I wonder when it gets to the end of the day, how often you find yourself thinking: “What a day!” Those moments of breathing outward when you are glad to just get something done and hopeful that tomorrow will bring improvement. Life is hard, never mind amid a pandemic when we are worried about ourselves, family, friends, work, the economy and even the World. Now, we find ourselves asking and thinking “What is going on?”
When I read John Chapter 13, or any of the narrative that builds up to the Cross, I often wonder what it must have been like to be one of the eleven. To have walked through those moments with Jesus: The Raising of Lazarus, his grand entry into Jerusalem, then to sit with him at the table as he washed their feet. What a crazy time it must have been to process and to even try and keep up with everything that was going on. Add into that all the madness with his prophecies around his death, and that whole thing about someone betraying him.
Never mind “What a day” they must have been thinking “What on earth is going on!” Yet, there they were living as the most defining moment in history was being played out, and they would come to understand it as they looked back. Only then would they be able to know and declare that God had not abandoned them, that their teacher was not wrong but that God was at work. That the hand of the Lord was steady, and all that He had intended to happen was going as such. The redemption of humankind was underway. Like so many moments previously in our Holy Weeks study, our passage today reminds us of that simple truth: God is at work. Not only is God at work, but he is also at work in the worst of situations to bring Glory and Honour to his name.
On this Thursday in the Shadow of the Cross, we look to Jesus and learn from him one thing – Trust God. The World, as we know it has changed in a moment, Covid-19 has shaken the foundations of our culture and economies. Churches have shut, and families can only glance at each other through a window. Things are mad, and yet the lesson that we have in the madness and confusion is to trust God: Trust that God is good and is that work, and trust that a good God is working good out of a terrible situation. We the People Of The Cross are those who testify to that. That the Cross would be the symbol of our faith is lunacy, yet a beautiful reminder of the God who can be trusted and the God who is at work. A God these eleven disciples would in the end willing give their for in service of.
John 13:31-35 CSB
When he had left, 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 will glorify him at once. 33 Children, I am with you a little while longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so now I tell you: ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. 35 By this, everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”
1 – The Time Has Come For Glorification (31-33)
Judas has left the room and with him the tension that was so apparent. Now Jesus Christ seems to speak from freely and intimately that before as he tells them again: “Now the Son of Man is glorified.” A Statement that anticipates the work of redemption that Jesus was about to fulfil. A work that includes his perfect life, death, resurrection and ascension. A work that will grant him an exalted status from God the Father, and prove that he was God the Son. It is a glorification that goes against the grain of the World, one that shows us the ways of the Kingdom of Heaven and how God works in the World. Think about the life and ministry of Jesus, all that he did (his teachings and miracles) they where in essence all glimpse of his Glory. Yet, that is all they where. Amazing isn’t in that is what seemed like defeat in death. Jesus would, in fact, defeat death. Amazing isn’t is that in supreme weakness and humiliation that Jesus would the fullness of his majesty and Glory as he hung there on the most gruesome Cross. Today this glorification is our hope that in the darkest of situations there will still be light, and that we can trust that God is working. Today we are called to remember in our fears and worries that out of death, Jesus brought life for all. Thus, if we are His, if we know him as Lord and saviour whatever we might fear we can stand confident in Christ because we know that regardless of the World can do, it cannot sake a secured eternity.
A Moment of Glory
Furthermore, in this worst of situations, we have reminded the God is Sovereign and in control. We are now literally just hours from Jesus being on the Cross, and while Jesus might be troubled in soul about what is ahead, he is none the less confidence and assured because this has been the plan all along. Hence the statement of verse 31 and 32. That is the glorification fo the Son of Man now, (his death and resurrection) that in that God is glorified. How? Because this is all part of God’s redemptive plan, to deal with the curse of Sin and close the gap between him and his created. Thus, God the Father is equally exalted in the death and resurrection of the Son. The Cross is God crying out to the World of His Sovereign Rule and Love. The Question is today what do you place your confidence in?
Care for his Children
For the first time in the Gospel narrative, Jesus refers to his disciples as Little Children. He is now tenderly preparing them for his departure, which will shortly take place. A reminder to us of the love that Jesus felt for this Motley band of followers – he loved them. They where his children. That same love is ours to know and take if we come to him. That same tenderness and care he offers then, he offers now in whatever situation we find ourselves facing. So let us know it and revel in it. He is tenderly preparing them because he knows in the pain of what is ahead they will seek him and not be able to find him. He knows what they will face and is concerned for them. Today, God knows our situation, our concerns and anxieties, and he seeks to deal with us in the same way. And, as God was working then. So is He working now for the good of those who love him. In despair, we must trust the goodness of a loving God.
