John 13:31-35 | Christ's Words for the Fearful | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 13:31–13:35
The text for this morning is John 13:31-35. Please follow along as I read. I’ll actually begin in verse 21 just to kind of set the stage for us.
After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, "Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus' side, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, "Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it." So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "What you are going to do, do quickly." Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 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. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. 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. 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.' 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."
In these next verses, in this passage, the passages to come through chapter 14, there’s an emotion that dominates the room. We’re dropping into the upper room. This is Thursday night, the night before Jesus would die. This was the night that earlier he washed his disciples’ feet. We know from the other gospel writers—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—that he would have initiated the first Lord’s supper that was prefigured and shadowed by the original Passover meal.
So Jesus is doing a number of things in this final meal with his disciples, and he’s just announced to them that one of them would betray him. As we go on through this text, you see them ask a lot of questions. And clearly fear dominates the room. Not in Jesus, but in his followers.
In doing a little study on fear this week, I took a quote from one study about fear, and it talks about the impact of fear and anxiety. It says this: “Fear is a human emotion that is triggered by a perceived threat. However, when people live in constant fear, whether from physical dangers in their environment or threats they perceive, they can become incapacitated.” One Roman philosopher from two thousand years ago actually said, “Men are disturbed not by things, but by the view which they take of them.”
As a Christian, I ask this question: Have you ever found yourself in a fearful trial? Have you ever found yourself being anxious about a trial? Maybe it’s even today.
Trials can dominate our minds and cause us—tempt us, I should say—toward fear, and our heart chooses to engage in that fear. These five verses this morning are all about Jesus’ words to a fearful group. And they are very encouraging as we unpack them.
Consider the disciples. Just a few days earlier, they had been with him, and he raised a dead man. A dead man came out of the tomb—Lazarus. He then had a meal in his honor, Jesus did, where a devoted follower of his washed his feet with her tears.
And then Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the Passover feast on a donkey, and crowds cheered him. There would have been over a million people in Jerusalem and in the outlying areas at that time. And they were cheering Jesus the Messiah. People from all over that region would have come for the Passover meal, just celebrating Jesus the Messiah.
And imagine being a disciple at that time. Jesus riding in. Crowds cheering his name. Reciting Psalm 18, which was a song you sang about the coming Messiah. I mean, if you were a disciple, you’d have thought, we have arrived. They all love us. They love him. This is good. Now we’re going to take over Jerusalem from Rome; we’re ready.
And then they have a private meal with Jesus where he says, one of you will betray me. And remember, he’d already been telling them that he was going to die. So they go from the high of Palm Sunday to hearing Jesus saying, one of you guys—not even the Jews or the Romans—one of you guys will betray me. The air was probably sucked out of that room at this point. Fear grips them.
We know that these men feared because in the following verses, which we’ll get to eventually, they start to ask Jesus questions, and evidently there’s fear in their voices. You see Peter in verse 36. “Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’” Enough of this I’m leaving, you can’t come. Where are you going? And then in verse 37, Peter said to him again, “Lord, why can I not follow you now?” You hear anxiety in Peter’s voice, don’t you? He’s not crazy about this talk that Jesus is leaving.
And then in chapter 14, verse 5, Thomas says to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” They’re a little worried here. Their Christian world is falling apart, they think. Jesus knows it’s not. But that’s what they think at first.
Philip—John 14:8. “Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’” Because Jesus has been saying, if you know the Father, you know me. Show us the Father.
These men are worried. They’re losing Jesus, evidently. They’re connecting the dots and hearing him say even months before that he’s going to die. They’re going from the high of Palm Sunday to the low of being told that one of them is going to betray him. Fear dominates the room.
So I want to talk this morning from these five verses to those who either have been in fear, are currently fearful in a trial, or in the future might be in a trial where you might be tempted toward anxiety. So I think that about covers us all. And I think we’ll see that these five verses have great encouragement from our Lord.
Two messages. Two messages, two things that Jesus wants the disciples’ minds to be dominated with. Two messages from Jesus for those in fear. That’s what we’ll be looking at this morning.
