The Heart of Christ in Heaven Toward Sinners on Earth

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Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Thomas Goodwin:

When Jesus knew that his hour was come, that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own, he loved them to the end; (or) forever.—John 13:1

(1.) He premises what was in Christ’s thoughts and his meditation. He began deeply to consider, both that he was to depart out of this world, “Jesus knew,” says the text (that is, was then thinking of it), “that he should depart unto the Father,” and how that then he should shortly be installed into that glory which was due unto him; so it follows, John 13:3, “Jesus knowing” (that is, was then actually taking into his mind) “that the Father had given all things into his hands,” that is, that all power in heaven and earth was his, so soon as he should set footing in heaven; then in the midst of these thoughts he tells us, he went and washed his disciples’ feet, after he had first considered where he was to go, and there what he was to be.

(2.) But, secondly, what was Christ’s heart most upon, in the midst of all these elevated meditations? Not upon his own glory so much, though it is told us that he considered that, thereby the more to set out his love unto us, but upon these thoughts his heart ran out in love towards, and was set upon, “his own:” “having loved his own,” saysJohn 13:1, τόυς ἰδίους, his own, a word denoting the greatest nearness, dearness, and intimateness founded upon propriety.1 The elect are Christ’s own, a piece of himself, not τά ἲδια, as goods, John 1:11: “he came unto his own, and his own received him not;” τά ἲδια, the word shows that he reckons them his own, but as goods, not as persons, but he calls these here τòυς ἰδίους, his own by a nearer propriety, that is, his own children, his own members, his own wife, his own flesh; and he considers, that though he was to go out of the world, yet they were to be in the world, and therefore it is on purpose added, “which were in the world,” that is, to remain in this world. He had others of his own who were in that world unto which he was going, even “the spirits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:23), whom as yet he had never seen. One would think, that when he was meditating upon his going out of this world, his heart should be all upon Abraham, his Isaacs, and his Jacobs, whom he was going to; no, he takes more care for his own, who were to remain here in this world, a world wherein there is much evil (as himself says, John 17:15), both of sin and misery, and with which themselves, while in it, could not but be defiled and vexed. This is it which draws out his bowels towards them, even at that time when his heart was full of the thoughts of his own glory: “having loved his own, he loved them unto the end.” Which is spoken to show the constancy of his love, and what it would be when Christ should be in his glory. “To the end,” that is, to the perfection of it, εἰς τελείωσιν, says Chrysostom; having begun to love them, he will perfect and consummate his love to them. And “to the end,” that is, forever. So in the Greek, εἰς τέλος is sometimes used, and so by the evangelist the phrase is here used in a suitableness to the Scripture phrase,Psalm 103:9, “He will not always chide, nor reserve anger forever,” so we translate it; but in the original, “He reserves not anger unto the end.” So that the scope of this speech is to show how Christ’s heart and love would be towards them even forever, when he should be gone unto his Father, as well as it was to show how it had been here on earth, they being his own; and he having loved them, he alters, he changes not, and therefore will love them forever.

(3.) And then thirdly, to testify thus much by a real testimony, what his love would be, when in heaven, to them, the evangelist shows, that when he was in the midst of all those great thoughts of his approaching glory, and of the sovereign estate which he was to be in, he then took water and a towel, and washed his disciples’ feet. This to have been his scope will appear, if you observe but the coherence in the second verse, it is said, that “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands,” then (John 13:4) “he riseth from supper, and lays aside his garments, and took a towel and girded himself;” (John 13:5) after that, “he poured water into a basin, and began to wash his disciples’ feet,” where it is evident that the evangelist’s scope is to hold forth this unto us, that then when Christ’s thoughts were full of his glory, and when he took in the consideration of it unto the utmost, even then, and upon that occasion, and in the midst of those thoughts, he washed his disciples’ feet. And what was Christ’s meaning in this, but that, whereas when he should be in heaven, he could not make such outward visible demonstrations of his heart, by doing such mean services for them; therefore by doing this in the midst of such thoughts of his glory, he would show what he could be content (as it were) to do for them, when he should be in full possession of it? So great is his love unto them. There is another expression of Christ’s like unto this, inLuke 12:36-37, which confirms this to be his meaning here, and to be his very heart in heaven. At Luke 12:36, he compares himself to a bridegroom, who is to go to heaven unto a wedding-feast; who has servants on earth that stand all that while here below, as without, waiting for him; at which, because they wait so long, they may think much, Christ adds, “Verily I say unto you, that when the bridegroom returns” (refreshed with wine and gladness) “he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them.” The meaning is not as if that Christ served at the latter day, or now in heaven, those that sit down there; but only it is an abundant expression in words, as here in a real instance, to set forth the overflowing love that is in his heart, and the transcendent happiness that we shall then enjoy, even beyond what can be expected by us; he utters himself therefore by an unwonted thing not heard of, that the Lord should serve his servants, and wait on them that waited for him. And it is to show his heart to them, and what he could be contented to do for them. So that you see what his heart was before he went to heaven, even amidst the thoughts of all his glory; and you see what it is after he has been in heaven, and greatened with all his glory, even content to wash poor sinners’ feet, and to serve them that come to him and wait for him.

(4.) Now, fourthly, what was the mystery of this his washing their feet? It was, as to give them an example of mutual love and humility, so to signify his washing away their sins; thus, John 13:8, 10, himself interprets it. It is true indeed, that, now he is in heaven, he cannot come to wash the feet of their bodies, but he would signify thus much thereby, that those sinners that will come to him when in his glory, he will wash away all their sins; “He loved his church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle,” etc., Ephesians 5:25-27.
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