2 – The Great Commandment
Is there much that needs to be said about these verses. Read it again “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. To his beloved children, he offers one last imperative, one last rule of the Kingdom, and it is a rule like no other. It is a rule that summarises all that they have been taught and all that they have seen him do – love. Specifically, they are to love (agapō) one another as they have been over by Jesus. When the betrayer’s action begins to sink in, what are the disciples to do – love another! Not just a blasé love, but an active love that models all Christ has done for them: the washing of their feet and serving of them (even the feet of Judas). This is the love that they are being called to when their World is beginning to (for a short time) fall apart. In fear and darkness, Christ calls them to live out what he has modelled for them, agape love. In his absence, they were to live by the rule of love, not fear or selfishness, but love. Love that modelled the humility and service of Jesus Christ.
That which was to be their rule then is our rule today. Of course, there is nothing new in it, because the ten commandments call us to Love God and Love our Neighbour… Yet, it is new because Christ has added to it by the narrative of the good Samaritan, the call to love one’s enemies and go the extra mile for them. Furthered by the example of the washing of feet and Ultimately he’s going to the Cross. Additionally, it is new because we do not live out this commandment on our own, we live it out empowered by the Holy Spirit. But we must live it out. As Paul writes:
“If I speak human or angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give away all my possessions, and if I give over my body in order to boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.” – 1 Cor. 13:1-3
Let us be clear on one thing today as we close. The mark of the true follower of Jesus is not humility, service, or sacrifice. It is love. If we have all the fruit of the spirit but have not to love, then we have no fruit. If we do all things that a disciple is meant to do but have not to love, then we are not a disciple. If we go to all the services a church holds, pray all the prayers, attend all the bible studies and go on every mission trip but we do not have love, then we are worshipping ourselves and not Christ. Especially within the context of the family of faith. As the disciples were called to love one another, so we in the body of Christ are called to Love one another as part of our witness to the love of Christ – even when it is hard! I wonder today, amid the eerie darkness that has covered our land, let our love of one another be out to witness to greater love and hope. Today, amid this darkness I wonder who God is promoting us to love in a new way, to ‘wash the feet’ so that he is glorified
Conclusion: Be Known By Love (35)
How do you know a football fan? By the gear that they were. How do you know police officer? By the uniform, they put on. We are all known by something in this World, every person we will ever meet will define us by some moment, outfit or mark. I wonder today, if you claim to follow Christ what for you is the mark of a follower of Jesus? Is it the type of church they attend, bible they read, clothes they wear, job they do, car they drive, place they shop, or coffee they drink? Just as we all are known by something so too do we define people by something. We define Christians by their theology or influence, yet, how often do we mark someone as a follower of Christ by the love that they share with those around them and by how they treat those who are within their family of faith – their church? Let us be clear today as we close, the mark of a true disciple is not a suit, bible translation, or doctrinal statement, nor the programs they run, signs and wonders they perform, spiritual gift they display or spiritual song they sing, no the distinguishing mark of a disciple is love. Specifically Christs love in us that allows us to love one another as he has loved us. This challenge of recognition: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” is spoken within the context of the feet washing and in the shadow of the Cross (the greatest display of love the World has ever seen). Thus we are not called to some self-scented family or clique, but to a Christlike Love, empowered by the Holy Spirit that confronts the World as we live it out. Today as yourself by what you are marked? By love modelled on Christ? Or by something else, because no matter how good it may be, if it is not Christ love, then it will never be enough. Today Disciple let us be a people who are known by love.
Questions to Consider
- What sort of day, or period have you been having, and in these times of stress and anxiety what do we turn to? God or something else?
- Do we revel in the Glory of Christ, is the Cross our good news or something offensive to us?
- What does it mean for us to consider God as sovereign? Furthermore, how should that concept properly understand give us confidence in these times?
- Who is God calling us to put this New Commandment of Love into practice with within our own lives and church? How then can we practically love our family of faith at this time?
- By what mark are we known? Is it Christ’s love made visible in our love of our brothers and sisters in the faith, or is it another love?