Notes of 2 Addresses on John 13 and 14
“Part With Me”
The public ministry of the Lord closes with chapter 12, and there seems to me to be a kind of lament in His closing words to the people.
He had come as light into the world, in order that whosoever believed on Him should not abide in darkness. He had, by His works, and ways, and words, pleased the Father before their eyes, so that whoever saw Him, saw Him who sent Him. The light shone in the darkness, but it was not received as the light of God, for the world knew not the Father, and the revelation of the Father in the Son was hated with all the strength of the depraved heart of man; and almost all the fruit He had from His ministry, was those few poor fishermen who were gathered around Him at the supper table in that upper room. These He calls “His own.”
No doubt everything is His, for He is the Creator. All that exists, exists through Him, whether it be things visible or invisible. But in flesh and blood, as their Messiah, He was presented to the nation of Israel for their acceptance, and this resulted in His rejection as One obnoxious to the people. The heart of man was not found to be susceptible to the grace of God. Nothing but thorns and briars sprang up upon His pathway through the world, and for His love He had hatred. Even as to His disciples, they were drawn to Him of the Father, else they had never come. But they were the Father’s gift to Him, and He had received them, and had loved them with all the might of that love with which the Father had loved Him; and He loved them “to the end.”
I suppose the meaning of this expression, “to the end,” is, that no obstacle could turn aside His love from those who were the objects of it. Judgment lay upon them, but He would bear it, however terrible it might be. The good Shepherd would not leave His sheep when the lion and the bear were in the field. They had been given Him that He might place them beyond the reach of death, and give them the knowledge of the Father in the power of the Spirit; and this He would accomplish, no matter what sacrifice it cost Him. His love for them was unquenchable.
But He was now about to leave them. He was going back to the Father, from whom He had come. He had been a man of sorrows in this sinful world, but He was now going where there was fullness of joy. For this joy He would endure the cross, and despise the shame. He had been the Object, the worthy Object of the Father’s love, during His sojourn here below, but now He was returning to that home of love from which had come to Him every joy that His heart had known upon earth.
He had been a constant source of irritation and annoyance to the Jews, but all that would soon be over. His presence would trouble them very little longer. The light was about to depart from the world, and they would be left in the darkness, in which they desired to dwell. For Himself, He would be in a scene where the hatred of man would not be able to penetrate. They could not come where He was going.
But what about “His own”? He was leaving them behind Him in this hostile world; but He had never concealed from them what their portion would be at the hands of men. They had become attached to Him, and on that account had lost everything they possessed; and now they were losing Him, and were being left in all their loneliness and defencelessness, as sheep in the midst of wolves. He was more than all the world to them, but He cannot abide with them.
But is He going from them to that home of everlasting joy, and leaving them to tread their weary, cheerless, wintry way through persecution and reproach without any present compensation? That would not do for the good Shepherd, who lays down His life for the sheep. They shall have part with Him. Part with Him where He was going. Part with Him in all the Father’s love, and in all the unspeakable blessedness of that place into which sin cannot come.
The Father had loved them. However little their hearts had taken in the reality of it, it was true. The Father had loved them, because they had loved Christ in the day of His rejection. What a thing this was to the Father’s heart, to look down from heaven upon those few who had with genuine affection attached themselves to His Son, when hated by all the world! The Father had loved them. The Father, to whom Christ was going, had loved them; and He says, as it were, I am going to that Father, who loves you, and to that home of love, and I want you to share with Me the joy of the place.
But if this is to be, you must be kept free from all the defilement of the world, through which you have to pass because you must be suitable to God. “He came from God, and went to God.” We must keep this in mind, our Father is God. Peter reminds the saints of this, when he says, “If ye invoke as Father, Him who without regard of persons, judges,” etc. (1 Peter 1:17, N.Tr.). He reminds them that He whom they address as Father, is also God; and this name carries with it the thought of responsibility. So the blessed Lord rises from supper, takes a towel, and girds Himself, pours water into a basin, and proceeds to wash their feet.
