I feel like the Lent train left the station weeks ago, and I am beyond late to arrive at the station. Rather than my usual self-loathing, I’ve decided to let the Spirit just drop me onto the moving train mid-way. Even though I landed with a thud, I am glad to be on the speeding train taking us to the Savior. As such, I am rather abruptly jumping into 13th chapter of John’s gospel. But the meal laid out there, even in one simple verse, was enough to feed this hungry and harried soul.
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. John 13:1.
It should go without saying that Jesus was a Jew, but sometimes we forget. He was raised in a devout Jewish household, as we know from the family’s two recorded trips to Jerusalem, one for Jesus’ dedication and the one where Mary and Joseph “lost” Jesus who was again in the Temple as a twelve year old boy. He knew the Torah, as seen so clearly in His word-thwarted desert temptation. He likely had many fond memories of celebrating the Passover on the fourteenth day of Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew year.
As such, the simple introductory phrase, “Now before the Feast of the Passover,” is a loaded statement. Just as we tend to start anticipating Christmas when the Christmas tree stands begin to pop up and the days shorten as the cold strengthens, Jesus likely felt all the feels that the big Jewish celebration was coming. There was probably an extra pep in the step of his travel-weary band of itinerant preachers-in-the-making as they began to plan and prepare for their Passover celebration. Festivities were about to get underway: there were Upper Rooms to rent via supernatural direction to a donkey, there was food to buy and much to do.
Yet, while His disciples hearts were counting down the days, Jesus was winding up for His big day.
One of the unique elements of John’s gospel is a holding back of Jesus for the first half of the book. In John 2:4 and John 7:6, we hear Jesus saying, “My hour is not yet come.” The image that comes to mind is that of a dam holding back water that is gathering in strength behind it, increasing pressure behind the wall.
Then, in John 12:23, we hear Jesus announcing in response to a question regarding Greeks wanting to worship at the feast as well, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” Jesus has moved from passive to active, the levy is about to break, and soon the Son of God will no longer be holding back. So what is His hour, what are Jesus and John seeking to communicate to us, the reader?
Jesus’ hour, the thing for which He came, was to open up a way for both Greek and Jew to be made right with God, to receive back the eternal life from which they have been severed by sin. He knew that the Passion He would set us His face like flint to resolutely receive was the express purpose for which He came to earth.
Thus, while the disciples were gearing up to remember the Passover Lamb slain that God’s people might be spared, Jesus was gearing up to be the ultimate Passover lamb.
The Greek word translated depart in the aforementioned verse, metabainó, can be translated to pass over, to depart, to move. I don’t think it is coincidence that John chose this specific Greek word to describe Jesus’ musing over the Hebrew celebration and its imminent fulfillment in His death on the Cross.
Jesus knew He must die so that death could pass over His people. He knew that this is what it meant to love His own, those entrusted to Him by God the Father, to the uttermost. The Greek word used to describe Jesus’ loving his own to the end, telos, can also be translated to mean capacity rather than length of time. Thus, rather then thinking, He loved them up to the last days, which He indeed did, we can also think of another meaning, “He loved them to the uttermost, the furthermost point in His heart’s capacity.”
He loved us all the way to the Cross. He loved His own to the uttermost by becoming the Passover Lamb. He walked resolutely to death and was laid in a dark and cold tomb that we could pass over death.
May we model this love to the uttermost in the lives of those whom the Lord has entrusted to us, be they our children, our neighbors, our students or our friends.