1. Trust in the Plan of God
First, the first message. Verses 31 to 33. First message from Jesus to the disciples: Trust in the plan of God. Men, women, trust in the plan of God. When things seem to be at their lowest, the betrayal and death of Jesus, God is simply working a plan that ends in his glory. We see that in the resurrection of Christ.
Verse 31: “When he had gone out”—who’s the “he” referring to? Judas. “When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.’”
Now if you’ve never read anything else—if you’ve read in your Bible up to the upper room and you don’t know anything else about the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension—if you just read that, you’d think, this is the end. Jesus announced his betrayer. We learn that Judas is the one that’s going to betray him. This is the end. The religious leader, the religious celebrity that everyone was clamoring about, is now going to be betrayed, and he’s going to die. End of story.
Jesus says that now, right now, it’s time for me to be glorified. That is completely backwards. Wouldn’t the time for him to be glorified be when he sat on a throne in Jerusalem with a crown on his head and everyone knew and Rome was under his feet? But he says, now that the betrayer has gone out to work out the plan, the plan that will lead to arrest and then crucifixion, he ties all of those things together and says that now, in those dark moments, in those dark happenings, now because of that, I’ll be glorified. They have a sad look on their face; he has a smile on his face. Time for me to be glorified.
The term glorified means to recognize him for who and what he is, to celebrate with praises, worship, and adoration. Jesus is saying, what the betrayer is going to do to me is going to glorify me. That’s awkward. That’s odd. The betrayer is going to see to it that he dies on a Roman cross. You’re not thinking of glory there; you think of pity. Jesus has glory language coming from his lips.
He says that now is the time for the Son of Man to be glorified, and it’s very important—we’ve talked about this before in John—to know what the term “Son of Man” means. It doesn’t just mean he was born and had a human father. That’s not what that means. “Son of Man” is the term given to the Creator of the world, Creator of the universe, who is sovereign over it all.
So Jesus is saying, now is the time for the Creator of the world to die at the hands of people in the world. The Son of Man is going to die and be glorified.
And notice, Jesus is glorified by someone else. “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” Jesus is glorified—that’s a passive word. He’s glorified by someone else. He’s glorified by the Father. God the Father glorifies the Son for what he’s about to go through—the cross, the resurrection, and the ascension.
We know this from a number of places in the New Testament, but what I want you also to understand is not only is Jesus glorified—I mean, look at what we’re doing today. Two thousand years later, we’re singing to Jesus, the resurrected Lamb of God. We’re praising him. We live our days thinking of him, loving him, seeking to be his disciples. He’s glorified. Today. Because of what he went through on that weekend.
And not only is he glorified, his Father is glorified, because he’s carrying out the plan the Father set for him. You see both members of the Trinity here being glorified.
Philippians 2. Listen to Philippians 2:8-11. Speaking of Jesus, it says, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore [because he humbled himself, became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross] God has highly exalted him”—glorified him, made him famous, made him worthy of everyone’s praise and adoration. Because of what he went through on the cross, he is to be seen as lovely and praiseworthy. That’s why Jesus says when Judas goes out, now it’s my time to be glorified. There’s confidence in Jesus.
“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, [and notice this last phrase] to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11). Jesus is glorified for what he did, and God is glorified in Christ.
You want to live a life praising the Father, Son, and Spirit? Think of the cross, resurrection, and ascension. Think of that. And glory will be given to the Father and to the Son.
Verse 32: Jesus continues, “If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.” Jesus here talks about the order of receiving glory. He says, now it’s time for the Son of Man to be glorified, and then he goes through the order of receiving glory. “If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.”
There’s two stages here. God the Father is glorified because his Son went down to earth as a slave and rescued a people who were rebellious toward him. That was God’s plan to rescue a people, and his Son carried out that plan perfectly. So yes, God is glorified in Jesus the Son.
And then Jesus says, “God will also glorify him in himself.” When God receives glory from the Son, he gives glory to the Son in return. So Jesus makes the Father’s plan known.
