The Glory and Love of Jesus

Posted: October 11, 2015 in John

John 13:31-38, “The Glory and Love of Jesus”

Final words carry special importance.  There’s a reason parents tell their kids to “be good,” when dropping them off at a friends’ house, or that husbands & wives say “I love you” at the end of phone calls.  We want the last words we say to be the first words remembered.  They have a weight that is unique.  If given the opportunity to have them recorded, what would you want your final words to be?  What do you want to be remembered for?

Although Jesus was still several hours away from the cross, with much more yet to say to the disciples, in a sense we can think of these as His final words.  Overall, this evening was Jesus’ last chance to have any time alone with His disciples prior to His arrest, and He uses it to the utmost.  He wants to prepare His friends for the things He is about to face, and He wants to prepare them for the things that they themselves will face in the days and years ahead.  So yes, these were His final words…these & the following four chapters. J  But Jesus treats it with that kind of importance.  He lets them know clearly that He is leaving – He gives them a command to follow upon His departure – He even shuts down any objections from Peter & emphasizes the hours ahead.  These were His final words, and they needed to listen to Jesus with that kind of rapt attention.

The night had already been strange enough.  Although every man in the room had experienced many Passover meals in the past, they never had one like they had this night.  Not only did Jesus change up what was normally said during the course of the ceremony (something described by the synoptic gospels, but not by John), but Jesus threw the biggest curve ball of all when He stripped His clothing down to that of a household slave & washed everyone’s feet.  The Man that they (rightly) claimed as their Lord & God took on the most humble of roles for all of them – including for Judas.  Though the disciples didn’t understand, this was an act prefiguring the cross, where Jesus committed the ultimate act of service: dying in our place.

Things only got weirder from that point, as Jesus openly spoke of someone among them who would betray Him.  By this time, the 12 disciples were truly bonded together, and it seemed inconceivable that someone among them would betray Jesus to the death.  Of course that is exactly what Judas did, who had been identified by Jesus (somewhat discreetly) and sent out by Jesus to go commit his treachery.

So there they are.  Judas has left to fetch the arresting soldiers, and the 11 remaining disciples are totally confused at what just happened.  That’s when Jesus calls their attention again, and begins to give them His final word.  The coming hours were not defeat; they were glory.  The parting command was not to fight, but to love.  The cross was the glory of Jesus – love was the legacy of Jesus.  It still is.

John 13:31–38
31 So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. 32 If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately.

