Jesus' entourage, His company, His business, His entrepreneurial efforts are falling apart. Of the twelve, two are going to blatantly turn their backs on Christ. One we're very familiar with, Judas Iscariot. We have been told in the narrative all along that he is the one who would betray Christ. But then also the one who has been the leader, no doubt the closest of the inner circle of disciples, Simon Peter, he will in short order…if you know the story well…deny that he knows anything about Jesus. Three different times, he will deny Him clearly. Both ends of the spectrum of Jesus' chosen walking away from Him. It seems as though things are falling apart.
The rest will simply run. They'll flee. They'll hide. And yet in so doing, like it or not, or believe it or not, they're actually fulfilling the mission. They're actually not doing anything that Christ is not fully aware of. And it is in light of human frailty that we come to today's message in John 13, verses 31 through the end of that chapter, and look at the idea of telling of His glory because this is what Jesus is wanting His disciples to do. This is the command, the instruction, Jesus decides to leave with them at this moment.
Judas has just left the room, and in John 13, verse 31, Jesus responds in this way. John says, "So, when he…" when Judas, "…had gone out, Jesus said, 'Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.'" Five times a form of the word glory is used here. Jesus' key word that He begins this instruction with is glory.
He says that the departure of Judas, even though they're not aware of it yet, inaugurates a moment of glory. Now we know that what Judas is going to do is set in motion what will result in the arrest of Christ and the eventual crucifixion of Christ, His death, His burial, and yes His resurrection. And all of this is what Jesus is referring to as glory. That now the Son of Man is glorified.
You look those words up. They're all in the passive. He is glorified. It's not something that Jesus is Himself taking action on, in other words. A passive verb means that it's being done to Him. So outside actions, the actions of someone else, is bringing glory to Him. The action of Judas, eventually the actions of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the actions of the Roman soldiers, all of these tragic events, all of these dark moments serve to bring glory. They bring glory.
Now we know this word glory, this word doxa, where we get doxology, we know that it means to shine a light on. It means to highlight. It means to set apart, and to reverence, and to worship. But we have to ask ourselves…How does this seeming failure, this falling apart of His company, how does that bring glory? And Jesus explains exactly that.
He doesn't really change topic. He is still in the same context. He is still in the same breath when in verse 33, He says, "Little children…" speaking to His disciples, "…I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, 'Where I am going, you cannot come,' so now I say to you. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
Jesus, in verse 33, says, "I'll be with you just a little while longer now. The clock is ticking. The hour has come. The things are set in motion that will lead to My arrest, crucifixion, and death. As I had said to those Pharisees, I say to you also. Where I am going, you cannot come. I'm going down a path, I'm going down a road that you cannot follow. I'm going to do something, be part of something, involved in something that you're not going to follow and be a part of. It is something too grave, something too impossible for you. Something that your very human nature will so control that you can't walk the path I'm going to walk."
Now we know also that Jesus has already told them, though they don't yet understand it, that they will eventually walk this path. Remember, we looked at a little bit of James and John and their mother, and how she came and asked if they might sit at His right hand and at His left when He comes into His glory. And Jesus turns to James and John and says, "Are you able? Are you able to drink the cup I'm going to drink, to be baptized with the baptism I'm going to be baptized with?" And they said, "Yes, we're able." And He said, "Well indeed that will happen. But what is happening right now in just a little while, you can't follow. I will do this Myself. Your very human nature won't let you do this."
And I want to bring this up today to say that these disciples are at the very beginning of their spiritual journey. They are at the milk stage of their Christian life, and though they have a heart desire to do great things…and we'll see that in Simon Peter in just a moment…the reality is they don't have the maturity to do the things that they claim they can do, and as such they become like all of us in our spiritual journey.
We want to do great things for God, but often we find ourselves failing because we try to do the great and noble before we have learned all of the fundamentals that we need, all of the change in our heart and character and mind and strength that we need in order to achieve the great things for God.
And Jesus knows this of these disciples. And so He gives them an instruction. Notice, after saying, "I'm going to be gone. Where I'm going you can't come now," He says it in this way. "I'm going where you can't go, but there is something you can do. There is something I want you to do." And so in verse 34, He says, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another."
Now loving one another is not a new commandment. It's all in the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy, in Leviticus, there are many times where God gives the command to His children, to His people, to love one another, that they were to have great compassion on each other. So in and of itself that is not the new commandment. What is new is that Jesus qualifies this. He says, "I want you to love one another as I have loved you." That's new. That's revolutionary. And for Jesus, it's an incredibly serious statement.