That’s why Ephesians 1:3-14 (read it at some point) gives glory to all members of the Trinity for their work in salvation. And it starts with, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And then it goes on to calling us to bless Christ to the praise of his glory for what he’s done. And then we bless the Spirit who has given us our inheritance.
So Jesus is saying, if God is glorified in the Son of Man, God will then glorify the Son of Man in himself.
It’s as if a father has a son, and from the time he comes out and can understand things, the father is teaching the son. He’s teaching the son to one day be a man and to care for a bride and a family and to work hard. So those lessons start early in life, don’t they? They start with how to tie shoes, and then how to manage money, how to work, how to do homework. Fathers teaching their young boy for a future date in mind to be responsible as a man.
But they start with little lessons; then they get to bigger lessons. Maybe in the teenage years, the father teaches his son how to suffer, how to suffer, how to be wronged, how to be tired and keep going, how to love and extend himself, how to be happy, whom to be happy with, what to be happy about. All these lessons go in to preparing this young man to one day stand there, receive a bride, and lead her well.
And then the wedding day comes. And it’s really, in a sense, the culmination, because the father in a sense is no longer kind of the dominating relationship. He hands the son to the bride and the bride to the son, and they go and do their thing now. And it continues on.
But when the son has gone through all of those lessons and learned all of those lessons and learned them perfectly—hasn’t happened except with Christ—but learned them perfectly. Those of you with kids say, amen. He’s learned them perfectly, and he’s arrived, and he receives a bride, and he is ready. He’s obeyed in every way, and it’s time for him.
Well in that time, all the onlookers who have known all of those years of training and purpose, they look to the father, and in a sense the father is to be honored for that. Look what that father did. The plan he set forth. And the son is to be honored for that. He obeyed. He learned. He was teachable. He listened. He understood, and he’s responsible.
In a sense, that’s where we are. The Father set out a plan for Jesus the Son. Jesus walked that plan perfectly, and now not only is the Father honored by that, but the Son is honored by that. Through betrayal. Through death. Through a wrongful death. Jesus is honored by this.
The Father glorifies the Son, and notice at the end of the verse 32, and glorifies him at once. As soon as Jesus rises from the dead on Sunday morning, he’s on the earth for forty days, and we read earlier why he was on the earth for forty days. Why was he on the earth? To give account, to show himself to people, to show himself to whom the Lord had chosen. To say, I’m here. I’m alive. Go spread this message.
But he’s only on the earth for forty days. He had been on the earth for about thirty-three years prior to that. Why not thirty-three more? Because it’s time for him to go and receive his honor. He’s raised from the dead, gives eyewitness account forty days, which is pretty quick in the light of how long he’d lived so far, then ascends to heaven and receives glory from the Father in heaven.
Verse 33. Jesus continues. Talking to a fearful group of men in the upper room, he says, “Little children.” I love that phrase. He’s talking to men. He’s talking to fisherman. He’s talking to blue collar men. Little children. He’s concerned that they know his comforting voice.
Little children don’t need to be afraid of their father. Little children don’t need to be afraid of the one who cares for them. Little children. He says that to draw them in before he gives them some news that could even cause more fear.
“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.’” You see why he called them little children before that statement. Because what he says is going to make them nervous. He brings comfort to them before he brings them difficult news.
Previously, he did tell the Jews that they would look for him and couldn’t find him, but there is a difference between how Jesus told that message to the Jews who rejected him, and to his disciples who accepted him.
Listen to what he told the Jews in chapter 8. “So he said to them again, ‘I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come” (John 8:21). “He said to them, ‘You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8:23-24).
He tells the Jews over and over, he tells them three times they’ll die in their sins if they don’t believe in him. You’re going to look for me at some point, and time’s going to run out because you didn’t believe in me, and you’ll die in your sin.
But in the next chapter—and we’ll get to this, so I don’t want to give too much away—but in the next chapter, look how he talks to his disciples about his leaving. “Let not your hearts be troubled.” He just told them he’s going away, and they remember that he told the Jews, I’m going away; you won’t find me, and you’re going to die in your sins. So they hear, I’m going away. Panic.
But he continues, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:1-3).