  1. First things first: set the context.  The “he” here is Judas.  So when Judas went out, that’s when Jesus spoke up.  Remember that Judas left to betray Jesus to His death.  The disciples didn’t know all of the minute details of what would happen that night, but Jesus had specifically told them of His death by crucifixion many times in the past.  Now Judas left with to get the ball rolling.  It would seem that the house of Jesus’ greatest weakness was at hand.  It would seem that He was facing inevitable defeat.  He wasn’t.
  2. This wasn’t defeat; it was glory!  This isn’t weakness; this was exaltation!  5 times in 2 verses, Jesus uses the word for “glory.”  There’s a reason He repeats Himself so much: He’s driving home the point.  Although the cross would appear to be defeat, it would actually be the crowning moment of Jesus’ ministry.
    1. In fact, we can still see the effects of this today.  The Roman cross was a horrendous method of execution.  It was torturous, and purposefully designed to be so.  Yet we wear it as jewelry – we use it as decoration.  It is a symbol of peace for millions.  Why?  Because it was transformed.  Because that was the moment of Jesus’ greatest glory.  When combined with His resurrection, the cross transformed from a symbol of death to a symbol of life.  Even non-believers testify to this every time they adorn their bodies with the cross.  The victory of Jesus over death speaks volumes, even in the silent absence of their faith.
  3. To be “glorified” is to be exalted, to be made splendid, to be honored & praised.  In another context by another New Testament writer, to be “glorified” would probably refer to having our physical bodies transformed into the heavenly bodies we will have for all eternity.  At the mount of transfiguration, three of the disciples received a glimpse of Jesus’ glorified body as He was transformed from the inside-out & stood before them in shining white garments.  Here, Jesus refers to something different.  This is not a physical glorification – this is a spiritual one.  Here, both Father and Son are glorified, yet only one of them has an incarnate body that is able to be physically glorified.  So this is spiritual glory – spiritual fame, praise, and exaltation.  And it all takes place at the cross.  Technically, it was already taking place at that very moment: “Now the Son of Man is glorified…”  Again, it wouldn’t have seemed that way to the disciples, but that was precisely the case.  From the moment Judas left the room & Jesus completely submitted Himself to the will of the Father, Jesus was glorified.
    1. What an amazing contrast!  This was the moment Jesus humbled Himself the most.  This was the time that it is most evident that Jesus lay aside His privileges as God in complete servitude.  And yet, this was the glory of Jesus.
    2. There is glory in service!  There is honor in humility.  The things we may want least to submit ourselves to might be the things that are most praiseworthy.  The commands of the Bible we might least desire to follow might be those that glorify God the most.  “Forgive someone 70 x 7 times?  Love my enemy?  Honor my unworthy husband?  Serve my wife & children as a slave?”  Yes!  Humble yourself and give glory to God.  Humble yourself and let God be the One to exalt you.
  4. Notice the circular relationships here.  The Son is glorified, and the Father is glorified in the Son.  Because the Father is glorified in Jesus, the Father also glorifies Jesus in Jesus.  And the Father doesn’t want to glorify Jesus, but does it at once.  What’s the point?  There’s no getting around the glory of God.  When it comes to the cross, Father and Son glorify one another immensely and repeatedly.  Whether it is the planning of the cross from the before the foundation of the world – the willingness of the Son to be made incarnate in order to experience the cross as all – the submission of the Son to the Father to see it all come to pass – the endurance and anguish of both Father and Son as God poured out His wrath upon Jesus – or the completion and resurrection 3 days later – all of it serves to glorify God the Father and God the Son.
    1. Is it any wonder why Paul boasted in the cross?  The cross makes no sense at all to those who blind themselves to God, but it is the glory of God on display.  1 Corinthians 1:18,23-24, "(18) For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. … (23) but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, (24) but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."  Glory!  If Jesus is glorified in the cross, we ought to have no hesitation to proclaim it.  Tell people of the glory of God displayed!  Boast not in yourselves, but in the work of Jesus at the cross & resurrection.
    2. BTW: the resurrection is crucial to the glory of Jesus at the cross.  Without the resurrection, we would only have a dead man.  Without the resurrection, we’d have no reason to believe & every reason to despair.  A forever-dead Jesus is no Savior.  A forever-dead Jesus is no God.  Jesus had to die, but He could not remain dead if we were to have any hope.  That’s the point of the resurrection, and that’s why the cross is such a beautiful thing.

33 Little children, 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.

  1. Jesus prepares to give His parting command to the disciples, but pauses first to remind them of His parting.  He taught openly of His leaving (with clear implications of His death), even telling the Jewish leaders this very thing (way back in Ch 7-8).  Now He reiterates it to the disciples.  Speaking in the gentlest manner possible, He reminds them that although He will remain for a while, He was soon going to a place they would not be able to follow.
  2. Question: Is Jesus referring to His death, or to His ascension?  Perhaps both.  Technically speaking, even the few house Jesus had with the disciples that night qualifies as “a little while,” but there seems to be an indication of something longer.  And there was, in the days between Jesus’ resurrection from the dead & His ascension to heaven.  Either way, the thought is the same.  Jesus would be the first among them to go to heaven, and none of them would follow in His footsteps just yet.  However, they could be assured of seeing Jesus again…something He emphasizes in Ch 14.
  3. So with Jesus’ departure in mind, what was it He wanted His disciples to remember?  What was it that He wanted His disciples to do?  Love.

