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Man's unceasing hatred; the Lord's unchanging love
Now, then, the Lord has taken His place as going to the Father. The time was come for it. He takes His place above, according to the counsels of God, and is no longer in connection with a world that had already rejected Him; but He loves His own unto the end. Two things are present to Him: on the one hand, sin taking the form most painful to His heart; and on the other, the sense of all glory being given to Him as man, and of whence He came and whither He was going: that is, His personal and heavenly character in relationship with God, and the glory that was given Him. He came from God and went to God; and the Father had put all things into His hands.
The service of love; our Advocate on high
But neither His entrance into glory, nor the heartlessness of
man's sin, takes His heart away from His disciples or even from
their wants. Only He exercises His love, to put them in connection
with Himself in the new position He was creating for them by
entering thus into it. He could no longer remain with them on
earth; and if He left them, and must leave them, He would not give
them up, but fit them for being where He was. He loved them with a
love that nothing stopped. It went on to perfect its results; and
He must fit them to be with Him. Blessed change that love
accomplished even from His being with them here below! They were to
have a part with Him who came from God and went to God, and into
whose hands the Father had put all things; but then they must be
fit to be with Him there. To this end He is still their servant in
love, and even more so than ever. No doubt He had been so in His
perfect grace, but it was while among them. They were thus in a
certain sense companions. They were all supping together here at
the same table. But He quits this position, as He did His personal
association with His disciples by ascending to heaven, by going to
God. But, if He does, He still girds Himself for their service, and
takes water* to wash their feet. Although in heaven, He is still
serving us.** The effect of this service is, that the Holy Ghost
takes away practically by the word all the defilement that we
gather in walking through this world of sin. On our way we come in
contact with this world that rejected Christ. Our Advocate on high
(compare 1 John 2), He cleanses us from its defilement by the Holy
Ghost and the word; He cleanses us in view of the relationships
with God His Father, unto which He has brought us by entering into
them Himself as man on high.
Washing the disciples' feet
A purity was needed that should befit the presence of God, for He was going there. However it is only the feet that are in question. The priests that served God in the tabernacle were washed at their consecration. That washing was not repeated. So, when once spiritually renewed by the word, this is not repeated for us. In "he that is washed" it is a different word from "save to wash his feet." The first is bathing the whole body; the latter washing hands or feet. We need the latter continually, but are not, once born of water by the word, washed over again, any more than the priests' first consecration was repeated. The priests washed their hands and their feet every time they engaged in service — that they drew near to God. Our Jesus restores communion and power to serve God, when we have lost it. He does it, and with a view to communion and service; for before God we are entirely clean personally. The service was the service of Christ — of His love. He wiped their feet with the towel wherewith He was girded (a circumstance expressive of service). The means of purification was water — the word, applied by the Holy Ghost. Peter shrinks from the idea of Christ thus humbling Himself. but we must submit to this thought, that our sin is such that nothing less than the humiliation of Christ can in any sense cleanse us from it. Nothing else will make us really know the perfect and dazzling purity of God, or the love and devotedness of Jesus: and in the realisation of these consists the having a heart sanctified for the presence of God. Peter, then, would have the Lord to wash also his hands and his head. But this is already accomplished. If we are His we are born again and cleansed by the word which He has already applied to our souls; only we defile our feet in walking. It is after the pattern of this service of Christ in grace that we are to act with regard to our brethren.
Judas' treachery known to the Lord
Judas was not clean; he had not been born again, was not clean through the word Jesus had spoken. Nevertheless, being sent of the Lord, they who had received him had received Christ. And this is true also of those whom He sends by His Spirit. This thought brings the treachery of Judas before the Lord's mind; His soul is troubled at the thought, and He unburdens His heart by declaring it to His disciples. What His heart is occupied with here is, not His knowledge of the individual, but of the fact that one of them should do it, one of those who had been His companions.