This word for commandment is a Greek word that is translated sometimes instruction, sometimes charge, and sometimes commandment. It's not just a commandment like the Ten Commandments. It's an instruction, a charge that He has given them. It is a particular thing He wants them to follow in order to grow, in order to fulfill God's purpose in their life. This word is used back in the same gospel of John, back in 10:18. Jesus speaking of Himself in the passage on being a Good Shepherd, He says, "No one…" speaking of laying down His life, he says, "No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command…" that is that same word, "…I have received from My Father."
I want to just stay on that verse for a moment. Jesus is explaining that as a Good Shepherd, He is going to lay down His life for His disciples, for His sheep, for all of those who have come to follow Him. And notice why He is doing it. He is doing it because it's a command He has received from the Father. In other words, Jesus is taking very seriously the command, the charge, the instruction that is handed to Him. So seriously in fact that He is voluntarily following it. "No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again."
Jesus is saying, "When I receive a command from My Father, I take it with all seriousness. It's a charge to My life. And I will follow it because that is how I please the Father. That is how I bring purpose to God's will for My life. That is how I tell of His glory."
And so when Jesus who takes commands so seriously uses that same word in John 13…Now friends, this isn't just a little catch phrase He is giving us. This is with all seriousness. He is telling you and me to love one another as He has loved us. He is not suggesting. He is not saying, "If it works for you." He is saying, "I want you to take this at the same level that I took the command to lay down My life for you. I want you to make this the same priority that I made coming into this world, setting aside My glory, taking on the form of a servant and being obedient even to the point of death." That is how serious these words are that Jesus is giving to His disciples.
Now Jesus knows that they will not follow Him to the Cross. It would not do them any good to. They are not sinless as Jesus is. They cannot atone for their sins as is able to atone for the sins of the world. And Jesus always knows that in our human character we won't do that. Not these disciples. Not at this age of their spiritual growth. Not in their infancy as being a Christian. But there is something they can do. And with all seriousness, He charges them and charges you and I, "Begin your walk. Here is something I need you to do. And that is to love one another as I have loved you."
To be willing to do whatever it takes. To set aside your position. Philippians tells us that He thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but He set it aside, took on the form of servant. To love one another as Jesus loved us means that we set aside our preferences, our prejudices, we set aside our likes and desires, and we love people as a servant would love his master. We care and serve one another as a servant does even though we might be a person of position, a person of stature. Nonetheless, we're nothing like Jesus, and Jesus emptied all of that. And we're to empty it as well. We're to love one another as Jesus loved us.
And then he says, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." Tertullian, in 200 AD…I think he is dead now, but he was a Christian preacher at the time…and he made this statement speaking of this passage. "It is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. 'See,' they say, 'how they love one another.'" And then he makes this statement. "For they themselves are animated by mutual hatred."
You see the world doesn't understand when you love one another because the world gets excited about, is motivated about hatred for one another. When you're motivated by gossip, when you're motivated by bitterness, when you find yourself being drawn into a circle of people who are complaining and fussing, who have negative things to say, who have negative plans to unleash, who have evil at the heart of what they're wanting to do even though they would never call it evil of course, who have murderous hatred in their hearts, a desire to stand up and to take charge and to lead people away from God and toward their own plans, well that is the world! That is how the world operates, by the way.
The world operates on negativity, does it not? The world operates on gossip. That excites, that animates people. Birds of a feather are drawn together. And people who have a bitterness in their heart, they are drawn to each other. They do become bitter as well, and their bitterness coalesces into an evil movement. And Tertullian says that when you love each other as Jesus loves, it looks so odd to the world that people will brand you as a Christian. Now wouldn't that be something!
That people say, "You must be a Christian," and you never said it all. That you act in such a way that is so foreign to the way the world thinks and is motivated, that you have at your very core of your operation love…not selective love, for selective love is bitterness to the others. But a sacrificial love, a love that is so different than what we see in so many places, even in churches, that someone would walk up to you, "There is something different about you."
Jesus wants His disciples to do that. He is not asking them to go up on Calvary's hill. What He does want them to do is what every believer can do. Whether you're a beginning believer like these disciples were, whether you have just received Christ as your Savior, you can love. You can love one another.
