John 13:1, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of the world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
It is unquestionable that the Gospel of John is a glorious account of the life and the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. And although there are many similarities between John’s Gospel and the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), indeed John’s account does contain some unique features. For example, there are many events and teaching discourses in John that are not found in the other three (we can think of Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman, and the raising of Lazarus, for example). Moreover, there are several themes utilized by John that are unique to the Johannine corpus (Gospel of John, 1-3 John, Revelation), such as the contrast between ‘light and dark’ and ‘the heavenly and the earthly.’
John’s gospel is often outlined into two main sections: chapters 1-12 and chapters 13-21. The first half, often termed the ‘book of signs’ (2:11), contains seven ‘signs’ pointing to the identity of the Messiah (2:1-11; 4:46-54; 5:1-15; 6:5-13; 6:16-21; 9:1-7; 11:1-44). And the second half, often termed the ‘book of glory,’ recounts the final week of the earthly life of Christ. In this devotion, I want to focus for a moment on the second half of the Gospel, the ‘book of glory.’ John opens the passion narrative with this significant statement: “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of the world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (13:1). But what does it mean that Jesus loves us ‘to the end’? I think we are helped along the way when we recognize that the same term (‘the end / the finish’) is used later in the passion narrative. As Jesus hung on the cross, he cried out, “It is finished.” John brackets the passion narrative with the same term: “he loved them to the end … it is finished (13:1; 19:30).” Thus what we learn is quite simple … yet profound! Jesus loves his people unto the cross! He loves them to such an extent that he dies as their substitute. He loves them to such an unfathomable degree that he willingly lays down his life in their place (John 10:18; 15:13; 1 John 3:16). He willingly suffers the wrath due to them. In other words, in John 13 as Jesus stoops to wash the feet of his disciple, he has in view the cross where he will wash us whiter than snow in his blood.
And when we couple this glorious truth of John 12-21 to the chief emphasis in chapters 1-11, note the picture that emerges. Jesus is not just any ordinary man laying down his life for sinners. Perish the thought! Rather, he is the great ‘I am” (6:35; 8:12; 10:9; 10:14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1; 8:58; 18:5). The creator of the universe (John 1:1-3) lays down his life. The great “I AM” lays down his life. The God of the Exodus lays down his life. The God who thundered at Sinai lays down his life. In Jesus Christ, the eternal word becomes flesh (1:14) and lays down his life. But of course, the grave could not hold him. But three days later, he rose triumphantly as the victorious Son of God (John 20:1-10); and forty days later he would ascend to the right hand of the Father and would pour out his Spirit on his people (John 20:17; 7:39; 16:5-15).
Brothers and sisters, let me encourage you to spend time in the Gospel of John. Feast on the glorious banquet of truth prepared by the Spirit. The great ‘I AM’ loves his people to the end – he loves us to the cross. And fall down and worship!