Daily Reading for April 1 • Maundy Thursday
To Him that loveth us. What is the limitation of this us? How are we to know who have been, who are included in it? St. John was the beloved disciple, the disciple who leaned on Christ’s breast at the Last Supper. He does not fear to give himself the name; writing in his old age, with his heart humbled and broken, he still dares to claim it. And why may we suppose that the Divine Spirit permitted this boldness, and urged him to it? I think, because that Spirit was teaching and compelling him, more than all the other disciples, to show forth Christ’s love, as having no partial ground, as resting on the eternal ground, and, therefore, as comprehending all within its circle.
Supposing St. Paul or St. Peter had used this all-embracing language, it might have been said: “Yes, but there was a special graciousness, a peculiar affection, altogether different from that which went forth upon you—how different from that which goes forth upon mankind!” St. John can say, “Even so; I was the object of that affection, I was permitted to experience it. I never knew the fulness and tenderness of it better than I knew it at the Last Supper. And this in my privilege; to announce this love to you, that you may share it, that you may have fellowship, as I have, with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” I do not know how the axe could have been laid to any notions of a limited love, bestowed upon certain qualities, or attracted by a certain faith, more completely; or yet how it could be shown more completely that the love of Christ is not vague philanthropy, but personal, and living, meeting and awakening all the qualities and tendencies of the creatures on whom it is bestowed.
Supposing we had the Epistles and Revelations of St. John, without being told anything of the relation in which he stood to the Son of man while he was upon earth, we might have been lost in the thought of a benevolence too vast and vague for any individual sympathy. If we had the record of St. John’s place among the disciples, without hearing him declare the message which he had received from Christ, and which it was his work to proclaim to men, we should have found a precedent and a warrant for all that glorification of different saints, as objects of Christ’s partial regard and mysterious favour, which have been so common, and so hurtful, in some parts of the Church; a kind of warrant for the notion, more prevalent in our day and more mischievous, that there are circles and schools which He favours, to the exclusion and condemnation of mankind at large.
Now that the individual and the universal are so wonderfully combined in the lessons and the life of the same man; now that we know this to have been the great and distinguishing reward which was conferred on him above others, that he should tell all men what God felt to them, and had wrought for them; we are able to enter through the disciple into the mind of the Master, who suffered for all and for each; through the Master into the mind of the Father, who rules in the armies of heaven, and without whom not a sparrow falleth to the ground.
From “The Adoration of the Lamb,” a sermon preached by F. D. Maurice at Lincoln’s Inn on the Seventh Sunday after Trinity, July 30, 1854; quoted in The Doctrine of Sacrifice Deduced from the Scriptures: A Series of Sermons by Frederick Denison Maurice (London: Macmillian, 1893).