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Mar 30 2012

Loving to the End

“Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
–John 13:1

Life with Jesus is life immersed in the gracious love of God: embracing; drenching; challenging; shocking; thrilling. That love destabilizes disciples in one way while deeply rooting them (us) in another. It is moment by moment love, decision by decision love that comes our way. It is life changing, transforming agape (the love that demands nothing in return.

Jesus knows, as he gathers with his disciples for the Passover meal before his arrest, that “his hour has come”, that the time he has been preparing them for is now here. How do his disciples arrive – at least these twelve? Hopelessly wrongheaded, it would seem, their heads chock-full of fantasies about their own privilege in God’s emerging kingdom, bickering with each other over what positions they will hold in the new administration, blissfully deaf to the passion of his sharing, assuming that Jesus will eventually get his head together and see things the way they see them! Even as he breaks the bread and shares his cup, his life has been demeaningly measured in pieces of silver, his “handing over” has been carefully planned, escape routes and hiding places have been quietly contemplated by all the disciples so that each will have a first century “fall-out” shelter, just in case! Later in the evening, as Jesus pours out heart and soul to the Father in prayer, the ones who share life with him fall asleep, as is their custom. But they are not hopeless.

Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. Jesus sees them quite differently that the way they are outwardly presenting themselves. He knows them in the truest sense.

He gets down and washes their feet. He claims them not just as disciples but as friends. He makes a place for them all at the table, even Judas. He promises them the Holy Spirit on the other side of their infidelity, the very breath of the divine to fill them. He loves them with all the power of God’s love flowing through an individual person, not just in that upper room, but on the cross.

The Greek word translated “end” means completion. Jesus has loved them to completion, to fullness. He has wholly loved them! That’s the love revealed on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.

Jesus loves “his own”. Count yourselves among that number, along with your greatest adversary. Jesus knows us and he loves us to the end of our misconceptions, not just in our stubborn illusions but to their end, to the ends of our inattention and sleepiness, to the end of each betrayal and denial, to the very last barrier and through it. He reveals that there is life beyond every end. This is the power of the Lord to save.

In Holy Week, he beckons us and inspires us to love one another as we are being loved.

Love is the defining characteristic of believers. To the end. And beyond.

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