redeeming love.
2. His Love for His People was Unto Death.
“…when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father…he loved them to the end.”
Knowing that He has a special, redeeming love for His sheep is so foundational to understanding the relationship we have with Christ, but in understanding the depth of this love, we must look to the extremes He went to on behalf of His sheep. It says in verse one “…when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father… Jesus loved His disciples to the end.” The return to the Father came by the way of the Cross. He knew the agony and the torment of what awaited Him, yet He gladly drank every bit of the cup of wrath that was before Him. All the suffering of a sinless life lived in the midst of a dark and sin-stained world culminates here, as the Lord’s servant, bears the full weight of the just penalty for sin in the place of His sheep. His love for His sheep, those who truly followed Him, was to the end literally. From beginning to end, every moment of Jesus’ relationship with His followers was nothing short of love. And that path of love led to its inevitable end. Like the disciples of old, we too can look back across the Gospel accounts, and wholeheartedly affirm that our Savior loved us from start to finish.
3. His Love for His People is to the Greatest Degree
Jesus did not only love His disciples to the end in the temporal sense (i.e. time on earth), but He also loved them to the end in the qualitative sense (i.e. what kind of love, or to what degree). The Greek word telos, which is translated as “end” can also be translated as “uttermost”, or “complete”. Here, it is possible that the word may be catching both senses. He loved to the end in that He loved even unto death, and therefore He also loved to the end in that He displayed love to the greatest degree. In His death on behalf of sinners, He embodied John 15:13 to the fullest. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down His life for His friends.” As followers of Jesus this is greatly encouraging. On those days where we are wondering and doubting the love and provision of God, we must preach this to ourselves. God has loved us like no one else has, is, or ever will. He laid down His life for us. He saved us from Himself, by Himself, for Himself. 1 Peter 2:9 tells us that we are a “people for His own possession.” God has made us His, not just for a moment, but forever! The intensity and degree of God’s love for all who will call upon His name is unfathomable.
So believers, rejoice in this love. Rest in this love. Proclaim the truths of this love to yourself. Those who do not know Christ, behold what He has done! This love extends to all who will call upon His name. Quit trusting yourself. Turn to the glorious Savior, who died in the place of all who will turn to Him. Embrace the Savior, and you will be reconciled to God eternally. O, what wondrous love is this!
 Harris, Murray J. John. Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament. Andreas J. Köstenberger, Robert W. Yarbrough, Gen. Editors. B&H Academic, Nashville, TN, 2015, 10-11.
 Carson, D.A., The Gospel According to John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI. 1991. Kindle Edition, Loc 2142.
 Harris, 242.