The love of John and Peter to their Lord
Therefore it was, because of His saying this, that the disciples looked upon one another. Now there was one near Him, the disciple whom Jesus loved; for we have, in all this part of the Gospel of John, the testimony of grace that answers to the diverse forms of malice and wickedness in man. This love of Jesus had formed the heart of John — had given him confidingness and constancy of affection; and consequently, without any other motive than this, he was near enough to Jesus to receive communications from Him. It was not in order to receive them that he placed himself close to Jesus: he was there because he loved the Lord, whose own love had thus attached him to Himself; but, being there, he was able to receive them. It is thus that we may still learn of Him.
Peter loved Him:
but there was too much of Peter, not for service, if God called him
to it — and He did in grace, when He had thoroughly broken him
down, and made him know himself — but for intimacy. Who, among the
twelve, bore testimony like Peter, in whom God was mighty towards
the circumcision? But we do not find in his epistles that which is
found in John's.* Moreover each one has his place, given in the
sovereignty of God. Peter loved Christ; and we see that, linked
also with John by this common affection, they are constantly
together; as also at the end of this Gospel he is anxious to know
the fate of John. He uses John, therefore, to ask the Lord, which
it was among them that should betray Him, as He had said. Let us
remember that being near Jesus for His own sake is the way of
having His mind when anxious thoughts arise.
Judas possessed by Satan
Jesus points out Judas by the sop, which would have checked any other, but which to him was only the seal of his ruin. It is indeed thus in degree with every favour of God that falls upon a heart that rejects it. After the sop Satan enters into Judas. Wicked already through covetousness, and yielding habitually to ordinary temptations; although he was with Jesus, hardening his heart against the effect of that grace which was ever before his eyes and at his side, and which, in a certain way, was exercised towards him, he had yielded to the suggestion of the enemy, and made himself the tool of the high priests to betray the Lord. He knew what they desired, and goes and offers himself. And when, by his long familiarity with the grace and presence of Jesus while addicting himself to sin, that grace and the thought of the Person of Christ had entirely lost their influence, he was in a state to feel nothing at betraying Him. The knowledge he had of the Lord's power, helped him to give himself up to evil, and strengthened the temptation of Satan; for evidently he made sure that Jesus would always succeed in delivering Himself from His enemies, and, as far as power was concerned, Judas was right in thinking that the Lord could have done so. But what knew he of the thoughts of God? All was darkness, morally, in his soul.
And now, after this last testimony, which was both a token of grace and a witness to the true state of his heart that was insensible to it (as expressed in the Psalm here fulfilled), Satan enters into him, takes possession of him so as to harden him against all that might have made him feel, even as a man, the horrid nature of what he was doing, and thus enfeeble him in accomplishing the evil; so that neither his conscience nor his heart should be awakened in committing it. Dreadful condition! Satan possesses him, until forced to leave him to the judgment from which he cannot shelter him, and which will be his own at the time appointed of God — judgment that manifests itself to the conscience of Judas when the evil was done, when too late (and the sense of which is shown by a despair that his link with Satan did but augment) but which is forced to bear testimony to Jesus before those who had profited by his sin and who mocked at his distress. For despair speaks the truth; the veil is torn away; there is no longer self-deception; the conscience is laid bare before God, but it is before His judgment. Satan does not deceive there; and not the grace, but the perfection of Christ is known. Judas bore witness to the innocence of Jesus, as did the thief on the cross. It is thus that death and destruction heard the fame of His wisdom: only God knows it (Job 28:22-23).
The Lord's omniscience
Jesus knew his condition. It was but the accomplishing that which He was going to do, by means of one for whom there was no longer any hope. "That thou doest," said Jesus, "do quickly." But what words, when we hear them from the lips of Him who was love itself! Nevertheless, the eyes of Jesus were not fixed upon His own death. He is alone. No one, not even His disciples, had any part with Him. These could no more follow Him whether He was now going, than the Jews themselves. Solemn but glorious hour! A man, He was going to meet God in that which separated man from God — to meet Him in judgment. This, in fact, is what He says, as soon as Judas is gone out. The door which closed on Judas separated Christ from this world.