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

  1. We’ve heard of the Great Commandment; this is the New Commandment: love one another.  At first we might wonder how this is new.  After all, the Great Commandment said much the same thing, and it was a quote from the OT.  Matthew 22:34–40, "(34) But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. (35) Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, (36) “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” (37) Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ (38) This is the first and great commandment. (39) And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (40) On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”"  When asked about the greatest commandment in the law, Jesus first responded by quoting part of the famous Shema from Deuteronomy 6:5 to love God with everything we are.  Jesus followed it up with Leviticus 19:18 with God’s command for His people to love their neighbors.  The 2nd command serves to demonstrate the sincerity of their commitment to the 1st.  Their love of God is demonstrated in their outward love towards others.  So knowing that, how can Jesus say that this commandment here is new? 
  2. Grammatically speaking, we can thing of the word “new” in a couple of ways.  One is “brand-new,” something never seen before (such as a “new discovery”) – the other is “new-to-you,” something that is fresh, different (“new & improved” or a “new” used car).  This is the latter.  Although the command to love has been given before, it hadn’t been given like this.  This was different – this had a twist.  Read vs. 34 again: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  This isn’t any-old kind of love.  This is the legacy of Jesus.  (1) The disciples were to love one another; not just their neighbors in general. (2) The disciples had an example of what that love looks like.  It looks like Jesus.  This truly is new & fresh!
    1. Love one another.  Although “one another” could be interpreted as our neighbors, the context shows differently.  In vs. 35, we see that this kind of love is an outward testimony of our faith.  This is a kind of love that Christians have for other Christians.  That’s not to say we can ignore our other neighbors in the world…Jesus clearly commanded that, too.  But we are to have a special love & bond between believers in Christ.  There needs to be intentional love among ourselves as Christians.
      1. And there’s a good reason for it: we can be irritating!  Anyone who spends a lot of time together can get on each other’s nerves. The disciples were about to endure incredible trials together, along with persecution & other suffering.  They needed to be united together and tightly bound together in love.
    2. Love like Jesus.  This is truly the unique, fresh part of the commandment.  It’s one thing to be told to love; it’s another to be shown how to do it.  Many of us believe we love someone else, but if we put ourselves next to the standard of Jesus, we might change our minds!  This is what Jesus told them to do: love one another in the same what that He had loved them.  How did Jesus do it?  It was already demonstrated earlier that night when Jesus washed their feet.  It would demonstrated again in less than 15 hours when Jesus hung upon the cross.  Jesus loved His disciples to the extreme.  He literally loved them to death.
  3. Time for a bit of self-assessment.  How are we doing on this as a church?  How are you doing on this as a believer?  Since we’re all still here & breathing, we obviously haven’t died for anyone, like Jesus did.  But that’s not really the point.  The only Person who can die for our sins is Jesus.  Have we served them the way Jesus served us?  Have we laid aside our own rights and privileges to serve someone who didn’t deserve it?  That’s the example Jesus set.  When a Christian offends you, are you quick to forgive, or do you demand justice?  When a Christian is hurting, have you gone out of your way to help, or did you use the inconvenience as an excuse?  Granted there are some days we do better than others.  There are some days we completely fail.  Our failure does not remove our salvation – thankfully there is forgiveness at the cross, even for a lack of love.  But failure is supposed to be the exception.  Let’s not make excuses for ourselves by making it the norm.
  4. It’s interesting that love is a command, is it not?  We wouldn’t normally think of it in those terms. We typically think of commands being like: do not bow to idols, don’t steal, don’t murder, etc.  But love?  Yes!  Keep in mind that “love” is both a noun and a verb.  We can “have love” for someone (vs. 35), and we can “love” someone (vs. 34).  This isn’t talking about an emotion, or a state of being (such as “I’m in love”) – this is something we can do.  This kind of love is active, not passive.  Thus it’s something that Jesus can command of us.  Even if we don’t feel loving towards someone, we can still act loving towards them.  Many times, our feelings will follow our actions anyway.  The best way to change the way you feel is to change the way you act.  Be proactive with love, and see what happens.
  5. Not only is love a command, but it’s a witness.  It’s an outward testimony that we belong to Jesus.  Jesus told the disciples in vs. 35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Love is like the uniform that we wear when we walk out of the door.  If you’re wearing a badge, people know you’re a police officer.  Scrubs, and you’re a medical worker, etc.  Love is like that for the Christian.  It isn’t Christian t-shirts or church membership cards or anything physically about our appearance.  It is the action we take, specifically with other believers.  Think about that for a moment.  Our love for one another as Christians is a testimony to the world that we are Christian.  It is, by Jesus’ own description, outward evidence of our faith in Christ.  There’s an old song that says, “They will know we are Christians by our love,” and this is the verse it comes from.  So, what does it say when the word looks at us and does not know that we follow Christ?  Notice that Jesus doesn’t say that they will know we are members of a church or that they will know we prayed a sinner’s prayer.  He says that people will know we are Jesus’ “disciples.”  They will know we are followers of Christ – apprentices of Jesus.  How?  Not by our political positions nor our bumper stickers – not even by how many gospel tracts we pass out.  They will know we are Jesus’ disciples by our love for one another.  When the world sees Christians loving other Christians with the love of Christ, that’s a powerful witness.  And when our love is absent…that’s powerful too.  All too often Christians turn upon one another, biting at each other.  We know we’re in a spiritual war, but we all too often forget who is our enemy.  And when we fight and argue with one another, the world takes notice.  If Jesus’ love is real, it’d be present in His followers.  When it’s not, the message is that either these aren’t followers of Christ, or Christianity is meaningless.
  6. Beloved, it ought not to be so!  It doesn’t have to be so!  Far too much time is spent tearing other Christians down rather than loving & serving one another in the name of Christ.  Keep in mind that loving one another doesn’t mean we turn a blind eye to sin or that we ignore doctrinal error.  When those things arise, we need to handle it directly, according to the Scripture.  When Christians & even church leaders engage in sin, it needs to be dealt with Biblically.  But we can still do it lovingly.  Loving confrontation is Biblical.  Ignoring it is UNloving.  All it means is that we need to be mindful of our own hearts and actions as we contend for the truth.  In whatever we do, we do it in love.  And again, that will be a testimony to our faith in Christ.
    1. BTW – perhaps come of you have received the fuzzy end of the lollipop on this.  Maybe as a Christian, you’ve experienced something far less that love from others who claim to follow Christ.  Don’t give up.  Don’t grow bitter.  Do what you need to do Biblically in resolving the problem, and leave the rest to Jesus.  Even if they didn’t love you, you can still love them.

