THE DEPTH OF CHRIST'S LOVE FOR HIS BRIDE, #681
"Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end" (JOH 13:1).
Notice the final admonition we find recorded of the Lord Jesus Christ to the rebellious Jews in JOH 12:44-50, "Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me." He had been rejected by the Jews, the chief priests, the scribes and the Pharisees. He continued, "And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day."
That Word of God that He has spoken, will be as the court of conscience, the source of trial, on the judgment day. The gate of heaven is never closed. It is not like the Garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned-with the flaming swords of the cherubim guarding the tree of life in Paradise. Only one thing prevents those who are on the outside from coming in, and that is the court of their own consciences. We read in HEB 4:12, "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." When those who have refused to come to the light come to the gate of heaven, those words Christ has spoken will shine into their hearts, and they will cry to the rocks and to the mountains to fall on them. Why? Because in the court of their own consciences they cannot now come to the light. The light is their condemnation.
These are solemn truths. This now is the admonition that the Lord Jesus uses to close His public ministry, the final call of the gospel. He says in JOH 12:49-50: "For 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 unto me, so I speak."
So now His public ministry is closed, and He is ministering to His inner circle. The love that Christ had for His own becomes the central theme of His ministry. It is apparent in the opening remarks of this new section of the gospel that two things stood before our Saviour's view. The first is the depth of Christ's love for His Bride and the horrors of His Father's wrath upon the sins of His dearly beloved bride, and the second thing was the joy of presenting her without spot before His Father.
What path was Christ to take out of this world? By the way of the cross. He would experience His Father's wrath on His bride's sin. His bride was now betrothed but was not yet brought into marriage union with Him. That marriage union will take place on the final day. A time of engagement is to build a relationship. The Lord Jesus Christ is taking His betrothed and beginning to build a relationship with them.
HEB 12:2 says, "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." That joy that was set before Him was that joy of being able to take that polluted bride, washed and cleansed and spotless in His own blood, and present her before the Father, that she might become the righteousness of God in Him.
We read of Christ presenting His bride before His Father's throne in His own spotless white linen in REV 19:8, "And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints." This "fine linen, clean and white," is not only the imputed righteousness of Christ, but also His imparted righteousness. It is Christ formed in you, the hope of glory. It is that Spirit of Christ dwelling in you. That fine linen is being conformed to the precious image of Christ.
When we come to the time of the marriage union, Jesus can present them in fine linen, which is the righteousness of saints, a bride that has come into harmony with the perfect image of Christ. The imputed righteousness of Christ? Yes. But also the imparted righteousness of Christ. Christ formed in you.
Peter was betrothed to the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter was regenerated, but Peter still needed to be converted. He still had much in Him that was contrary to the will of God. He had much about his character that was not yet conformed to the perfect image of Christ.
Neither His Father's wrath upon His bride's sin, nor His bride's sin against His love were able to shake our Saviour's love for His bride. While we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us. HEB 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." That love He had for His bride from eternity, from before the foundation of the world, has not been altered. We need to understand the depth of that love. Jesus loved His own unto the end of their pilgrim journey, through this sinful waste-howling wilderness.
I want you to see a few examples in Scripture. Philip's apparent ignorance did not alter our Saviour's love for him. Notice JOH 14:8-11. The Lord has been with Philip. He has had him in His inner circle. He has been teaching him, yet "Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us." Can you see the unbelief of Philip and what a trial that was for the faith of Christ? What a trial that was for His love for Philip? After all that Philip had seen of His miracles, all that Philip had heard of all His teachings, all that Philip had experienced by walking in His footsteps. "Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?"
Do you see the patient love of Christ? "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake."
Look at MAT 26:37-40: "And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?"
He was wrestling before His heavenly Father, pleading that that cup might pass from Him, yet He found them asleep. Can you imagine how this would shake His love? Can you imagine how Satan would say, Who is this that you are going through this for? They do not even care for you. But this did not shake His love. He loved them unto the end.
Why did Jesus single out Peter? Because when Jesus had said, "All ye shall be offended because of me this night," Peter was so strong in himself and said in MAT 26:33: "Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended." Was our Saviour's love for Peter shaken when he shrunk from a little maid who said, But you were also with him. In MAR 14:71we read: "But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak."
How did our Saviour respond to such conduct from His inner circle? LUK 22:60-61 says, "And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spake, the cock crew. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter." He gave him such a look of love that it melted his heart, and he went out and wept bitterly. "And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice."
Jesus loves His own unto the end of their miserable failures, even though you and I fail in so many ways. How often do we have to bite the end of our tongue and say, Oh if I had never said that? How often do we have to come at night when we go to bed and recount the sins of the day and say, Lord, I had a wrong attitude here, and Lord, I said something there that I ought not to have said? And Lord, I offended here, or I offended there. In these miserable failures we find that our Saviour loves us even unto the end.
