In this Taking a Closer Look Series, my goal is to look at various biblical passages that impact the way we think about God's sovereignty and man's responsibility as they relate to salvation.
So far I have posted about John 3:16, John 1:12-13, and Romans 10:9-10.
I have chosen to look at John 13:1 because it makes a very important statement about Jesus' love as it relates to His followers and the world. This is significant because John 3:16, which heavily influences the way many Christians think about salvation, also discusses God's love and the world.
First, please take a look at the text of John 13:1. Several translations are quoted below:
"Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end." (ESV)
"Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." (KJV)
"Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end." (NASB)
"Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end." (NKJV)
"And before the feast of the passover, Jesus knowing that his hour hath come, that he may remove out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own who are in the world -- to the end he loved them." (YLT)
John 13:1 falls at a significant transition point in John's gospel. This is the beginning of the Farewell Discourse, which is Jesus' final teachings to His disciples the night before His crucifixion. Chapters 13-16 focus on His direct teachings, while chapter 17 is Christ's High Priestly Prayer.
John 13:1 appears to be a sort of summary statement about the love of Christ for His 12 disciples. Since Jesus is about to spend several chapters talking directly with His close disciples, it appears that "His own" from 13:1 refers to these specific disciples, as opposed to all of His followers. His love for them is about to be displayed in His washing their feet, and ultimately in His sacrifice on the cross.
For our purposes, we will focus on the second half of 13:1 (the first half simply tells us that Jesus knew it was nearing His time to leave the earth). In the second half of the verse, John tells us three main things:
1. Jesus loved His own.
2. Jesus' own were in the world.
3. Jesus loved them to the end.
The key to this passage, as it relates to our focus, is the phrase, "having loved His own who were in the world." The ESV, NASB, and NKJV all translate this the same way.
This phrase is significant because we learn that Jesus loved "His own." This is no surprise to us. We all know that Jesus loved His disciples. What is interesting is that John says that Jesus loved His own "who were in the world." We can take from this that Jesus loved His own disciples in some way that He did not love the world.
John does not tell us how this love differs. In 13:1, he does not tell us whether or not Jesus loved the world. In this verse, He simply tells us that Jesus loved the 12 - who were in the world. John appears to take the time to write "who were in the world" in order to both contrast the 12 with the world, and to contrast Jesus' love for the 12 with how Christ thinks/feels about the world.
Why does this matter? The reason is that this verse helps shed some light on John 3:16. In John 3:16, we are told, "For God so loved the world..." A better translation is probably to say, "God loved the world in this manner..." Regardless, there has been much debate over what this means. Does it mean that God loves every individual on the earth? Or, does it mean that God loves individuals who live in all parts of the earth (i.e. not just Jews)?
John 13:1 tells us something about this. It is clear that Jesus loves His disciples in a unique manner. Jesus loved "His own." This is different from how He felt about "the world." Therefore, John 13:1 indicates that John 3:16's meaning of "world" is most likely referring to individuals around the world as opposed to every individual in the world.
This corresponds to God's soveriegn election and predestination based upon His own sovereign will.