"His Own Which Were in the World"

John 13

The Lord had spoken His last word to the world — and what a word it was! It brings out the eternal oneness of purpose between the Father and the Son and at the same time the complete subjection of the Son to the Father, who had become man that the will of the Father might be fulfilled. Said He, "I have not spoken of Myself: but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore even as the Father said to Me so I speak" (John 12:49-50).

The Father's commandment was life everlasting for men, the greatest and the best gift that He could give to them, for it is the knowledge of Himself, the true God and Jesus Christ His sent One, in the power of the Holy Ghost. And though the people would have stoned Him to death as He spoke the Father's words of love and blessing to them, and it seemed as though His mission was a complete failure, yet it was not. There were those who had heard and believed those words of eternal life, and as He withdrew from the multitudes He gathered those about Him in the seclusion of the upper room.

He knew that the hour had come for Him to depart out of the world to the Father. It was a solemn hour, an hour of crisis. His mission was fulfilled, and joy must have filled His heart at the thought of returning to the Father whose will He had done so fully, so blessedly, but — and here arose the crisis. There were these men who had believed on Him and clung to Him, they were "His own", and if He went to the Father, out of the world, He must leave them behind in the world. They were "HIS OWN." Let us grasp this word. No qualifying noun enters into it, they were not said to be His sheep, His friends, or His brethren, but just "His own." We learn from His prayer in chapter 17 that the Father had given them to Him, and He assured them that He loved them as His Father had loved Him. They might well be called "His own." They were His unqualified and unchallenged possession; as a mother might press her child to her heart and say, "My own, " or as a man might say to his wife, "Mine." There is the satisfaction and joy of possession in the word; there is that in it which is beyond human explanation, which will fully recompense the Lord for all that He has suffered so that no power of evil could rob Him of "His own." In the joy of this possession He will say, "The prize is worth the price." And as we come into this blessed and honoured circle, even we may know the joy of being possessed, for we also are "His own."

And mark what is said of them. "Having loved His own He loved them to the end." What is the end? It is the completion of all His love purposed for them. He loved them to the uttermost, to the end; but His love has no end. And now the hour had come for His departure out of the world and they were to be left in the world, but would that change His feelings for them? "Out of sight out of mind" is a well-known proverb, and another says, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder", but divine love is not subject to the moods and tenses of human love. It is unwavering and everlasting, "the love of Christ which passes knowledge."

Yet I suggest with the greatest reverence that it was an hour of crisis for the Lord. If He departed out of the world to the Father, He must leave His own in the world. We think of Paul, the Apostle. He reached a crisis in his career, which to him was a dilemma. He said, "I am in a straight between two, having a desire to depart to be with Christ which is far better, nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you." The Lord stood between two, "the Father out of the world" and "His own in the world, " but divine wisdom was in no dilemma; we could not apply such a word to our sovereign Lord, who always acted with foreknowledge and without hesitation. His love would find a way by which His going to the Father would only mean greater blessing for His own in the world. May we not say, again with greatest reverence, that He would not have left them in the world if He could not have secured for them that greater blessing?

The scene is one of the most moving in the Gospel records. We read, "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He came from God and went to God." Consider the magnitude of that, the whole range of God's glory in the limitless universe was committed to Him — things in heaven, and things on earth and things under the earth; there was the revelation of God's own nature, the harmonising of all His attributes, the establishment of the majesty and justice of His throne, with all the moral questions involved; there was the control of angels, the blessing of men and the judgment of devils — all was put into the hands of the Man of sorrows who was despised of the people; showing the absolute confidence that the Father reposed in Him. Now mark well what follows. Knowing that, "He riseth from supper; and laid aside His garments; and took a towel, and girded Himself. After that He poureth water into a basin, and began to wash His disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith He was girded." The first thing of the all things that the Father had put into His hands, were the feet of His own!

Was there any inconsistency between His supreme greatness and this lowly service? Peter thought so, but there was none. Sinful pride is an ineradicable mixture in all the greatness of men and it cannot stoop, but divine greatness is of another kind, It has descended from Godhead's fullest glory even to the death of the cross, and Jesus, our Lord, was just as great as He washed His disciples' feet, girded with a towel, as He will be when crowned with many crowns He governs the universe.

But that actual feet washing had a spiritual meaning, which Peter and his brethren did not know at that time, but which they were to know hereafter. We know its meaning now. It reveals to us the fact that our Lord, though with the Father out of the world, is girded to serve His own which are in the world, and that He is most careful of their feet. Yes, how and where "His own" walk is a matter of infinite importance to Him.

The Lord's words to Peter shed much light upon this action of the Lord. "If I wash thee not, thou had no part with Me." The object was part with Him, not in an earthly kingdom in the world as they had hoped, but in His Father's house out of the world. For this clean feet were necessary, the soil of earth must be washed from them, if they were to have communion with Him there. He is Host to His own in that out of the world heavenly sphere, and we gather from Luke 7:44-46 that it was the host's service to his most distinguished guests to wash their feet from the soil of the street and so welcome them to his house and feast. The Lord is the Host indeed, and His love cannot be satisfied if His own walk at a distance from Him. His purpose is that even now they should have part with Him where He has gone, that they should be there in spirit already; hence the feet washing.

He said to Peter, "He that is washed needs not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. For He knew who would betray Him." He said later, "Now are ye clean through the word which I have spoken to you" (chap. 15:3). It was not cleansing by blood that He spoke of in either case, that is judicially cleansing, the cleansing of our sins as before God by water, the water of the word, it is a moral cleansing; it puts the heart and life of His own in right relations with Himself. It is the power of the word within the soul, producing the new birth, and making God and Christ the object instead of self. It is illustrated in Peter's word as spokesman for the rest of them. "Lord to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God" (chap. 6:69-70). That was done once and for all, for when once a man is born of God he does not need to have that repeated, so he "needs not save to wash his feet." We come into contact with the defiling influences of the world in which we are left, and the Lord's constant service of love is to remove the effects of this from us. He does it by the application of His word to us, and we learn the meaning of "that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word" (Eph. 5:26).

How often when we have sought the presence of the Lord we have found our spirits lethargic and dull, with very little desire for His company and things: this is the result of the defiling influences of the evil world and such a condition on our part is intolerable to the Lord. Then He brings His word in power to our souls, driving away the dullness and reawakening within us responsive love to Him and a desire to have part with Him in His things. This is the washing of our feet, and it is the Lord's way of preparing us for intimacy with Himself. It has in view the inescapable defilement of the world with which we have to do. This illustration has often been used of the walk from the bath to the dressing room. It does not contemplate a Christian deliberately choosing a muddy road, that would be positive disgraceful sin, yet even for that there is provision, for "if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous: and He is the propitiation for sins" (1 John 2:1-2).

While we learn the inner significance of this loving service of the Lord, do not let us lose that which lies clearly on the surface — the gracious humility of the service. If it was the act of a host who desired to specially distinguish a guest, it was also the service of a slave, and as we view our Lord at the feet of His disciples, we are reminded of His words, "I am among you as be that serves." And His words come home to us with special force. "Ye call Me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet: ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you."