The Love of Jesus Has Seen it All
NOVEMBER 6, 2021
John 13 finds Jesus and his disciples reclining in that upper room for the last supper.
The first verse of that chapter reads, in part, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” And each part of that sentence is important, including the introductory phrase “having loved.” In English verb tenses, this is what’s called a perfect progressive form. This means that it is a past action that is continuing in the present. So “having loved” tells us, first of all, that all Jesus has done with and for these twelve men up to this point has been done out of love. He didn’t decide at this meal, “Hey, you know what? I do love you guys!”
No, he had been loving them all along. And he’s been loving you all along.
When did he start?
Before time began. He was loving you before there was a you to love.
You know, I think one of the best practices many Christians could adopt is reading Romans chapter 8 on a regular basis. Maybe every day. I think it’s the greatest chapter in the Bible. It’s at least in the top five, for sure. If you ever find yourself feeling a little lost, confused, maybe a little hopeless, or the hurts are too heavy, under the weight of conviction of sin or just the pain of life, read Romans 8. Again and again and again.
And in Romans 8, verse 29, we read something fascinating. It just blows my mind. “For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” Notice that it doesn’t say, “For what he foreknew.” It’s not as if God looked through time, saw you’d be a good apple out of the rotten bushel and picked you. It says, “For those he foreknew.” It’s a relational foreknowledge. Meaning, he knew you before there was a you, and he predestined you to be like Jesus.
Knowing everything, Christ loved you. Do you ever think about that? Knowing everything, Christ loved you. Most romance stories and love songs don’t usually get this right. Love in them is always predicated on how one person makes the other feel. It’s rare to find a depiction of love in our culture that resembles the kind of preemptive, “having loved” kind of love. But one movie that gets kind of close is Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
The film begins as many romantic comedies do, with a kind of “meet cute” between our two main characters. Joel (played by Jim Carrey) and Clementine (played by Kate Winslet) see each other and, of course, fall in love. What ensues gets weirder and weirder, however.
Joel and Clementine go on dates, long walks on the beach, and spend lots of time together. But as most romantic relationships do, they are frequently beset by the challenges of their personalities and the conflicts of self-interest. What begins as a love story devolves. They go from loving each other to outright hating each other.
And here is where the movie gets extra weird. In the universe where Eternal Sunshine is set, it just so happens that there’s a scientific firm called Lacuna that can erase select memories from unwilling minds. The two former lovebirds hate each other so much, they both undergo the process to remove any memory of the other from their brains. That’s how strong their hatred has grown—they wish the other person didn’t even exist.
But something happens along the way. These two new “strangers” are thrust back together again. And what do you think happens?
Well, of course, love begins to take over, again. But the employees of Lacuna are trying to stop it. In the end, Joel and Clementine discover that part of the procedure of memory erasure is a recording of all the old memories. And these two are able to access all the things they wanted to forget. Listening to these erased memories, pains and hurts and hatreds regurgitated, they now realize they knew each other before and the pain was too great to go on.
So what do you think they do?
They decide, despite it all, despite now knowing “ahead of time” how awful they once thought the other, to give it another go. Knowing everything, love is worth it.
There’s kind of a biblical precedent for this sort of love. Think of the prophet Hosea. “When the LORD first spoke to Hosea, he said this to him: Go and marry a woman of promiscuity” (Hosea 1:2). Hosea was ordered to marry a prostitute.
Why would God command Hosea to do such a thing? He is creating through the prophet a real-world illustration of his own commitment to Israel. And as you keep reading in Hosea, you see God rebuking the spiritual adultery of his people. They’ve gone after other gods. They make repeated commitments to disobedience. They don’t commit wholeheartedly to the one true God YHWH. God has covenanted with them, but they are, every single day, cheating on him.
And this is in turn a picture of Christ and his Bride, the Church. He declares us righteous, spotless, clothed in his perfection, but doing so is an immense outpouring of grace, because every day, you and I decide in some ways little and in some ways big, to cheat on Jesus with some other thing we think will satisfy or justify or give us peace. We every day drift into decisions of the flesh and fail to give him all that he’s due. Yet he never leaves! He has committed himself from the beginning to a people he knows will cheat on him.
Would you do that? Would any one of us, standing at the altar with our spouse-to-be, and being able to see right into the future, and know for certain . . .
In five years, this husband, this wife, is going to have an affair.
In four years, this spouse is going to give up and stop paying me any attention.
In six years, this man is going to become engaged in pornography and turn cold to me for a long time.
In ten years, this woman is going to cheat on me with my best friend. . . . would you still say “I do”? These kinds of things happen to so many of us. Nobody gets married expecting to get divorced. We get married to the person we marry because we assume we’ve found the person who will never hurt us that way, never betray us. And yet the divorce rate continues to hover at fifty percent.
But we don’t think our spouse would ever do such things. Which is precisely why we say cheerfully in the ceremonial moment, “I do.”
But Jesus sees everything. He stands at the altar with us, sees right through our veil, right through our fig leaves. He sees it all. Every doubt, every mistake, every sin, every choice made over a lifetime in which we say “You don’t satisfy, God; this will satisfy me right now” and asked, “Do you take this sinner to be yours?” Jesus says resolutely, lovingly: “I do.”
John 13:1’s “having loved” is the commitment Christ makes from the beginning that he will never leave you, nor forsake you, that there’s nothing, in fact, that you can do to get rid of him. “Having loved” you, he’s going to keep loving you.
The kind of love Christ has for his bride is the kind of love that has seen it all and isn’t going anywhere.