Two great thoughts bring the love of God the Father into the love of God that we see in Jesus: the Word was God…and…the Word became flesh (John 1:1, 14). In Jesus we see the incarnation of love. Reading the gospels shows us a multitude of ways that Jesus loved God and others. We could do a whole series on Jesus’ love, expressed particularly to those who felt unloved by the political/religious system of their day. And while that’s too much to write about in a blog post, we must not fail to see the radical nature of Jesus’ love for all.
Recently, I have come to see a good summary of Jesus’ love in these words, “ Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1 NRSV). The phrase “to the end” is an insightful one in the original Greek, telling us two important things about Jesus’ l love.
First, he loved people from beginning to end—all the way through from his first day until his last day. Here we see Jesus’ unwavering love—expressed without variance despite the many fluctuations of love expressed toward him by others. When John wrote that he loved them “to the end,” it meant Jesus loved people all the way through.
Jesus’ unwavering love was the basis for Paul’s later words, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8: 38). We must not miss the word ‘nothing.’ If we do, we will come up with some condition (as people often do) that makes us believe that “God could not love someone like me.” But that’s not what we see in Jesus. He loved people from beginning to end—when they responded to his love and when they did not. Nothing separated people from the love of God in Christ because he loved people unwaveringly.
Second, he loved people fully. The Common English Bible translates “to the end” with this word. Here we see Jesus’ undiminished love. He did not dispense his love in measured amounts depending on who he was with. Jesus loved extravagantly…and…sacrificially. He did not play it safe. He loved everyone to the “nth degree.”
This is one of the main things that angered the political/religious leaders, who had devised their elaborate systems of rules and regulations to determine who was “worthy” of full love or only of something less. Jesus moved the giving of love from a merit-based system to one of grace. It incurred the wrath of the legalists to see that Jesus loved everyone the same. This kind of love is always a threat to meritocracy. But it was Jesus’ kind of love—undiminished love, for all.
Given this twofold vision of Jesus’ love (and there’s more that we could say), we see the power of his words, spoken only a little while after John 13:1—the words he used to exhort his disciples to “love each other just as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Because he had “loved them to the end” they knew what that meant, and we know what it means too: love unwaveringly…and…love undiminishedly. We see this love in Jesus.