How to Be Jesus’ Disciple
The Worst Failure Ever As a Disciple
Judas … was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it. John 12:6
27 Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast”; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night. Verses 27-30
To Follow Jesus Successfully
· You Must Understand Jesus’ [GLORY].
31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; 32 if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Verses 31-32
4 I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which you gave me to do; 5 and now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made. John 17:4-5
· You Must Develop The Glory Of Jesus’ [CHARACTER].
33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come. Verse 33
23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him. John 12:13-26
· You Must Obey Jesus’ [NEW COMMANDMENT].
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Verses 34-35
20 “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.
· You Must [NEVER GIVE UP] When You’ve Failed Jesus.
36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times. Verses 36-38
22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere love of the brethren, love one another earnestly from the heart. 23 You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. 1 Peter 1:22-23
Good morning. Are you ready to explore God’s word? Awesome! A disciple is someone who follows a teacher and his philosophy. Until time comes to a stop men will follow those they believe offer them the best meaning to life. This may seem to be an odd question, but have you ever considered, who is the worst failure ever, as a disciple? If you are humble you might say, “well, that’s probably me.” And if you are not so humble you’ve probably thought of some poor Christian who has miserably failed morally or doctrinally.
The New Testament is a source of authority we can all agree upon. Clearly from its pages, with reasonable certainty, we deduce that Judas Iscariot receives this notable distinction. Jesus said, “It would have been better if he had not been born.” Scripture gives him the title “the son of perdition”, or more to the point a child of Satan. What makes Judas the worst disciple ever is not his betrayal; rather, when confronted with his sin he totally abandons the way of God for his own selfishness.
John says, “Judas … was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it.” Judas is not a big time operator. He’s not a violent armed robber. I think he is very much like many of us. He is a religious person who has a serious addiction to a particular sin. No one can be 100% sure that Judas was addicted to stealing, but it may help explain the only character quality the New Testament mentions about him. He repeatedly stole from the other disciples, and you have to ask why? Why take a chance? Why does he do it over and over again raising the stakes higher and higher each time. I don’t think he wanted Jesus dead, and 30 pieces of silver is not that much money. The small value of the money is attested to by the fact it was used to purchase a bad lot in which to bury indigents. In the highly charged atmosphere of Jesus’ last Passover; it is simply that Judas’ would not resist the temptation.
When Jesus eats his last meal with his disciples Judas rids himself of Jesus and his teachings. Here at this meal he begins his abandoned avalanche into Hell’s deepest pits. Listen to John, “27 Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the money box, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast”; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the morsel, he immediately went out; and it was night.” It is this precise moment of time that Jesus commands Judas, the worst disciple ever that begins the events which will glorify him and the Father. Satan enters Judas’ heart and his final break with his teacher is realized. The temptation is now in control of Judas.
I think there are four reasons why Judas failed. First he did not understand the glory of Jesus. Second his character in the two years he closely followed did not develop to be like Jesus. Third he faulted in loyalty to his brothers. And most significantly he gave up and killed himself. It is the events surrounding these failures that make him the worst disciple ever. His fatal error is not the sin of suicide. It is the abandonment of his teacher and lord at that last supper. He simply did not love Jesus anymore, and he abandoned him to the wolves. It could be argued that the other eleven committed similar errors as Judas. However they failed; their hearts still loved Jesus. And that is why Jesus’ in his tender love helps his spiritual children to know how to be successful disciples and not failures like Judas.
In verse 33, after Jesus commanded Judas to leave that evening, he speaks to the eleven as his little children. There are two Greek words for children used in the N.T. One the words is teknion and is used to refer to small children in a loving and protective way. It is this word Jesus chooses to use for his disciples. For us to get the emotional tone of this setting we need to remember that Jesus himself has set in motion events that will forever change their lives. He is going away and they must remain. The best way to feel this is for you to imagine your dad, knowing he is dying, giving you his final legacy on how to be successful in life. And you, not wanting to contemplate the possibility of separation, have a difficult time understanding what he is trying to do for you.