If you've received Christ as your Savior, you've received that Holy Spirit into your heart, and John, the one who wrote this text, he is the one who will tell us in his first epistle…The whole first epistle is about love. It is there that he says, "God is love." John begins his letter of 1 John by saying, "These things which we have witnessed with our very eyes we declare unto you." And what he declares throughout 1 John is that God is a God of love.
And if you know nothing else, if you don't know any of the commandments, if you don't know the names of the books of the New Testament, if you don't know the basic doctrines of your church, you can love. You can love. And you can let love be the foundational basis upon which everything else is built. But that is something you have to do. And Jesus gives this commandment, this charge to His disciples to do.
Well Peter hears this, but he doesn't hear it. What he hears of it is that Jesus, "I'm going where you can't come." Now let me tell you something about Peter because Peter is very impetuous. Peter always thinks with his mouth. He says things as he is thinking, or maybe he talks without thinking would be the way to say that. But I'll tell you something about Peter…he loved Jesus. He loved Him.
It's Peter who will take up a sword and whack an ear off. It doesn't help. Jesus even puts the ear back, and says, "Put away the sword." It's Peter who says, "You're the Son of God." And it's Peter in this text in verse 36. In context now, Jesus has just shown how to tell of His glory by loving one another. "Simon Peter said to Him, 'Lord, where are You going?' Jesus answered him, 'Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.'"
"You're not there yet, Peter. You're not to the place where you can do what I am doing. Your love is not that great yet. Your obedience is not to that level. Your understanding is not there yet."
"'Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you shall follow Me afterward.' Peter said to Him, 'Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.' Jesus answered him, 'Will you lay down your life for My sake? Most assuredly, I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied Me three times.'"
Now He is not really putting Peter down here so much as He is saying, "Peter, you're not at that maturity level yet. You will follow Me afterward. There will come a point in your life…" And we know from history, "…when you will be crucified for My name. But you're not there yet. In your heart, your desire, your thinking is that you're on fire for Jesus, and you'll lay down your life for me. But the fact is your human nature is still more powerful, and you'll deny Me three times before this night is over."
Peter will do that. Peter will walk away in tears and bitterness…just as you and I do when we come forward and say we're going to take on a ministry, we're going to go witness to every house in our neighborhood. We get on fire for Jesus, and we're going to change our habits. We're going to change our ways. And then disappointment happens. We fail. We fail as Peter failed, and we go away in tears and bitterness.
We're on fire for Jesus. We love Jesus I hope with all of our heart, our mind, our soul, and our strength, but our human nature is a powerful thing, and until we make the determination to grow spiritually, to let God transform us from being that fleshly-driven person to a spiritually-driven person, from walking after the flesh to walking in the Spirit, then our mouth will make claims that we cannot achieve. But one thing we can do is we can love one another. And that is the core, basic command that Jesus is giving to all of us today.
O my friends, how powerful to be in a fellowship of believers where there is no bitterness, where there is no attempt to gain control, where there is no me and I, where there is only love for one another, where there is sacrificing, actual literal giving of ourselves, our talents, our money, our gifts, our abilities for the sake and the benefit of other people, not to lift us up, but to benefit others! To love one another as Jesus loved. How powerful a fellowship that can do that.
Jesus gives this instruction to a very small group of people who take that command once they learn about the resurrection…because the resurrection changes everything…and they use that to turn the world upside down. Couldn't we do that in Saline county? Couldn't we do that in our neighborhood? If we would just say no to bitterness, if we would just say no to self, if we would just say yes to one another, to love one another as Christ loved the Church, to care and to die and to sacrifice.
This is what He tells His disciples. They don't even understand the scope of what He is telling them. I don't think I understand the scope. You may not understand the full scope of it. The disciples haven't seen the death and burial and resurrection of Christ. They don't yet understand what loving like Jesus loved fully means. We have the advantage. We have the completed story. We're able to see what Christ did. That command to us is far more powerful even than it was to the disciples! We have fewer excuses than the disciples did. They didn't know what was in front of them. We know the whole story. They didn't know the full picture of the life of Jesus. We know everything about that!
No wonder John, near 100 AD, would stay on this subject…the last of the living apostles…and write not on baptism, not on Calvinism…which didn't exist then…not on all of the doctrines and arguments and debates that might have been circulating…Gnosticism…all of these things. No. He chooses to write on love because he sees without love there is nothing else that matters. Without love none of the rest of it can be understood.
Transcribed by Digital Sermon Transcription