The cross, the brightest manifestation of God's glory
"Now," He says, "is the Son of man glorified." He had said this when the Greeks arrived; but then it was the glory to come — His glory as the head of all men, and, in fact, of all things. But this could not yet be; and He said, "Father, glorify thy name." Jesus must die. It was that which glorified the name of God in a world where sin was. It was the glory of the Son of man to accomplish it there, where all the power of the enemy, the effect of sin, and the judgment of God upon sin, were displayed; where the question was morally settled; where Satan (in his power over sinful man — man under sin, and that fully developed in open enmity against God), and God met, not as in the case of Job, as an instrument in God's hand for discipline, but for justice — that which God was against sin, but that in which, through Christ's giving Himself, all His attributes should be in exercise, and be glorified, and by which, in fact, through that which took place, all the perfections of God have been glorified, being manifested through Jesus, or by means of that which Jesus did and suffered.
These perfections had been directly unfolded in Him, as far as grace went; but now that the opportunity of the exercise of all of them was afforded, by His taking a place which put Him to the proof according to the attributes of God, their divine perfection could be displayed through man in Jesus there where He stood in the place of man; and (made sin, and, thank God, for the sinner) God was glorified in Him. For see what in fact met in the cross: Satan's complete power over men, Jesus alone excepted; man in open perfect enmity against God in the rejection of His Son; God manifest in grace: then in Christ, as man, perfect love to His Father, and perfect obedience, and that in the place of sin, that is, as made it (for the perfection of love to His Father and obedience were when He was as sin before God on the cross); then God's majesty made good, glorified (Heb. 2:10); His perfect, righteous, judgment against sin as the Holy One; but therein His perfect love to sinners in giving His only-begotten Son. For hereby know we love. To sum it up: at the cross we find, man in absolute evil — the hatred of what was good; Satan's full power over the world — the prince of this world; man in perfect goodness, obedience, and love to the Father at all cost to Himself; God in absolute, infinite, righteousness against sin, and infinite divine love to the sinner. Good and evil were fully settled for ever, and salvation wrought, the foundation of the new heavens and the new earth laid. Well may we say, "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him." Utterly dishonoured in the first, He is infinitely more glorified in the Second, and therefore puts man (Christ) in glory, and straightway, not waiting for the kingdom. But this requires some less abstract words; for the cross is the centre of the universe, according to God, the basis of our salvation and our glory, and the brightest manifestation of God's own glory, the centre of the history of eternity.
"The Son of man glorified" in Jesus on the cross and "God glorified in Him" there
The Lord had said, when the Greeks desired to see Him, that the hour was come for the Son of man to be glorified. He spoke then of His glory as Son of man, the glory which He should take under that title. He felt indeed that in order to bring men into that glory, He must needs pass through death Himself. But He was engrossed by one thing which detached His thoughts from the glory and from the suffering — the desire which possessed His heart that His Father should be glorified. All was now come to the point at which this was to be accomplished; and the moment had arrived when Judas (overstepping the limits of God's just and perfect patience) was gone out, giving the reins to his iniquity, to consummate the crime which would lead to the wonderful fulfilment of the counsels of God.
Now, in Jesus on the cross, the Son of man has been glorified in a much more admirable way than He will be even by the positive glory that belongs to Him under that title. He will, we know, be clothed with that glory; but, on the cross, the Son of man bore all that was necessary for the perfect display of all the glory of God. The whole weight of that glory was brought to bear upon Him, to put Him to the proof, that it might be seen whether He could sustain it, verify, and exalt it; and that by setting it forth in the place where, but for this, sin concealed that glory, and, so to speak, gave it impiously the lie. Was the Son of man able to enter into such a place, to undertake such a task, and to accomplish the task, and maintain His place without failure to the end? This Jesus did. The majesty of God was to be vindicated against the insolent rebellion of His creature; His truth, which had threatened Him with death, maintained; His justice established against sin (who could withstand it?); and, at the same time, His love fully demonstrated. Satan having here all the sorrowful rights that he had acquired through our sin, Christ — perfect as a man, alone, apart from all men, in obedience, and having as man but one object, that is, the glory of God, thus divinely perfect, sacrificing Himself for this purpose — fully glorified God. God was glorified in Him. His justice, His majesty, His truth, His love — all was verified on the cross as they are in Himself, and revealed only there; and that with regard to sin.
