John N Darby
John 13: 1
It is evident that Jesus addresses Himself particularly here to His disciples, but what this verse presents to us will attract to Him every soul in which the Holy Spirit acts. The only thing which draws the sinner and inspires his confidence is what is in Jesus, as we find Him in this verse.
I would desire to speak to you of the constancy and of the faithfulness of His love. Nothing slowed it; nothing weakened it. If we think of the three classes of people who surrounded the Lord: His disciples, His adversaries, and the indifferent, we find in them everything that could stop Him in His designs of love.
The adversaries are more particularly the children of the devil. Having seen that the Lord Jesus came to claim the kingdom so as to reign over everything, they said, “We will not that this man should reign over us”, Luke 19: 14. In effect, one finds persons who, at the bottom of their heart, are sure that Jesus is the Christ and who do not want Him. The adversaries were able to get hold of the indifferent ones and influence them.
All that He found in the world was fit to turn Jesus aside from His work, but nothing hurts love more than indifference. By nature, we love sin and we use all that God has given us to satisfy our covetousness. Before this appalling state of the world, Jesus says, “How long shall I bear with you?”, Matt 17: 17. We think as He does when we are in the light of God. But Jesus saw all this corruption of man, and it is this that led Him to come down here in grace. God saw all this; His compassion took knowledge of it. What does it meet? Indifference of heart. The heart of man sees something contemptible in Jesus; it does not want either to recognise his own state or to be obligated to God and to forsake it. Nothing repels love more than indifference.
Jesus has also met hatred. All those who held that God was absent, so as to be able to satisfy their own will, hated Jesus. Pride, conscience, will, all repelled God. “They have both seen and hated both me and my Father”, John 15: 24. There was nothing in the defilement, the indifference and the hatred which could attract the love of Jesus. There was enough to drive love to despair, to see Oneself betrayed by Judas. If a single man should betray us, we would be too much occupied with ourselves to think of those who were not betraying us. At the beginning of His course, Jesus pronounced the beatitudes; at the end, He says: “Woe to you”. Iniquity has abounded; when Jesus shows all His love, His very disciples forsake Him. Is there not enough to reduce love to despair? Even those who loved Him were so selfish and so bound by the fear of man that it was impossible to rely on their hearts. Peter who loved Him would deny Him. That proves that the heart of man is such that, even when it loves Jesus, this heart is worth nothing. Jesus had to love in the presence of a hatred which never relented; He had to love us covered in defilement, indifference, hating the light, we who - a thousand times - have denied Him. He who knows himself the best can best know that this is his portrait. If you treat a friend as you treat Jesus, the friendship would not last a week.
In heaven, Jesus found the Father’s love, perfect purity; so His perfect love could not manifest itself there. In regarding what He had left, He loves His own who are in the world, just as they are in their defilement. He is not repelled by it; they are the object of His compassions; they attract grace, for the object of grace is the iniquitous and the evil.
For Jesus, the indifference of His own showed the extent of their sorrow and the need they had of Him. The very hatred of man proved that he was lost. God came to seek man who was not even in a state to seek Him. How many things He has borne, what indifference, treacheries, denials! Nevertheless, nothing stops Him, and He “loved His own … to the end”. He acted according to what there was in His heart; and all that He saw in man was but the occasion to manifest what He was.
Jesus does everything that is necessary to restore the soul in its relations with God. Complete sinner that you are, grace comes to seek you. Righteousness and the law require that evil and wickedness be removed. John the baptist preached repentance, and it is a beginning of grace; but, in fact, grace, far from telling man to leave his state to come to God, comes to man in his sin. It puts its hand on the leper to put him in relationship with it, and so that God should be much more fully manifested than if sin had never existed.
Grace applies the love of God to the needs of our ruin. If Jesus knew the joy of the Father and all that is in the Father, it is to adapt it to the needs of man.
What a consolation to know that Jesus is all that is needed for all that we are! That places us in the right and leads us to confess the evil in us, instead of hiding it: grace alone produces sincerity (Ps 32: 1) and truth. It makes us recognise that we are weak, infirm; that we would do exactly what Peter did, if we were not preserved.
“Jesus … loved his own who were in the world”, through their pilgrimage, their circumstances, their sorrow, their selfishness, their weakness. All that Satan could do, all that was in man, was calculated to hinder Jesus from loving him, from loving His own, and yet He loves them to the end.
Can you say that you have part in this love, that, in spite of your weakness, you have understood grace, the manifestation in Jesus of the love of the invisible God for sinners? Have you recognised that it was necessary that Jesus should come into the world, so that you would not be cast where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth? Have we taken our part in recognising what we are? That is disagreeable and painful. That was the thorn for Paul, something which said to him unceasingly, 'You are weak'. It is precisely to this end that God had sent it to him. Is our flesh sufficiently judged so that we are happy that Jesus should be all and that we should be nothing, and that we should rejoice that the manifestation of our weakness should be that of the power of God for us? Jesus has not forgotten any of our needs: “having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end”.
Translated from ‘Le Messager Evangélique’