LOVE’S GREATEST TEST
“‘You heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens so that, when it does happen, you will believe.
“I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me. Come now; let us leave,'” John 14:28-31 NIV.
Strange words for the bewildered disciples! How could they grasp what was foreign to their experience? But for the Holy Spirit who would make sense of it all as time went on, this entire interlude would be lost to them.
“Going away and coming back”? And yet He kept talking about dying! No one in their experience had ever died and came back again. As for being glad because He was going away! That did not make sense. If they loved Him how could they be glad because He was leaving them?
Ah, but they did not yet understand the implications of all these mysteries! This was not only about Him; it was also about them. Going to the Father had huge spin-offs for them.
Salvation accomplished, Jesus would return to the Father to present His blood as a perpetual sacrifice for sin. He would be exalted to the highest place and be given a name above every other name. He would take up His role in the presence of the Father, representing them to Him as High Priest and Mediator. He would send the Holy Spirit to be with them forever as His other self, to be in them, to teach them about Him and to transform them into His likeness.
Is it any wonder that He told them to be happy because He was going to the Father?
However, between the present moment and His return to the Father lay the biggest test of His love for the Father — the cross! Time was running out for Him. He had an appointment to keep that would be perfectly timed to coincide with the exact moment when the first Passover lamb would be slaughtered by the high priest. Time with His disciples was coming to an end. He had given them everything He could while He was with them. It was now over to the Holy Spirit to help them internalise what they had heard during His time with them.
The prince of this world was poised to strike; he thought he was gearing up for his greatest victory, not realising, even from experience that he could never take Jesus on and win. How many times had he already tried and come out of it with egg on his face!
He had his human cronies lined up; Judas the traitor, the religious hierarchy, Caiaphas the high priest, the temple guard and Roman soldiers, Pilate, Herod and the fickle mob — quite a formidable array from a human perspective! Who were Jesus’ supporters? No one because even His most loyal followers deserted Him! He took on the world and the evil spiritual forces behind it single-handed.
Jesus made a most interesting statement. What was He about to prove? Not that He loved the world but that He loved the Father and authenticated that love by being obedient to Him to the very dregs of the cross. Why not the world? He loved the world through His obedience to the Father.
What was the point of Adam’s test in the Garden of Eden? There was nothing morally wrong with eating fruit from a tree in the garden. It was not the tree but the instruction that counted. God set up a test to check the strength of Adam’s love for Him. Love sets boundaries within which the beloved can move freely without fear. The strength of love is demonstrated by the beloved’s willingness to live within those boundaries because he trusts the one who loves him. And he failed the test.
For Jesus, the test of His love for the Father was His willingness to obey Him to the death without resistance — even at the hands of the one who hated Him the most. His entire human life was a declaration that He loved the Father and that He loved Him through the bitterest suffering any human can endure. Period!
“When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. “He Himself bore our sins” in His body on the cross so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness: “by His wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:23, 24 NIV.