That the literal washing of the feet is not what is on the mind of the Lord may be gathered from what he says to Peter, “What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.” In this figure He was setting before them how, when glorified, He would serve them, to enable them to have part with Him. And when Peter is informed, that, if he is not washed, he can not have part with Christ, he will have not only his feet washed, but also his hands and head. But the Lord shows him this is unnecessary, because the believer has been bathed all over, and this needs no repetition. We have heard the gospel, and have, through mercy, believed it, and the Spirit has been given to us, who has made us conscious of the love of God. He has thus got all the affection of our hearts, and we are every whit clean, and as fit to enter heaven as ever we shall be, if our bodies were only changed; and this is all we wait for.
But we have to pass through this sin-defiled world, and we are liable to pick up defilement, and this has to be removed. And we also need to have our hearts and minds refreshed and invigorated by a ministry of Christ to our souls if we are to have any present enjoyment of heaven, for we are liable to become tired, footsore, and weary of the way, even when there might be no sense of defilement, and therefore unable to rise up to the full height of our privilege, and perhaps a sense of distance has come in between us and the blessed Lord, and this service of the Lord is required to set us in the enjoyment of all that into which He has entered.
Christ has died out of this scene, and this is the measure of our separation from it. We are not of the world, as He is not of it. The water is His death; it is to me the water of separation. But I need to see, not only that the death of Christ is the measure of my separation from the world, but I also require to have the other sphere brought before me where Christ is, in all the enjoyment of the Father’s love. I do not care for fanciful interpretations, but I think the latter is the result of wiping with the towel. I get by the water (the death of Christ) to see the measure of my separation from the world but I am placed in new circumstances and surroundings in the very atmosphere of heaven itself, so that I am not occupied with my separation from the world, but with the love which has been expressed in that by which I am separated. And in that new sphere of love and joy and blessedness I realize what it is to have part with Christ. I take my place in association with Him before the Father’s face.
Were we not subjects of this ministry of Christ when we became dull and heavy hearted and depressed, this world would assume an importance in our eyes, which would be altogether unreal, and heavenly light would grow dim, and we would gradually drift earthward, and at last be swept away in the world’s powerful current.
It is interesting to see that feet washing, in this gospel, comes in where the Lord’s supper is introduced in the others. It was at the passover that the Lord introduced His own supper for a remembrance of Him. But both the supper, and this service of the Lord, speak of His death as that which has separated us from the world, and as the revelation of divine love. But in this gospel, love, which binds the disciples together, is more in view, so that this is a service which we may render to one another. “Ye also should wash one another’s feet.”
At the close of the chapter He shows us the spirit in which this service is to be rendered, “A new commandment I give unto you that ye love one another as I have loved you.” How did He love us? To death. How are we to love one another? To death. And in the power of such love as this we are to serve the saints, with a view to their having part with Him. This is the way of divine love. It is self-sacrificing. Self and self-seeking have no place. I am not to be great at the expense of my brethren. They are to be great at my expense, and with all of us Christ is to be supreme.
He desires us to have part with Him; to get near to Him, and to realize that His place and portion before the Father’s face is ours, and He means us to enjoy it. And we are also privileged to serve our brethren, to the end they may be kept in the vigour of divine love, and in the realization of what it is to have part with Him. May we seek to answer to His heart and mind.
The Father’s House
We were looking the other evening at chapter 13, and it came before us how that the public ministry of the Lord closed at the end of chapter 12 and that chapter 13 to 16 are His communications to His disciples after that He had concluded His testimony to the world. As far as man himself was concerned, His labour was fruitless; and He had spent His strength for naught and in vain, for men loved darkness rather than light. But in this way the nation of Israel—man, was left without a cloak for their sin. God had visited His earthly people in the Person of Christ, but they would have none of Him. The light of God shone in all its strength in the darkness, but penetrated not the gloom which hung like the mantle of midnight around the human heart. There had been a glimmer of light in the past dispensations, but till Christ came, it could be said, “No man has seen God at any time.” But now the true light shone. God was perfectly declared, and we can now say, “In Him is no darkness at all.”
