Fred Lindemann on John 13:1-15:
“Do You Know What I Have Done to You?”
What I have done to you. He is speaking of something He has done to His friends. There lies the charm of the Upper Room. Tomorrow we shall stand on Golgotha and see the God and Creator of the universe yield up His life for His sinful creatures. It is the awful moment that brings the climax of all human history. It is a blessed scene that determines our own eternal destiny. Life would mean nothing without Good Friday. We would and could not be without it. Yet we would not give up that scene in the Upper Room. It has its own peculiar charm, an atmosphere of quiet assurance and peace. We would almost prefer to remain here and not go out into the hate-filled atmosphere of Golgotha, with its hooting and scoffing, its torture and blood. Is it because in the Upper Room we are in the company of our Lord’s friends and on Golgotha we are surrounded by enemies? Is it because in the Upper Room our Lord already entered into the contract of forgiveness with His friends, the contract He then established on Golgotha the next day? He gave His friends His body, which He gave into death the next day for all the world. The blood He shed on Good Friday He gave to His friends the night before. It is necessary for our soul’s salvation that we stand sorrowfully under the Cross tomorrow. But if we had our choice, we should stay forever in the Upper Room, among our Lord’s friends, where He did something for His friends that He did not do for all the world.
Do you know what He did to you? The text gives us a glimpse into the mysterious depths of sublime thought from which sprang the action. “Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father.” “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He had come from God and was going to God.” Our Lord knew that the Father had given all things necessary for men’s salvation into His hands, for Him to carry out. He knew that He would die tomorrow as a step toward His return to the Father in glory. All this was the Father’s will, and He had come into the world to accomplish that will. He knew all that His perfect obedience to the Father required of Him today and tomorrow. He took it all upon Himself and was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
What prompted this obedience? “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” The phrase “to the end” does not refer only to time, so that He loved His own to the end of His life, to His last breath. It refers also to the extent of His love. He loved on to the extreme end of what was possible, not only to death, but to every limit of everything that can be done, to the final possibility of seeking, winning, saving, salvaging. He knew all and every-thing possible, and obediently He loved through all and everything into the last depth that could be reached.
To have His friends see this love, to tell them of it, to demonstrate it, He did something to them that He did not do on Good Friday. He rose from supper, got down on His knees before each of His friends, and humbled Himself before them to the ground. He did nothing like that in the palace of the high priest, or to Herod, or to Pilate, or to the centurion and the soldiers. But to His friends He demonstrated love to the uttermost possibility, so that they might have some conception of its enormous, limitless capacity.
We have here the original portrait of divine Love. Today all other pictures seem weak reflections of this. Here divine Love bows deeper to sinful men than human thought can conceive. It is impossible to realize even remotely what the Son of God gave up Out Of the ultimate depths of His rich heart when He knelt before His friends and looked into the face and eyes of each, not with a lordly look from above down to them, when He bared His very soul and invited them to read what was there for them. “Do you not see how I humble Myself before you? that I came not to be ministered to but to minister and. serve? Can you not sense in this moment that My sacrifice goes to the very limit of every possibility, that there is nothing I would not do to you, that there is nothing beyond? Do you know what I have done to you?”
Do we know what He has done to us? The history of the Passion reveals how the Lord of Glory humbled Himself. We see and hear what He suffered for us. The Lord of the angels in the dust of Gethsemane. The Son of God condemned for blasphemy because He revealed His identity. The Almighty helpless on the cross. We see the impossible being done to us. In this hour the supremely Holy One kneels before us to wash us of every stain in the Supper of His forgiveness, so that we are clean all over. But before we have Him getting down on His knees before us, before He looks up into our face and says, “I gave My body for you, I shed My blood for you, to cleanse your every spot,” He asks us the confessional question, “Do you know what I have done to you?” Before we answer, we note that of the Twelve in the Upper Room only two are mentioned by name in the text, Judas and Peter. We sense the extreme contrast at once. It will prove profitable to determine the fundamental difference between them.
Loving to the end, the Savior is on His knees before the man who at the very moment waited for the opportunity to slip out and betray Him for thirty pieces of silver. “When the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot to betray Him.” Judas too had gone to the end, but of hate. He was finished with his Lord. He had done with himself. He was through with everything and everybody. Yet the Lord was not through with him even now. With a love that stretches an eagerly seeking hand, He washes the feet to the soles of which clings the mud from the way that led to our Lord’s bloodthirsty enemies. He loves to the end. Could there be something beyond? A love that seeks a soul filthier than the unwashed feet directed by that soul. In abject humility it woos its own murderer and asks: “Do you know what I have done to you?” But coldly, silently Judas suffers the service of love. If he had only held off the Lord with both hands! Something might have come of it. A conflict could have saved him even now. But sullenly he keeps on pretending. He is immune to the love to the end.
When our Lord came to Peter with the basin and towel and knelt before him, there was vehement protest. “Lord, do You wash my feet?” You — my? I — Yours would be proper. He struggled against the love that humbled itself so. Also in him self-will was still supreme. But he was not through with himself. He was still open to correction. Peter, the Rock, and we love him because he always permitted himself to be led and directed. He had not reached the end. Therefore our Lord was not through with him either. “What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand.” Because he did not understand what was going on, Peter protested: “You shall never wash my feet! “If I do not wash you, you have no part in Me.” It was a question of communion with his beloved Savior. That made the rock-like man pliable as clay. If that was involved, he wanted more than he needed. “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” He did not fully understand even now. Surely, the Lord’s answer was beyond him: “He who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but he is clean all over; and you are clean, but not all of you.” Tomorrow morning, however, Peter will understand the power of a love that can follow and save to the uttermost. He was not very far from the end when the cock crowed twice. He had reached the end of himself when he went out and wept bitterly. But he was not through with Christ, and Christ was not through with him. In the Upper Room he had looked into the very heart of the love to the end. Another look in the palace of the high priest, and Peter gave up struggling against this love. The sinner Peter was clean all over.
Shall we today be like Judas or like Peter? In the story of the Passion the glorious Savior gets down on His knees before us and looks into our eyes as He loves us to the extremity of the Cross. It is possible to view the story coldly and indifferently, as Judas sat through the foot washing. It is possible not to be moved in the least and to remain cold and to know nothing of what Christ did to us. How blessed if we could feel something like Peter, so that we would protest: “I am not worthy! Not worthy that my Lord should be on His knees before me; not worthy that my Lord should humble Himself before me; not worthy that He should think of me when He cried: ‘It is finished!”‘ Then He would speak to us as He spoke to Peter: “If you will not acknowledge the need of all this, I cannot be your Savior.” Then we would be overcome by this incomprehensible love and suffer the miracle of forgiveness to be done to us.
Peter understood afterward. From the denial that night he went out into the day of the crucifixion. Now he understood what his Lord had said. The final and extreme trouble is the trouble of guilt. Into this black night of guilt only one light can penetrate, the love unto the end. Peter’s tears were the fruit of this love. Will our Lord not find something also in our eyes as He stoops to cleanse us? Not tears. There is no need for them. But the light of gratitude for what He did to us. May we know this day and ever that this love did something to us that is the end of all that is best in life.
O Love that will not let me go, I rest my weary soul in Thee; I give Thee back the life I owe, That in Thy ocean depths its flow May richer, fuller be.
O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to Thee; I trace the rainbow through the rain And feel the promise is not vain That morn shall tearless be.