But see the fearful contrast to our Saviour's love in JOH 13:2: "And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him." Judas was the object of Christ's love, but Christ was not the object of Judas' love! This is where we need to examine our hearts. Where is our first love?
Our Saviour's love for His bride, which began in eternity, goes through the same process of building a relationship during engagement as a man with his wife. See this in HOS 2:19-20, "And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD." Betroth comes from the Hebrew word arus, and it means to engage for matrimony. It is entering into a covenant relationship for a marriage union before marriage.
This betrothal is the time of preparation that precedes the final marriage union. HOS 2:19 speaks of betrothal, but REV 19:7 says, "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready."
A process takes place, the process of the wife making herself ready. ROM 8:29 says that we are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. This process of sanctifying takes place during this time of betrothal in this lifetime. During this time of betrothal our Saviour builds a relationship with His bride, whom He has come to redeem from all iniquity.
Our Saviour's love is holy, therefore, the first step toward building a relationship with His betrothed is to remove the defilement from their feet, which is the process of sanctification. The feet of Jesus' little flock are defiled. Our walk of life is not perfect. Our walk of life is tainted by defilement. The dust of this earth must be removed. We must not think that we can receive that fine linen and continue to walk in the things of this life.
The first thing to notice is that it was water that He used to wash their feet in JOH 13. It was not spikenard, neither was it blood, which was used for this cleansing. This is not coming anew to the fountain that was opened for all sin and uncleanness. In other words, we do not come repeatedly to have our sins forgiven. In the finished work of Christ, the New Testament does not teach any need for re-application of the blood of Christ. In the Old Testament every year they had to re-enter to Holiest of Holies and not without blood, but Christ did it once, with His own blood. HEB 10:14 says, "For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified."
Look at EPH 5:25-26. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." This water is the water of the Word that is used for washing, cleansing and sanctifying. Verse 27 says, "That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." He cleansed by the washing of the water of the Word for purification.
Even after Christ has betrothed His little flock to Himself, He must build a more perfect relationship with them through the washing of water by the Word before He can enter in a marriage union with them and give them the full expression of His love. Christ cannot give us the full expression of His love until He has cleansed us, until He has washed our walk of life, until He has given us to be renewed in the spirit of our minds, until we have that Spirit of Christ, until we have harmony of purpose, with Him in His love, until He is perfectly our first love. He says He loved His own because He does not share them with anyone else. He wants our hearts. He does not want us to serve two masters. He does not want us to have our hearts coveting after the things of this world and after the things of this life, while we are in His arms and in His embrace of love.
Peter was not yet spiritually mature enough for the work of an apostle. The Lord Jesus told him that Satan had desired to have him, that he would deny Jesus, but that when he was converted, he should strengthen his brothers. Peter had many things about his person and his character that had to be washed and cleansed. He was not prepared for the fullness of Christ's love. JOH 13:6-8 says, "Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me." Peter was not one of the Jews who rejected Christ, but he was yet an infant in grace, and during this time of betrothal that relationship has to be built.
In verses 9 and 10 we read, "Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit." If our walk of life is cleaned out, if our attitude is cleaned out, we do not need a wash job on the outside, we need it on the inside. The heart needs cleansing. This spiritual immaturity is still found in Christ's betrothed even after they have been quickened by the Holy Spirit.
MAT 18:1-2 says, "At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them" and He told them that they had to become as little children. In the Gospel of Luke, at the time the Lord served the Lord's Supper, they were contending among themselves who was going to be the greatest. Their feet needed to be washed. They needed to come to spiritual maturity.
Verses 3 to 5 say, "And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me."
Jesus washed the attitudes and walk of His betrothed when they were talking about who was going to be the greatest. So many people misunderstand being converted. They think, When I was converted, and then they start talking about when the Spirit started working grace in their hearts. That is not being converted. That is being born. Being converted is when we start changing from being so proud and so defiled that we start walking in the things that please the Lord.
There are still contentions and divisions among our Saviour's betrothed after they are born again. There is still this constant striving against contentions. It is a continual process of self-denial. The Lord allows these contentions for the purpose of trying your faith between you and God. Are you going to deal with that contention in a Christlike spirit? It is for our growth in faith, our growth in grace, that the Lord brings these things in our way, so that by the washing of the water of the Word our walk of life and our attitudes might be cleansed before God.
Think of the depth of Christ's love for His betrothed. Think of His condescension and patience to such a wayward flock.
In ISA 53:5-6 we read, "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."
Who can fathom the depths of such love?
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