Second Reformed Church

Monday, October 10, 2016

"A New Commandment" John 13:31-38



“A New Commandment”
[John 13:31-38]
October 9, 2016 Second Reformed Church
            Jesus dismissed Judas into the night to betray Jesus.  Judas is on the way to the High Priests and the Pharisees to gather, with Roman soldiers, to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
            But, before Jesus goes to the Garden to meet His betrayer, Jesus enters into a marathon teaching session with the Eleven in the Upper Room.  We begin this lengthy section of text this morning.
            And we see first that the Son of Man is glorified in being betrayed.
            “When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.’
            After Judas went out into the night, Jesus said “now.”  Here “now” includes the whole betrayal, arrest, torture, crucifixion, death, and resurrection that would happen overnight and during Friday through to Sunday.
            We will remember that Jesus’ favorite title to call Himself is “the Son of Man,” which is a title which clearly stated to those who heard it then that Jesus is God the Son and Savior – He is the Promised Savior, and the Savior is God in the flesh.
            Jesus says that the Son of Man is glorified in the betrayal and its outcome, and the Father is glorified in the Son of Man, therefore the Father will glorify the Son of Man in the Father.
            What is Jesus saying?
            Paul puts it this way, as he instructs the Christians in the church at Philippi, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11, ESV).
            And Paul explains this as he writes to the Christians in Rome, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:8-11, ESV).
            When God is glorified, He is better understood – better known for Who He is.  We have used the image of a telescope looking at something immense.  The telescope takes something that is far too large for us to comprehend and shows it to us in a way that we can understand and know it.
            Jesus, the Son of Man, and God the Father are glorified in and by each other through the betrayal and its effects for two reasons:
            First, it shows us the willingness of God the Father to give His Son for our salvation.  God the Father loves the people He gave to His Son so much that He gave His Son to live and die for us.
            And, second, it shows us the obedience and love of Jesus, the Son of Man, in submitting to the Will of God the Father.  God the Son in the flesh endured incomprehensible suffering in His humanity because He loves and obeys His Father.
            As we noted last week, Judas made an evil – sinful – choice in betraying Jesus, but God was glorified through that evil choice, securing salvation for everyone who will ever believe, by showing the love of God the Father, and by showing the obedience of God the Son.
            Second, Jesus tells them that they can’t follow Him where He is going.
‘Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, “Where I am going you cannot come.”
Jesus calls the Eleven, “little children.”  This is an expression of deep love and care; He is speaking to them as people He loves greatly.
We may remember, at the end of Jesus’ public ministry, the Jews sought to kill Him, and He told them that where He was going, they could not go.  The Jews interpreted this to mean that Jesus was going to run away to Greece or Turkey – of course that wasn’t what He mean at all – He was telling them that He was going back to the Father, and they, as unbelievers, could not follow.
To the Eleven, Jesus has a different message – a message of compassion and love, as He tells them that they cannot follow Him, either.  The difference, as we see later in Jesus’ teaching, is that Jesus is telling the Eleven they could not follow Him back to the Father now – they had to endure the aftereffects of Jesus’ death and Resurrection –  but they – and all we who believe – will be received into the presence of God in the Kingdom.
Third, Jesus gave the Eleven 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.’
Jesus gives a new commandment to the disciples:  they are to love one another.
And we wonder if the hands started going up as Jesus taught: “Teacher, it has been the law since Moses that we are to love one another.  Even you said it was the second of the greatest commandments and the summary of the Law: ‘” ‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31, ESV).
“Loving our neighbor is nothing new; loving one another is nothing new.  What are You getting at Jesus?”
Even some modern commentators think that Jesus is too stressed out at this point and said something that did make sense.  But that is not the case.
Because Jesus did not say that they should “love one another.”
“Of course He did, it’s right here in the text!”
No, Jesus said, “you are to love one another, just as I have loved you.”  Jesus added a qualifier, which makes this a new command.  Jesus does not merely want us to love one another – especially our fellow Christians – but Jesus wants us to love each other – especially our fellow Christians – to the very extent that He loved the Eleven.
And the extent to which Jesus loved the Eleven is how He loves each of us who believes savingly in Him:
Jesus loves us so much that the Son left His throne in Heaven, putting aside the glory He is due, and incarnate in the person of Jesus.
So we are to love each other so much that we are willing to put aside all praise and honor and recognition that we would normally have do for the sake of others.
Jesus loves us so much that He lived a real human life, worked hard, never sinned, lived a holy life, and submitted to all that God the Father commanded.
So we are to love each other so much that we are willing to be examples of people who work hard and honest lives, strive to live a holy life, and strive to live lives of obedience to God for the sake of others.
Jesus loves us so much that He lived a life of pain, denial, rejection, torture, and death.
So we are to love each other so much that we are willing to suffer pain, denial, rejection, torture, and even death for the sake of Christ and His Gospel and for the sake of others.
That’s something of what it means to love each other as Jesus loves us.
Are you ready and willing to love others to that extent?
Are you ready and willing to be someone who lives a life of service and self-sacrifice – even to death?
Jesus says that if we live like this – if we love others to the extent that Jesus loves us – the world will know that we are the disciples – the followers – the saved believers – of Jesus Christ.
There is a song, “They will know we are Christians by our love” – but we often think our love doesn’t extend beyond our singing such songs together.  They will know we are Christians when our love is the love that extends to the extremes that Jesus’ love extends for us.
The Church Father, Tertullian, who lived from 160 A.D. to 240 A.D., quotes the pagans of  his day:  "’Look,’ they say, ‘how [the Christians] love one another’ (for they themselves hate one another); ‘and how they are ready to die for each other’ (for they themselves are readier to kill each other)” (http://www.tertullian.org/quotes.htm).
Would you die for another Christian here this morning?
Finally, Jesus prophesies Peter’s denial.
            “Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.’ Peter said to him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.’”
            Peter seems to have missed Jesus’ teaching on the new commandment; he is hung up on Jesus saying that they can’t follow Him where He is going.
            So Peter wants answers: “Lord, where are You going?”
            “You can’t follow Me now, but you will follow Me later.”
            “Why can’t I follow You now?  I will even follow You to death!”  Peter has something here.
            But Jesus says, “You’re ready to die for Me?  Oh, Peter, you will deny Me three times before the rooster crows tomorrow.”
            Peter was devoted, impatient, and he thought he was able to withstand anything for Jesus’ sake, but he wasn’t.  Peter was not as strong as he thought he was.
            He would become stronger.
            Each of us, as we mature in Christ, become stronger through God working in us – we continue to be transformed into the Image of Christ.
            But be warned:  we are not as strong as we think.  We give into sin far more easily that we would first believe.
            We can keep from falling by relying on God and focusing on Jesus and the way in which He has shown His love to us and for us.  As we glorify Jesus and know God better, we learn more about the way we are to love others – how we are to show the love of Christ to others.  We learn how to love other like Jesus loves us, so the world will know we are His.
            Let us pray:
            Almighty God, as we truly think about the ways in which Your Son has loved us, to love each other to that extent seems more than we can accomplish.  Stir the Holy Spirit with us and convict us that we cannot be the people You have called us to be by ourselves, but we are not alone.  Revive us and restore us.  Make us be a people who the world looks at in shock, noting that we truly love each other as Jesus loved – even to death.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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