36 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.”

  1. So Jesus had just laid out a major commission to His 11 remaining disciples.  He gave them  a command to which they would need to cling during the years of building the church & enduring all the persecution that would come with it.  And what does Peter do?  He changes the subject.  He’s stuck on the fact that his Lord & Friend is going away.  It might be understandable, but it’s not as if this was the first time Peter heard this from the lips of Jesus.  Jesus had taught this often, but Peter had been resistant to it the whole time.  Back when Peter 1st confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Peter went from that confession to an outright rebuke of Jesus for talking about His coming death (Mt 16:21-23).  And that wasn’t the only time.  Jesus spoke about His death on many occasions, so this wasn’t a surprise to Peter.  The problem was that Peter just didn’t like it.  On this, Peter hadn’t submitted to the word of God, and he resisted Jesus the whole way.
  2. At this point, the objection sounds pretty innocent…but then again, that’s how most rebellion sounds at first.  No one starts off with the intent to totally disregard the word of God.  Usually it starts off minor: “Oh, I’d never go that far…  I’ll only do ____, and stop there…”  The problem is that once you start down that road, it becomes more and more difficult to humble yourself and turn things around.
  3. For Peter, he “only” questioned where Jesus was going.  But he knew…and he still asked.  Again, this wasn’t a surprise.  And Jesus already told the disciples a few minutes earlier that they wouldn’t be able to follow Him there.  Now Jesus personally repeats it to Peter, even while acknowledging that Peter would eventually follow Jesus to death and heaven.  It wouldn’t be now, but it would happen eventually.

37 Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You now? I will lay down my life for Your sake.” 38 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.

  1. Peter still isn’t satisfied, and he still isn’t submitted to the plan of God.  Obviously, it’s not due to a lack of love for Jesus.  Peter loves Him, and he’s willing to do anything in his power to protect Jesus & to be with Jesus.  There are three problems with this: (1) Jesus doesn’t need protection, (2) Peter’s power is insufficient, and (3) Peter’s will wasn’t the will of God.  If Peter had his way, Jesus would never have gone to the cross, and we would all be without salvation & without hope.  Jesus would not have entered into the hour of His glory, and the eternal plan of God would have been upset.  Peter truly didn’t know what he was asking, and what he believed to be compassion was actually rebellion against God’s revealed word & will.
  2. Yet it’s the 2nd point that Jesus questions, repeating what Peter said word-for-word.  Would he really die for Jesus?  Peter may have had the will to die for Jesus while Peter was in the safety of the upper room & still seated at the dinner table – but his will wouldn’t last long beyond that.  Peter wouldn’t even have the inner strength to stay awake during the last few opportunities to pray before everything went down, much less when he had to face the public.  If Peter was relying upon his own strength to stay loyal to Jesus, then he was going to be severely disappointed.  Peter’s strength was insufficient.  Peter’s strength wouldn’t even last the night.  Left to himself, Peter would deny Jesus 3 times before the rooster finished crowing for the morning.  And historically, that is exactly what happened.
  3. What Peter needed was Jesus’ strength; not his own.  But for that, Peter needed to submit himself to Jesus’ word…something he wasn’t yet ready to do.  If Peter had submitted himself to God’s will, then he would have experienced the same peace Jesus experienced in the hour of His glory.  Peter likely would never have followed Jesus to the house of the high priest, and Peter would have stayed faithful in prayer.  Peter would massively fail that night, and it all began here with his pride.  He didn’t want God’s will to be done, because he believed he knew better…and it all went downhill from there.
    1. How many times have we found ourselves in the same place?  We love Jesus (truly) – we just don’t want what He wants for us.  So we come up with all kinds of pious excuses why we can’t follow through, or why God’s word has to be wrong in our instance.  It may be right for everything else, but our situation is “different,” and so we rebel.  We don’t call it “rebellion,” but that’s what it is.  And just as with Peter, we inevitably find that it leads us to failure.  If we had only submitted ourselves to the word of God, and relied upon the power of God to help us endure the thing we were so afraid of, then we likely would have experienced a totally different outcome.
  4. How certain was Jesus of this outcome?  He prefaced it with a double “Amen,” translated here as “Most assuredly.”  John typically does this when he shows Jesus making an absolute statement with all of Jesus’ authority as God.  Earlier that night, Jesus said it when saying that a servant is not greater than his master (vs. 16), when Jesus spoke of the future reception of the disciples (vs. 20), when Jesus prophesied Judas’ betrayal (vs. 21), and now here with Peter.  Peter may have wanted a different outcome, but this is what he was going to get if he remained on this road.  The Son of God was absolutely clear on the matter.  Peter’s current desire to be strong for Jesus wasn’t enough.  Peter’s own strength was woefully insufficient.  What Peter needed was the strength of God, and that wouldn’t come as long as Peter was resistant to the will of God.
    1. When we rely upon our own strength in spiritual matters, we will fail…period.  There is not a person who is able to stand strong against temptation or the devil in our own power.  What we need is power outside of us.  What we need is the power of God.  Thankfully, that’s exactly what God the Holy Spirit offers to us when He comes upon us.  As we ask to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit, we will find God’s grace to be sufficient, and that He will make us strong in our weakness.  But again, we need to be submitted to the will of God.  We cannot rebel against God and still expect to be empowered by God.  It simply doesn’t work that way.  Peter would have to learn that lesson first-hand.

