Sometimes in our lives we embark on some kind of endeavor, but we just cannot finish it. For whatever reason, we run out of energy and are just too weary and tired to keep moving forward. We might throw in the proverbial “towel” and call it quits. Just as a boxer might try to go all ten rounds, the fight takes its toll, and the boxer’s manager indeed throws a towel into the rink saying, “no more.” What we might start in life, we don’t always finish. We just can’t go the distance.
Scholars believe that the ministry of Jesus lasted around three years. From his first sermon in Nazareth to his crucifixion on the cross, these three years were packed with highs and lows for Jesus and his disciples. There were miracles, healings, preaching, teaching as well as confrontation and strife among his followers, and exhausting episodes of intense ministry. Jesus, just as human as any of us, knew what it was like to be physically and emotionally tired at times. Yet, even with these same human limitations, Jesus persevered to the end.
In the Gospel of John, we encounter Jesus at the end of his public ministry with a short time before he will be crucified. The setting is the Last Supper. Jesus had gathered with his disciples for one last meal together. John 13: 1 states, “Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” With the cross before him, John remarks that Jesus loved his disciples to the end. Throughout his three years with his disciples Jesus never wavered in his love for them. Even though there would be times in which they would disappoint and frustrate Jesus, he never stopped loving them. Rather, he would love them to the end.
This same truth can be spoken into each of our lives. Like the disciples, we live imperfect lives when it comes to our commitment to follow Jesus. We let Jesus down, disappoint him, and frustrate him just like the original twelve. Yet, Jesus never stops loving us. We can trust that even in our greatest failures as followers of Jesus, his love will always triumph. There is nothing that we can do that will make Jesus love us less. Even when we spurn his love, Jesus will give his love to us. Jesus’ love of you and me is not conditioned by anything we do or don’t do. Jesus simply loves us.
This is what makes the Gospel good news. In a world, where love is often conditioned by our actions, God’s unconditional love meets us where we are. The disciples gathered around Jesus had a mixed record when it came to their faithfulness to him. And in the coming days as Jesus would be arrested, crucified, and buried, they would continue to fail him. Yet, even then, Jesus would love them to end. God’s love will always go the distance. God’s love will never run out of energy for us, but God will be loving us until the end.