The Faithfulness of Jesus
Delivered on Sunday Morning, May 10th, 1868, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
"Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end."—John 13:1.
WE SHALL CONSIDER these words first in their evident relation to the apostles, and those who were the companions of Jesus during his sojourn on earth, and afterwards we shall take them in their broader signification, as relating to all the Lord's own whom he loves and will love even to the end.
"Having loved his own." Those four words are a brief but complete summary of the Savior's conduct towards his disciples. He always loved them. There was never a single action or word which was contrary to the rule of love. He loved them with a love of pity when he saw them in their lost estate, and he called them out of it to be his disciples; touched with a feeling of their infirmities he loved them with a tender and prudent affection, and sought to train and educate them, that after his departure they might be good soldiers of his cross; he loved them with a love of complacency as he walked and talked with them and found solace in their company. Even when he rebuked them he loved them. He subjected them to many trials: for his sake they renounced all that they had; they shared his daily cross-bearing and hourly persecution, but love reigned supreme and undiminished and it all. On Tabor or in Gethsemane he loved his own; alone or in the crowd his heart was true to them; in life and in death his affection failed not. He "loved his own which were in the world." It is a multum in parvo, a condensed life of Christ, a miniature of Jesus the Lover of souls. As you read the wonderful story of the four evangelists, you see how true it is that Jesus loved his own: let me cast in by way of interjection, this sentence, that when you come to read your own life's story in the light of the New Jerusalem, you will find it to be true also concerning your Lord and yourself. If you are indeed the Lord's own, he at all times deals lovingly with you, and never acts in unkindness or wrath.
"He may chasten and correct,
But he never can neglect;
May in faithfulness reprove,
But he ne'er can cease to love."
Our Savior's faithfulness towards the chosen band whom he had elected into his fellowship was most remarkable. He had selected persons who must have been but poor companions for one of so gigantic a mind and so large a heart. He must have been greatly shocked at their worldliness. They groveled in the dust when he mounted to the stars. He was thinking of the baptism wherewith he was to he baptized, and he was straitened until it was accomplished, but they were disputing which among them should he the greatest. He was ready to deny himself that he might do his Father's will, and meanwhile they were asking to sit on his right hand and on his left hand in his kingdom. They often misunderstood him because of the carnality of their mind; and when he warned them of an evil leaven, they thought of the loaves, which they had forgotten. Earth-worms are miserable company for angels, moles but unhappy company for eagles, yet love made our great Master endure the society of his ignorant and carnal followers. They were but babes in Christ, and possessed but slight illumination, and yet for all that, he who knew all things and is the wisdom of God, condescended to call them his mother, and sister, and brother.
Worse than the fact of their natural worldliness perhaps, was the apparent impossibility of lifting them out of that low condition; for though never man spake as he spake, how little did they understand! and though he took them aside and said to them, "Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God," yet after many and plain teachings he was compelled to say to one of the best of them, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?" They were dull scholars. There is no teacher here who could have had patience with such heavy intellects, but our Lord and Master's love remained evermore at flood-tide, notwithstanding their incorrigible stupidity. His love was stronger than their unbelief and ignorance.
My brethren, when we love a person, we expect to have some little sympathy from him in the great design and aim of our life. I suppose it would he difficult to maintain any deep affection towards persons who had no sort of communion with us in our all-absorbing passion; and yet it was so, that our Lord loved disciples who could not be brought to enter at all into the spirit which ruled and governed him. They would have taken him and forced upon him a crown, while he sought only for a cross. They imagined and desired for him the worldly splendor of a terrestrial throne; but he foresaw the reality of glory in sweat of blood and cruel death. Our Lord was all for self-denial, employing himself and acting as the Servant of servants. They could not comprehend the rule of self-sacrifice which governed his actions, nor could they see what he aimed at. Had they dared, they would rather have thwarted than assisted him in his self-sacrificing mission. They were fools and slow of heart to understand, even though again he plainly told them of his decease. When he set his face steadfastly towards Jesusalem, humanly speaking he needed friends to have aided and abetted him in his high resolve, but he found no help in them. When, in that dark, that dreadful night, he bowed in prayer, and sweat the bloody sweat, he went backward and forward thrice, as if seeking a little sympathy from men so dearly loved; but he had to complain of them, "What, could ye not watch with me one hour?" Still, having loved them, neither their worldliness nor their stupidity, nor their want of sympathy with him could prevent him from loving them unto the end. Many waters could not quench his love, neither could the floods drown it.
The Redeemer's love was made to endure even sterner strains than these. On one or two occasions certain of them were even guilty of impertinence. It was no small trial to the Savior's affection when Peter took him and began to rebuke him. Peter rebuking his Master! Surely thy Lord will have done with thee, thou son of Jonas! The Lord turned him about and said, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" but after using that strong expression to rebuke a temptation which was evidently Satanic, his affection to Peter remained unabated. That was a stern trial, too, when at a later period than our text, "all the disciples forsook him and fled;" when not even the loving John remained constant to his Master in the hour of betrayal; when one, the boldest of them, with oaths and cursing said, "I know not the man." Carrying the text beyond its original position, we may say that over the head of all infirmities, ignorances, selfishnesses, desertions, and denials, Jesus Christ, who had loved his own that were in the world, loved them to the end. It was not possible for them, with all their follies, failings, and sins, to break through the magic circle of his affection; he had hedged them in once for all, bad bound them to himself with bonds firmer than brass, and stronger than triple steel, and neither could the temptations of hell, nor the suggestions of their own corruption's, tear them from his heart. The attachments of Jesus were abiding; fickleness and instability could never be charged on him. Others love for a little while and then grow cold; they profess eternal attachment and yet forsake; they admire and esteem us till a slight misunderstanding snaps every bond of friendship; but our Lord was the mirror of constancy, the pattern of fidelity, the paragon of unchanging love. As Jonathan clave to David, even so did Jesus cleave to his people.
The proofs which our Lord gave of his love to his people were very many, and for a little while we will ponder them: they will all go to prove that he loved his people, even to perfection, as the text may be read. Observe how our Master, having chosen to himself a people, proved his love by his continual companionship. He sought no other company than theirs among the sons of men. There were minds far deeper in philosophic lore, but he communed not with them; there were the great and mighty of this world, but our Savior did not court them; he was content to dwell among his own people; he had made his choice and to that choice he kept—fishermen and peasants were his bosom friends. You would not expect a master to find rest in the society of his scholars; you do not expect men of mind and mark affectionately to consort with those who are far beneath them in attainments; and yet herein was love, that Jesus, passing by angels, and kings, and sages, chose for his companions unlettered men and women. Those fishermen of Galilee were his companions at all times; and only when he withdrew himself into the silent Mount, and the shadows of midnight, did he remove the link of companionship from them, and then only that he might make intercession for them with the eternal God. Yes, it was a deep proof of the unlimited love of Jesus, a sure sign of its going to the end and verge of possibilities, that he abode so long in affectionate fellowship with so poor, so illiterate, so earthbound a company of men. (Please click here to continue reading, “The Faithfulness of Jesus”)