John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 14

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Now we come to John Chapter 14.  Still in the quiet, intimate presence of Jesus in the upper room with His disciples, friends, sharing one last meal before His death.  How blessed are we to share these last moments with the Christ and the disciples.  The words spoken in this room are full of importance and hope.  In Chapter 13 Jesus had ended with some troubling news, “one of you will betray me” and “where I am going you cannot go”.  Yet Chapter 14 begins with some encouraging words: “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1 ESV).  Jesus knows that the coming events are going to be world-changing and not at all encouraging, at first.  He wants to encourage the apostles.  The word here in the Greek is tarasso. The word means “to be agitated, shaken, to allow one’s calm/peace to be taken away”. This is in contrast to verse 27: “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.”  What the world gives to us can be taken away from us.  The peace Jesus gives, cannot be taken away.

The end of verse one gives them the “how” of the “let not your hearts be troubled”: “Believe“.  We can allow other things in the world to crowd in and cloud our peace, but nothing can steal it from us if we believe.  Believe in God and believe in Christ.  So much water will be under the bridge before the disciples meet with Christ again and Jesus wants to encourage them to remain faithful in spite of current appearances.

And what is encouraging to the apostles here has and will encourage so many others throughout the years. When times are troubling, we don’t have to let our hearts be troubled either.  Our solution is the same as it was for the apostles, “believe“. Our faith in God and Jesus can be our strongest weapon when battling the woes of life and our strongest hope in the storm.  God is faithful and will not forsake us. And the peace of Jesus is ours.

Jesus then tells the apostles that He is going to prepare a special place that the apostles may come to dwell with Him.  Jesus dwelled with us for a short time, a few decades, but in the place Jesus prepares, we will dwell with Him for eternity.  Interesting thought, Jesus prepares a place for us and then he prepares us for the place.  How blessed are we to be allowed to walk with our Savior through life toward the place He prepares specially for us?

Verse 6 gives us the statement that kind of wraps up the “how do we get there” question:

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'” (John 14:4 ESV).

Let’s break this down.  Jesus is the way to the Father.  There simply is no other way.  No works, no faith, no great holiness or righteousness.  Nothing or no one allows us access to the Father except Jesus.

Jesus is the truth.  Any other gospel preached is a lie.  Any other hope of eternal life is false.  Jesus is the only way and the only truth.

Jesus is the life.  Only God can give life.  In the garden, God breathed life.  Jesus died for life.  Eternal life.  Only the eternal God can offer eternal life.

Then, follows the “what do we need to do” question. The answer to this question is so important that Jesus repeats it at least 4 times, and we have already discussed that if something is repeated in the bible, we better pay attention.  Especially, if it is God Himself repeating it.

  • Verse 12 says “whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do”
  • Verse 15 says “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
  • Verse 21 says “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.”
  • Verse 23 says “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word.”

Notice a theme here?  Belief, faith, in Jesus isn’t just in word.  Lip service will not get us to the place Jesus left to prepare.  Jesus wants us to do what He says.  As a parent and you give a command to your child, you expect it to be followed through.  If you are a boss in an office and you give an employee a task, you expect it to be done.  Jesus is no different.  He expects His disciples, His followers, to follow.

But what is maybe unique to commands Jesus gives as opposed to those you may give to a child or employee, Jesus doesn’t ask anything of us that He did not do Himself.  Christ was the ultimate example.  Everything He commands of us we can look in His life and see the fulfillment and execution of those commands.  He doesn’t ask us to endure anything that He Himself was not willing to endure.  Isn’t that comforting?  Isn’t it much easier to walk a path if we know that someone has already tread that path and know he made it safely to the other side?  And, as a final example, Jesus says “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father” (John 14:31 ESV).  How does the world know His love, our love?  By obedience. Not words. Deeds.