But if any one was to take in that light, it was needful that a divine work should be wrought in the soul; otherwise, though it is perfectly true that the Son of God has come and declared God, no one would be aware of the fact. In the gospel of John, God is in the light, that is to say, He is revealed; and in the first epistle of John, the saints are in the light, that is to say, the light has been received. In the gospel, the Son of God has come; and in the epistle, WE KNOW that He has come. But how do we know that He has come? Not by report only, but by a work wrought in us. “He has given us an understanding that we may know Him that is true.” Who has? Who gave the blind man spoken of in John 9 power to see the sun in the heavens? The One who made the sun, and placed it there to gladden the hearts of men. And who has given us an understanding that we may know Him that is true, but the One who brought Him that is true to light? This, I do not doubt, is the commandment He speaks of having received from the Father, and He says, “I know that His commandment is life everlasting” (John 12:50). In the rejection of Christ, the true God and eternal life were rejected.
But there were those who were attracted by the light, and rejoiced in its heavenly rays. These He had challenged earlier in their history, when many of His disciples had abandoned Him. He says to them, “Will ye also go away?” Peter answers for all, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68) There was no one else to whom they could go. To turn back to the scribes, who sat in Moses’ seat, would have been to step out of the light of heaven into dungeon darkness. He was the only one in the universe who had the slightest attraction for them. He was all they had in the world, but He was about to leave them, and they were greatly distressed. Upon their path there shone not one ray of light, for what Christ was putting before them, they were not able to receive. They had Himself, and they did not desire to lose Him, and they knew no reason why they should, it was not where He was going that occupied them, they had no spirit for that; it was with the place He was leaving they were occupied. Where He was going had as yet no attraction for them. He says in chapter 16, “None of you asketh Me, Whither goest Thou?” They were too much occupied with the loss they were about to sustain, to have any interest in where He was going.
But He will tell them, worthless as they might seem to be, with treason, cowardice, and loud boasting, rampant among them. They appeared to be a worthless lot gathered around that supper table, but in the account of Him, who knew what was in man, they were the excellent of the earth. And so He will conduct their minds away from earth, to which they were so much attached, to that new place in the Father’s house which was henceforth to be their home
They were not to be troubled because that He was leaving them. He was going out of sight, and they would have to walk by faith. But He was going away, on their behalf, to the Father’s house, to prepare a place for them, that where He was they might also be. If He could not be with them He was not going to be unmindful of them. He says, as it were, I am going to the Father and in His house are many abiding places. I go to make a place ready for you so that you may be with Me, where there shall be no more separation.
Up till the ascension of Christ there had been no place in the Father’s house for man. You cannot think of a place there for man until Christ entered and took up His place as man in the presence of the Father. Then, and not till then, the place was prepared. But if there had been no possibility of a place for man there, the blessed Lord would not have come and awakened hopes in their hearts which would have been doomed to disappointment. “If it were not so, I would have told you.” They had found in Him the Messiah, and their hearts were attached to Him, and they looked to be forever with Him, and He had fostered that hope in their hearts, and now it was to be blighted. Never. “I will come again and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”
Previous to His going there, the place had no existence. It was a new thing for man to be in heaven. Angels might have been there as servants, but men were to be there as sons. What a wonderful thing that there is a place for man in the Father’s house! And that place is now prepared. It is not in preparation. The entrance of Christ, as man before the Father’s face, has prepared it. He is there for us; not for Himself. As far as He was concerned, He had no need ever to leave the Father. But for us He came forth from the Father; for us laid down His life; for us arose from the dead, and for us appears before the Father’s face—we have an Advocate with the Father. He is there, Forerunner for us entered. He holds the place for us, and desires that that place should have great attraction for us.