Conclusion:
At this point, the disciples are probably just as confused as they were when the night began.  Judas had left suddenly, and Peter is being told of his coming failure & denial of Jesus that very night.  Perhaps not a few of the disciples wondered if Peter wasn’t the one prophesied by Jesus to betray Him to the Pharisees.  Eventually, everything would become clear, and they would be able to understand perfectly what Jesus meant this night.  For now, He was preparing them for His departure & giving them some final words.  Specifically, He wanted them to know of His glory & His legacy.

First, He wanted them to know that this was not an hour of defeat.  The cross is the glory of Jesus.  In the next few hours, Jesus would be betrayed, beaten, sent to mock trials & placed before mobs.  He would be whipped & tortuously nailed to a cross, where He would suffer and die.  This was not defeat, no matter what it may have appeared to be.  This was the culmination of the eternal plan of God.  This was the cusp of Jesus’ greatest victory, where He paid the price for our sin & became the sacrifice for all the world.  This, combined with His resurrection, was the moment when the salvation of God is made possible for every single person who believes.  This was glorious!  Jesus had already begun to be glorified, and not even a fist had yet been laid on Him.  Just submitting to the plan of God was glorifying to God.  What Jesus was willing to do, Peter was unwilling…and whereas Jesus was glorified by humbling Himself, Peter would be humiliated by trying to pump himself up in pride.  Peter would later be able to write from personal experience, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,” (1 Pet 1:5c-6).

Second, Jesus wanted to leave the disciples with a command.  Love is the legacy of Jesus.  Love is what He wanted His disciples to actively do with one another.  They were to love each other as fellow believers in Jesus, united together in one Spirit and one goal – and they were to love each other in the same way as Jesus loved them.  They (and we) were to set our own selves aside in order to love each other selflessly.  This would be a witness to all the world of their faith.  The disciples would have many opportunities to preach the gospel in the years ahead, but it was their love for one another that gave evidence to their words.

As Christians, how are we doing in following Jesus’ example?  Have we surrendered our own will to that of God’s, humbling ourselves to seek His glory?  Have we actively loved one another in the church, with the love with which Jesus loved us?  Living in the Bible Belt, too often we can think of examples that do exactly the opposite.  We can think of people who claim to be Christian, but are proud, and harsh towards others…especially other Christians.  Perhaps we’ve even been those people in the past.  No more.  May we be done with hypocrisy, asking God to reveal to us anything in our own hearts we need to confess.  Ask for forgiveness, and then be proactive in humility & love.  There are so many ways we can actively love one another as the church.  Maybe there’s a family in our congregation that needs some groceries – buy them.  Maybe there’s someone that needs a listening ear – offer it.  Maybe there’s a ministry area that needs leadership – step up and give it.  There is never a lack of opportunity to actively demonstrate the love of Christ; usually just a lack of awareness.  Ask God to make you aware, and then walk as He leads.

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