And not only do we have the peace of Jesus to guide us, Jesus promises a Helper.  The Advocate. The Counseler.  There are many names He goes by. But whatever His name, His job is clear.  The Holy Spirit is sent to help us.  And oh do we need help!!  This is huge!  Only because Christ came and left do we have God dwelling among us again, not only among us but in us!  The Holy Spirit, God, comes to dwell within us.  We know of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Old Testament through the prophets, but never has He come to dwell in the hearts of all His people.  People like you and me.  We may never do great feats like Moses or Elijah, but we will never be insignificant because we have God Himself living inside us and God never does anything slight.

Chapter 14 ends on a dark note just as Chapter 13 does: “the ruler of this world is coming” (John 14:30 ESV).  Jesus knows that the “end” is coming, but we know that the end is just the beginning.  Even so, Jesus gives His apostles hope, something to looks forward to in the future when it seems hope has come to an end.  Jesus acknowledges Satan as the “ruler of this world”.  Never underestimate the power of Satan here on this earth.  But equally so, do not underestimate the overwhelming power of our Savior.  Jesus says “He has no claim on me” (John 14:30 ESV).  Satan never took anything from God that God didn’t allow Him to have, including His Son.  None of the events that we are leading up to would have happened if God had not allowed it to happen.  When it seems that evil has the upper hand in your life, always remember, your Savior is stronger.  Your Savior is alive and well in spite of what Satan tried to do to Him and it is He that fights for you, alongside you.  You are not alone.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).

Amen. Amen.

 

John: A Walk with the Messiah: Chapter 13

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Here we are again.  It’s been almost a year since my last post.  I cannot say the pause was entirely intentional, but maybe it was needed.  Now I feel a revival is needed. So here I am.  Instead of trying a new study, I wanted to pick up where I left off and finish what I started in John. All other posts in this particular series can be found in the study index.

A Servant’s Heart

We are continuing in John chapter 13.  Chapter 12 set the stage for us, we are in Jerusalem at the time of the Passover Feast.  In the last chapter, Jesus was being hailed as a king, and yet look where we find him at the beginning of Chapter 13.

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 3:3-5 ESV).

This scene is a very intimate glimpse into our Savior’s heart.  We’re going to pause within this moment. Take in the scene, picture ourselves in this room with the Christ at our feet. What would you feel, what would you say?  I have a feeling that I would be quite tongue-tied and embarrassed. This is the Lord! What is He doing?

Jesus knew he was about be crucified.  He knew that the things he did before his death would be important to his followers after his death.  They would be the things they would remember afterward.  Jesus had just been hailed as a king, but instead of teaching the apostles how to take advantage of power and prestige, he teaches them how to humble themselves and serve.  To be proper leaders, to be true disciples of the Master, they must learn to serve.

This wasn’t the first time that Jesus tried to teach the apostles the importance of an attitude of humble servitude.  Earlier Jesus made the statement:

“But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45 ESV).

This attitude seems so counterintuitive in our society.  How could anyone get anywhere by simply being humble and serving people?  If you have power, you should take advantage of it, right?  I wonder if the apostles were thinking the same thing.

Peter was definitely thinking something different than what Christ intended.  Peter was appalled.

“Peter said to him, ‘You shall never wash my feet’.” (John 13:8 ESV).

Well! Peter often seems to speak before he fully thinks things through.  He means to show Jesus honor by refusing to allow his Master to do a servant’s work, but to refuse to obey is an insult to Jesus’s authority.  Jesus explains to him that to refuse to be washed is to refuse Christ, Himself.  Of course, Peter then swings way around the other way and requests to be washed all over.  At least he does everything wholeheartedly, he’s either all in or all out.  But he doesn’t quite understand.  Jesus realizes this:

“Jesus answered him, ‘What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand’.” (John 13:7 ESV).

Can you relate?  How often when we are in the midst of the storm do we want to cry out to God, “What are you doing, Lord”?  I wonder how many times God echoes the very words of Christ, “You do not understand now, but afterward you will”.

Even though serving others may not come as naturally to some as it does others, even if we don’t understand, this instruction comes with a promise (as do many of God’s commands).

 “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17 ESV).

When you are preparing to serve another you might be tempted to think that they are receiving all the benefits.  That simply isn’t true.  The one serving is often just as blessed by the token as the one being served.  It is so soul-satisfying to serve another and you never know when that deed may be returned to you when you most need it.  A servant is blessed indeed.