What Jesus is doing is helping us understand what successful discipleship means. Jesus is telling us a successful disciple deeply loves and obeys his teacher, applies his teacher’s teachings to his life, and serves those who follow his teacher with personal loyalty till he dies. Defining discipleship through Jesus’ legacy allows us to see Judas’s failure, but it also allows contrasting Judas failure with Jesus’ words in these verses.
To follow Jesus is to accept the gospel as truth, but it is truth that is used to modify behavior and attitude. I may understand math principles like addition and subtraction, but unless I use them to balance my checkbook they are facts without real meaning. The same is true of the gospel in my life. To be a successful disciple means that the kindness of the cross finds it application in loving my brothers and sister by dying to my self love and serving their needs with sacrificial good deeds.
To begin, to follow Jesus successfully you must understand Jesus’ glory. The very first words from Jesus after Judas’ departure are , “31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; 32 if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.” This may seem obscure at first. So let’s notice some things, which will bring his words into clearer focus. Jesus is speaking of the son of man being glorified not in some distant future but in his own present time. “Now”, is the first word he says, and therefore the most important one. It sets the time and place and who is being glorified. When Judas left on his errand of betrayal Jesus set in motion the events that leads to his crucifixion. Jesus tells Judas “go do your traitorous betrayal and do it quickly.” He is at this point willingly laying down his life for his children. He is glorified through obedience to God in dying for others.
Another thing that will bring his words into focus is the term son of man. This is a messianic expression that he applies to himself. So what Jesus is driving at is his work of redemption. Unlike other messianic figures of his time he sees salvation not in terms of redressing social injustice, but in redeeming or purchasing human relationships with God through his sacrificial love. Only in the agonizing death and humiliation of the cross does forgiveness and reconciliation become real. He is glorifying God and God glorifies him in accepting those who trust the cross for their redemption and relationship with Almighty God.
The last thing that will clarify our focus is that Jesus says he will be glorified at once. Latter on in the same evening Jesus prays to God saying, “4 I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which you gave me to do; 5 and now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made.” He says his work is done or accomplished and that it glorified God. He has not yet been falsely tried. Nor has he been scourged. Nor He has been nailed to the cross. He has not yet breathed his last breath. So how can he talk of his work being accomplished?
Once he sent Judas out into the night he gave himself over to the will of God. That was his last choice he willingly made or had control of. Every thing from this point becomes God’s will and the outcome is never in doubt. He would die and die horribly. He would drink the bitter cup and God is glorified. For him even in the garden the will of God is paramount. And the reward for his obedience is resurrection and exaltation to the glory of his pre human form. With Judas’ departure the final conclusion begins. For Jesus the work is over.
You must understand his glory is the cross to be a successful disciple. When we misunderstand the cross we replace discipleship with legalism and ritual. When we know the cross then we understand our teacher. His words and actions are clear to us. We follow him with the correct mind, attitude, and heart. He was here to die and so are we.
Next, to follow Jesus successfully you must develop the gory of Jesus’ character. Jesus knows his time grows short. He says, “33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.” The little while he speaks of is hours and not days or weeks away, because Jesus will be torn from their grasp; by the mob he guides to Olivet by mid-night that very evening. The disciples will seek him, because Peter and John follow him to Caiaphas house. Where Jesus is examined, falsely accused, and condemned in a sham legal proceeding. We have no idea what John did during this absurd trial other than he directed his cousin to let Peter into the courtyard through the gate. This is telling in and of itself. John like Peter did nothing. He could not go where Jesus was going. He was not ready for the cross.
We are all familiar with Peter’s story of denial to the maid and to the soldiers warming themselves by a fire. Peter cursed and swore that he did not know Jesus. He had tried to defend Jesus in the garden, but he was rebuked. He didn’t understand the glory of the cross even though he had sworn to die with Jesus. Peter saw himself dying in the glory of war with sword in hand, and not being stretched out on a wooden tree in humiliating agony. He was not able to go to the cross yet. Nor were any of them. They all fled the cross and away from Jesus. None of the disciples were able to go with Jesus to Mount Calvary.
Character is formed in two ways. First you must understand the character trait, and then you must through experience grow into it. The glory of Jesus’ character is his cross. He has the concept, which he repeatedly tells his disciples, that he must suffer and die. And he grows into its glory as he experiences the suffering of 12 hours of mocking, scourging, and torture on the tree. Only he is ready for this glory at this moment. Listen to him a couple of days before the last meal. He says, “23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If any one serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honor him.”