All God's attributes freely and fully displayed to the sinner
And God can now act freely, according to that which He is consciously to Himself, without any one attribute hiding, or obscuring, or contradicting another. Truth condemned man to death, justice for ever condemned the sinner, majesty demanded the execution of the sentence. Where, then, was love? If love, as man would conceive it, were to pass over all, where would be His majesty and His justice? Moreover, that could not be; nor would it really then be love, but indifference to evil. By means of the cross, He is just, and He justifies in grace; He is love, and in that love He bestows His righteousness on man. The righteousness of God takes the place of man's sin to the believer. The righteousness, as well as the sin, of man vanishes before the bright light of grace, and does not becloud the sovereign glory of a grace like this towards man, who was really alienated from God.
God glorifying the Son of man in Himself
And who had accomplished this? Who had thus established (as to its manifestation, and the making it good where it had been, as to the state of things, compromised by sin), the whole glory of God? It was the Son of man. Therefore God glorifies Him with His own glory; for it was indeed that glory which He had established and made honourable, when before His creatures it was effaced by sin — it cannot be so in itself. And not only was it established, but it was thus realised as it could have been by no other means. Never was love like the gift of the Son of God for sinners; never justice (to which sin is insupportable) like that which did not spare even the Son Himself when He bore sin upon Him; never majesty like that which held the Son of God Himself responsible for the full extent of its exigencies (compare Heb. 2); never truth like that which did not yield before the necessity of the death of Jesus. We now know God. God, being glorified in the Son of man, glorifies Him in Himself. But, consequently, He does not wait for the day of His glory with man, according to the thought of John 12. God calls Him to His own right hand, and sets Him there at once and alone. Who could be there (save in spirit) excepting He? Here His glory is connected with that which He alone could do — with that which He must have done alone; and of which He must have the fruit alone with God, for He was God.
Alone on the cross; unique and preeminent in glory
Other glories shall come in their time. He will share them with us, although in all things He has the pre-eminence. Here He is, and must ever be, alone (that is, in that which is personal to Himself). Who shared the cross with Him, as suffering for sin, and fulfilling righteousness? We, indeed, share it with Him so far as suffering for righteousness' sake, and for the love of Him and His people, even unto death: and thus we shall share His glory also. But it is evident that we could not glorify God for sin. He who knew no sin could alone be made sin. The Son of God alone could bear this burden.
The new commandment given to the disciples: brotherly love
In this sense the Lord — when His heart found relief in pouring out these glorious thoughts, these marvellous counsels — addressed His disciples with affection, telling them that their connection with Him here below would soon be ended, that He was going where they could not follow Him, any more than could the unbelieving Jews. Brotherly love was, in a certain sense, to take His place. They were to love one another as He had loved them, with a love superior to the faults of the flesh in their brethren — brotherly love gracious in these respects. If the main pillar were taken away against which many around it were leaning, they would support each other, although not by their strength. And thus should the disciples of Christ be known.
Simon Peter's self-confidence
Now Simon Peter desires to penetrate into that which no man, save Jesus, could enter — God's presence by the path of death. This is fleshly confidence. The Lord tells him, in grace, that it could not be so now. He must dry up that sea fathomless to man — death — that overflowing Jordan; and then, when it was no longer the judgment of God, nor wielded by the power of Satan (for in both these characters Christ has entirely destroyed its power for the believer), then His poor disciple might pass through it for the sake of righteousness and of Christ. But Peter would follow Him in his own strength, declaring himself able to do exactly that which Jesus was going to do for him. Yet, in fact, terrified at the first movement of the enemy, he draws back before the voice of a girl, and denies the Master whom he loved. In the things of God, fleshly confidence does but lead us into a position in which it cannot stand. Sincerity alone can do nothing against the enemy. We must have the strength of God.
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