John 13:1 “Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.”
Jesus’ love was not isolated incidents of love scattered here and there in his life. His entire earthly journey from conception to death was an unbroken stream of love flowing to everyone whose life he touched. In so many ways, the love he displayed was remarkable.
Take his love for his family. How often don’t our families suffer tension when one member tries to insert himself into another member’s business. Parents don’t know when to let their adult children live their own lives. Siblings, always competing to be the leader, can’t stop telling each other what to do. And how do we react when our own life is the one in which they are meddling? Do we “pop off” with choice words? Do we give them 6 months of the silent treatment? Do relationships become less than warm and loving?
At the wedding at Cana, Mary goes to Jesus for miraculous intervention when the wine runs low. She inserts herself into his Messianic business. That is no small place to be meddling! Though Jesus mildly rebukes her for involving him and ignoring his own timing, his love for her is undimmed. He goes ahead and solves the problem with 120 gallons of the finest wine anyone has ever tasted. That same deep regard and unwavering love for her will remain constant through his last hours on the cross, when he gives her the Apostle John to care for her after he is gone.
Consider his love for his enemies. When the Pharisees weren’t publicly accusing him of sin for being kind to people, they were trying to trap him in his words, slandering him behind his back, even plotting his death. Under similar circumstances, would you or I give people treating us like that a chance? Yet Jesus accepts dinner invitations from prominent Pharisee, critics of his who watch and wait for Jesus to slip. When a self-righteous young leader in search of eternal life tells Jesus with a straight face that he has kept all the commandments, Mark tells us, “Jesus looked at him and loved him,” before he shows the man that he hasn’t even kept the very first one.
Then there is his love for the sick and the outcast. Look closely at his healing of the leper. See his love reaching out to touch the contagious man. He shows him affection no one dared offer him for years before taking his leprosy away. Look closely at Jesus healing the deaf mute. See his love taking this dazed man away from the crowd, touching his ears and tongue to communicate what he was about to do. He cares for this man as an individual, and gives him his full attention, before performing the miracle that restores his speech and hearing. The miracles of mercy are love in themselves. But on top of this Jesus shows these people a dignity often missing in our treatment of people who are not physically perfect in every way.
“Having loved his own who were in the world…” Jesus already loved them. He already loves us. But he wanted them to have something more. He wanted them to have something more than an example of love to follow– a picture of what love looks like when we are called on to deal with the flawed people around us. He wanted them to have something more than stories that rekindle our faith in human kindness and hold out the hope that someone might care about us as well. Godly examples and warm feelings may make us feel spiritual, but they leave us just as lost as we are without them. He wanted us to have something more than anything that stopped short of full freedom from sin, souls reconciled to God, and certainty of unending life on the other side of death.
Don’t misunderstand. Already this life of love he lived was more. It was all part of the formula of our salvation. It was paying up the debt of love we owed, offering God the life of love his law demands on our behalf.
But now Jesus wanted to show them, and us, the full extent of his love. We find it on a bloody cross, and at an empty tomb. And it began here, in an upper room, where Jesus gathered with his disciples to celebrate a last Passover, and give them an even greater feast offering the tangible tokens of his love.