Another thing, He was not going to a place with which they were unacquainted: “Whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.” Thomas gives a flat contradiction to this statement—“Lord, we know not whither Thou goest, and how can we know the way?” But Thomas was greatly mistaken, for they knew where He was going, by knowing Himself. In Him they had learned everything that gave character to the place. If I wanted to know your house I might get to know it without knowing much about you, but in the things of God it is otherwise. We know divine things by knowing divine Persons. The way to become acquainted with the place is to become acquainted with the Person who is in the place. “Where I am,” that is the place.
His answer to Thomas is, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” He wants them to know something of the place, but what He sets before them is the Father, because to know the Father is to know His house. He was the way to the Father, for the Father dwelt in Him; He was the truth of all that could be known of the Father, for in Him the Father was declared; and He was the life, for apart from partaking of His Spirit, there was no life in man for the enjoyment of relationship with the Father. And in this way He was the way, the truth, and the life, as to the place which He was going to make ready for them.
The better we know Christ the better we shall know the Father, and the better we know the Father the better we shall know the Father’s house. He is the perfect revelation of that place, the life in which everything there is enjoyed. I learn in Him every moral perfection that I shall find there, every principle which prevails in that holy, happy place. I see in Him the relationship which subsists between man and God. Man as Son in the Father’s presence, having all His delight in God, and God finding rest and delight in man. Rest assured, if we know Christ we shall know the place which is ours with the Father. We are exhorted to set our minds upon the things above, but we are not told what these things are, but what explains it all is, “Where Christ sitteth.” Let me repeat it, divine things are known as we know divine Persons, and in no other way. All that can be known of God is presented to us in Christ, and in the measure in which we know Him, in that measure we become familiar with our place in the Father’s house, and in that measure also are we in heart separated from the world.
The world is a terrible reality to us. It appeals to us every moment of the day, and never grows weary. It contains everything in which the natural man finds delight, and to the Christian it is a very real enemy. But the testimony of God presents another world to us, and another order of things outside the range of sight, and these are the things with which He would occupy our hearts and minds. They are unseen things, but they are very real, and they are eternal, and they are our own. The place is as much ours at this present moment as it will be when we are glorified and enjoying it to our heart’s content. The only thing we need is to be more in the light of it.
But for the apprehension and enjoyment of these things we need to have the Holy Spirit, and in having Him, the disciples would be much better off than they were while Christ Himself was with them. The Spirit would give them capacity for entering into the whole mind of God, and would enable them to have the enjoyment of the company of the Father and the Son. Christ would manifest Himself to the obedient one (v. 21), and if any one kept His word, both Father and Son would come and make their abode with that one. We shall dwell forever with Father and Son in the Father’s house, but in the meantime, before we go to be there, we can have the Father and the Son dwelling with us.
Beloved friends, these things are great realities. They might be thought a little visionary, and outside the reality of fact, but we must remember that this gospel was among the last of the writings of the apostles, and all that is recorded in it had had abundance of time to be well tested and proven before it was written.
The company of the Father and Son is assured to as for eternity, but are we content with this? And do we desire no more with such an immense present privilege open to us, such as the blessedness of the company of Father and Son with us down here?
One word more. In verse 31 the world comes into view. The devil is its ruler. The light of God was in it, and hated by it, and the One in whom that light shone was branded as a malefactor, and hung between robbers upon a gibbet. But there is a day coming when the reproach will be lifted from off that holy name, and all will learn that it was love and obedience to the Father that took Christ to that cross. “That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.” He will save the world, and give life to it. He will judge it first, for the present system of things must be brought to an end in judgment, and He has appointed a day for this. But He will save it, give life to it, and enlighten it, and then it will believe upon Him. But who is to enlighten this world, and remove the stigma from His blessed name? I believe, the church. He says in chapter 17, speaking to His Father: “The glory which Thou gavest Me, I have given them, that they may be one even as we are one; I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me.” In that day the whole world will get enlightened as to Christ, and the reproach of Christ will cease forever. When we are manifested in His glory, this will take place. It is our holy and blessed province to enlighten the world, and in the day of display the saved nations will walk in the light of the New Jerusalem. What a mission! May it have its proper effect upon both writer and reader.