A Betrayer’s Heart

Immediately after this lesson, “Jesus was troubled in spirit” (John 13:21 ESV).  He knows that there is one among them that must betray Him.  What would you do in Jesus’s place?  Would you allow Judas to remain in your midst if you knew what he was?  Jesus knew the Scriptures had to be fulfilled. He knew He had to die.  But it must have been pretty hard to look Judas in the eye when He knelt to wash His feet.  What does it say about the all-encompassing love Jesus had for His followers that He never treated Judas any differently than the rest? He still washed his feet.  He still served.  Would we do the same?  Imagine kneeling to serve one in who’s eyes you could just see the deceit.

But Jesus points Judas out with a piece of bread, breaking bread with His betrayer.  Then something terrifying happens:

“Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him” (John 13:28 ESV).

Satan entered Judas.  That gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.  Imagine being so far removed from God that we allow Satan, himself, into our hearts to actually dwell there.  We are meant to be GOD’S dwelling place, not Satan’s.  Judas, either knowingly or unknowingly, had not given himself fully to God and in doing so gave himself over to Satan.  Whatever good might have been in Judas before, it has now been taken over.

And Jesus doesn’t even try to stop Judas, He simply tells him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”  It is so heartwrenching to lose one of your own loved ones to Satan.  Imagine the grief Jesus had to feel in this moment when He knew that He know longer had influence over His friend.  In this moment, Judas was lost, no turning back, he had become Satan’s instrument to bring an end to Christ. There are just no words for the emotions encompassed in this scene…

And I am completely amazed that this moment was only shared between Christ and Judas, the rest of the apostles were still completely clueless.  Even though Jesus specifically said “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread” and then hands the bread to Judas, the apostles somehow miss that Judas is walking out to turn Jesus in.

“Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the feast,’ or that he should give something to the poor” (John 13:29 ESV).

In moments like these, we in our blessed hindsight want to shout “HOW COULD YOU MISS THAT!?” And yet we are told that some things were hidden from the apostles understanding until God’s specific timing (i.e. Luke 18:34).  If they completely understood, they may have tried to prevent Jesus from fulfilling His purpose and where would we be today if they had succeeded?

“And it was night”… (John 13:30 ESV).  Fitting words to end a scene that seems to end in darkness.

A “New” Commandment

After Judas leaves, Jesus chooses this moment to give them a “new” commandment.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 ESV).

Is this really a “new” commandment?  Not really, but Jesus redefined the meaning of love.  The Mosaic law taught the Jews to “love your neighbor as yourself”, but it was Jesus who defined what that neighbor looked like and even encouraged His disciples to love their enemies.  Love is what defines a disciple of Christ.  Love is what defines the church.  And it is so radically different than anything that will ever be found in the world.  This love is selfless, serving, patient, humble, kind, generous, never seeking its own.

Ever give any thought to why Jesus might have brought this particular point up at this time?  The disciples might have been oblivious to the fact that Judas was about to betray his Lord, but Jesus wasn’t.  Maybe He knew that bitter feelings and feelings of revenge were about to run rampant through the hearts of the apostles because of the events that were about to happen.  Not only would the apostles be asked to forgive Judas for his actions, but also all the other things that others were about to do to their Lord.  It would be really easy to harbor hate and revenge during these events.  Jesus was reminding them to remember who they are and what their focus is.  There are many

There are many things that happen in our lives that can challenge our passion and focus as followers of Christ, but Jesus says that there is only one thing that separates us from the world regardless of our circumstances and that is our unconditional love.

When the Cock Crows

Chapter 13 ends with Jesus predicting Peter’s denial.  Know what I think is often more heartbreaking than deliberate rebellion against God?  It’s actually setting out to do what’s right and then failing.  I HATE failing God.  Poor Peter.  He’s so intent on following Christ, even to death.  Yet Christ says even he will deny knowing Him.  None of us are perfect.  But thankfully for us, God’s grace is.  And thanks to the events coming up in the following chapters, that grace covers all of us.