Jesus says the hour has come for him to be glorified; meaning his death and resurrection. He makes sure we know these words are important when he says truly, truly. These words are the same as the word amen. Or let it be so. When an ancient speaker puts amen in front of his words he’s telling you it is important. Jesus paints a picture easy to comprehend. A grain of wheat is only one grain until it is planted in the earth and dies. When it dies it is raised up in much fruit. The principle of the cross is this: to love life is to lose it, and to hate life in this world is to keep it for eternal life. You see the cross not only forgives you, but in this principle it brings you life. Like the grain of wheat Jesus dies and is planted. He is raised up and continues to bear fruit for God.
When you are planted into his death at baptism then you too receive this power of life and fruitfulness. The pledge of N.T. baptism is to live through the power of his resurrection by becoming like him. It is in this way that we follow Jesus to where is he is, which is dead to sin, but alive to God! In verse 26 Jesus says if we serve him then we follow him, and where he is where we are too. Where is Jesus he is exalted and glorified because he died and is raised, and that is the character that we are becoming in our walk with him.
When Jesus told them they were not able to go where he was going it spoke to their character. However, with his next words he commands them to experience the cross. It is so fantastically simple this command that we stumble over his words. He says that to follow Him successfully you must obey his “New Commandment’. Verses 34-35 are not just a command to love each other, but more importantly they are about how we love each other. Jesus says, “34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The O.T. commands you to love others as you love yourself. It is a very fine principle of how to treat other people and their property. Positively this command says treat others like you want to be treated. If you want to be treated first class then treat others like they are first class. Negatively this command says don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you. If I don’t want to be lied to then I don’t lie to others. It’s the old command without the cross.
The new command is the heart of the cross. It says that we love each other the way Jesus loved us. He loved us with his choice of dying for us. The difference is simple. The old command says love others out of self-interest. The new command says love others with self-denying sacrifice. The difference between the two is paramount. Jesus adds the old to the new covenant, but then he invites us to share his redeeming work. This is the glory he gives to each disciple. That we become like him in his death. Again baptism is the model of this glory we share with Jesus.
In chapter 17 Jesus says, 20 “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.” He prays for our unity, but note how it is achieved. It is not based on our common interpretation of the apostle’s words. The Apostolic word creates faith well enough, and Jesus prayer is that we believers will be one as he and his Father are one. His gift to achieve that Divine Level of unity according to verse 22 is the glory God gave Jesus.
The divine unity with Jesus and the Father shows the world that God sent him. Why does this kind of unity create faith in unbelievers? Because it is the glory of Jesus’ death as we sacrificially die for each other. It becomes the cross in miniature to every unbeliever when we love, and care, and aid, and encourage each another not for one selfish benefit. It is the cross of Jesus lived out in the world, and the world needs and wants this kind of love. It knows the old command. The old command of self-interest is easy to figure out, because every culture has some form of it. But this kind of cross bearing love is utterly unique to Jesus’ disciples, and it costs us every thing. This is the only method Jesus ever authorized for converting the world. And it works in every age and time.
That is why in 13:35 Jesus says that all men will know we are his disciples when we love as he loved us. You have been given his glory. It is the cross, and it is not only the only path of biblical unity, but it is also the only way to fulfill Jesus’ mission to seek and save the lost. The cross means that pain, humiliation, and self-denial in our relationships with one another are glorious. It is without question paradoxical; but that is what he means when he says “lose your live to gain it.”
We have followed false methods for unity and evangelism far to long. We in our human wisdom have created and tried every thing but the discipleship that truly dies with Jesus for one another. Vaughn Hill’s success is not in being conservative or progressive. Nor is ridged it adherence to a form of the gospel taught fifty years ago or one that is culturally relevant today. Those are false agendas of human and worldly minds. It is in being disciples who love each other in the same way that Jesus loves us from the tree planted on the mountain of Golgotha. It is suffering with wounded hands and feet from the angry nails of words and actions meant to pierce us, and then turning to God and saying Father Forgive Them for They Know Not What They Do. The glory of the cross, that Jesus gave us; loves the undesirable, and those who are difficult. Remember a disciple is one who becomes like his master. Our master was one with the Father because he loved this way. And that is how we are one with them and each other. It is the true measure of successful discipleship.
Finally to follow Jesus successfully you must never give up when you failed him. On some level Peter understood Jesus was facing his greatest trail. He says, “36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the cock will not crow, till you have denied me three times” He asks Jesus where he’s going and Jesus tells him he cannot follow him. He responds with “I’m willing to die for you so why can’t I follow you.” He is reasonable, loyal, and dedicated. He is willing to fight the soldiers. He is brave enough to strike one of them with a sword endangering his own life. But he can’t die on a cross, but one day he will find the strength to follow Jesus there. And he did. He died on a cross in Rome. But for now he failed.
He failed at the crucial moment when Jesus needed him the most. He denied he knew Jesus, and cursed like the sailor he once was. In a few moments of fear and intimidation Peter abandoned his best friend to his death. He became a coward, and with each crow of that awful rooster he must have increasingly felt distant from Jesus. That’s how we feel when we fail him. We withdraw and harden our hearts to his loving embraces. We refuse to think about him, and we withdraw into our selves. We occupy our thoughts with pleasure and our human needs. And most of us who fail Jesus find it easier to fault others and the church. We forget our purpose is to please God and so we spiral downward into self-loathing and anger. And sometimes our failure leads us to give up, and our denial becomes Judas’ betrayal. We leave the brothers and sisters we committed to love like Jesus and deny his cross and his glory.
But considered why Jesus after his resurrection asks Peter three times by the Sea of Galilee if he loves him, then tells him to care for his sheep after each question. If you understand that the glory of the cross, means loving others as Jesus loved his disciples, then you see how Peter was able to recover from his failure and die on his cross. Not just the one that waited for him in Rome at the hands of brutal Roman executors, but the one of daily life that loves the unlovable. Loving others becomes the crucible of a cross centered life.
Peter failed but he did not give up. He died and rose as he grew in his love and compassion. He failed again with the Gentile Church, but again he dies and rises and never gives up. He continues to learn the cross through loving others. And as he dies and rises again and again; he cares for Jesus’ flock, and he tends them as a faithful shepherd. He tells them love covers a multitude of sins. He knows this is true because it is the basic reality that leads him to the glory of Jesus and his cross. It was Jesus love by the sea that motivated Peter to love the disciple through the bearing his cross.
A couple years before Nero’s terrible blood letting persecution of A.D. 64 in which Peter dies he writes, “22 Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere love of the brethren, love one another earnestly from the heart. 23 You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” The truth that they purified their souls by is obedience to the gospel of the cross of Jesus. There is a preposition the Greek uses here. It is the word for, which tell you why they obeyed. They obeyed the truth for the purpose to love each other sincerely from the heart. Their new birth is exemplified by the new commandment of loving others as Jesus love his disciples. So losing their lives in the glory of the cross they gain the imperishable life created by the power of the living word of God. And the only way you can experience the glory of the cross is never quit loving Jesus’ disciples.
Will you fail or succeed? Jesus wants you to know how to follow him successfully. He wants you to understand that godly glory is the cross. That failure is really a matter of growing into his character. When you cannot follow him to the cross he provides the means of accomplishing successful discipleship with his glory at Calvary. He gives you his new command and death to overcome failure after failure, and you only need never give up. Baptism is the standard model of the life he wants you to live, and you should obey it in order to learn how to love the brothers and sisters. It is the pledge or answer to God through his resurrection that leads to imperishable life. Why baptism? Because if you are immersed into his death with faith then you remember what your suppose to do. Which is to die to self in order to love the brothers and sister of Jesus. And the gain is to live with God forever. And if you haven’t, then pledge your heart by being immersed this morning into that grand new command of life.
Let’s pray together. Father I fail to love others as Jesus loved his disciples. But he kept them to the end even in their fear and disloyalty. I want to be like those men, and never give up loving you today. And to love my spiritual family through the glory of the cross. Please forgive my anger and self-absorption and make me like Jesus. Speak to my heart through you living word that I may succeed as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. In His Nam Amen.