His leaving is temporary for his disciples. His leaving is permanent for those who reject him. He’s only going to be gone for a time. And the rest of the encouragement about this comes in future chapters, and we’ll get to that in future Sundays.
But Christ is calling his disciples to trust. Trust him even in the bleakest of times. Christ experienced betrayal so that he would eventually receive glory. Christ went to the cross so that he would eventually receive a reward. And sometimes Christ gifts his church with suffering so that they would then hang on for the glory that is to come.
The disciples in that upper room—you know what they did in the years to come? They preached. They preached about a resurrected Messiah. And they wrote to us. And all throughout John’s letters, Peter’s letters, we learn, endure suffering because the glory to come is worth it. They knew what that meant. Christ is calling them to trust, even when things look bleak.
Martin Luther five hundred years ago or so—we celebrate the five hundredth year of the Reformation this fall—Martin Luther was, as you know, a professor, preached about the truths of the Scripture, really kind of rescued the gospel from the abuses in the church at the time. Well, Luther had a difficult life. Sometimes he was on the run for his life. He was a professor. He taught, studied, labored. He translated. The pope was after him at points in his life. He had colleagues who fought. He engaged in debate. Luther didn’t have an easy life.
One day, Martin Luther came home to his wife Katie, and he was evidently downcast with all of the trials going on in his life. A little bit later, he noticed Katie his wife wearing black. You didn’t normally wear black on a normal day. He noticed Katie his wife wearing black, and he said, what’s wrong? Are you going to a funeral? Katie, in a solemn voice, said, God is dead. Luther said, God is not dead! Katie said, it sure seems like it the way you’re acting. Luther immediately thanked his wife and carved in his desk the Latin word vivit—he lives.
Whether you’re a first century disciple going through difficult news or a twenty-first century disciple going through trial and tempted toward anxiety and fear, the message is, he lives. The Son of Man went to the cross, and his followers hung their heads and fled. And then he rose from the grave and conquered death.
That’s greater than any trial we’ll ever go through, and he’s the victor. And if you are in Christ, you are in him. In that victory.
I want you to turn briefly to Revelation 5. Revelation 5 is actively competing for my favorite chapter in the Bible. I love this chapter. I just want to walk through it together. I want you to see in this chapter reference to the death of Christ and the sadness that comes because of sin and pain, and then at the end I want you to see the victory.
Revelation 5: “Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne [that’s the Father] a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?’” (Revelation 5:1-2).
Now just pause for a moment. This scroll is the title deed to the earth. This scroll is the future of the earth. This scroll is what’s going to happen at the end. And so far, it doesn’t look too good on earth. So the angel is crying out, who can open the scroll and show us something positive for the end?
“And no one [verse 3] in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it.” The world’s in trouble. No one can take care of it. No one can bring about a positive outcome.
Verse 4: “[A]nd I [John] began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, ‘Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.’ And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Revelation 5:4-6). Slain lambs don’t stand!
“I saw a lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne” (Revelation 5:6-7). That’s audacity unless you’re God.
“And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song [yes, it was a new song], saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth’” (Revelation 5:7-10).
There you go. This is the culmination to the upper room. One of you guys are going to betray me. You’re going to give me over. I’m going to die on a cross. And in doing so, I am going to fulfill the Father’s plan to redeem a people, and he will be glorified, and I will be glorified. Look right here. Revelation 5 is the Lamb being glorified.
“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’” (Revelation 5:11-12).
I pray that you know, if you know anything this morning, you know worthy is the Lamb.
“And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor [there’s our word again] and glory and might forever and ever!’ And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped” (Revelation 5:13-14).
Now you see why it’s my favorite. I just made it my favorite. It’s my favorite.
What do we do in light of this? Do we just go to Golden Corral and eat the buffet now? I mean, that’s a fine thing to do. That’s a gift from God. Enjoy. But what do we do with this?
Listen: Anxiety for a believer is to question the character of God. To have anxiety as a believer is to question the character of God. Jesus is talking about his crucifixion, and he is not anxious to see if this will work out or not. He’s sovereign over the crucifixion, and we see that in his resurrection.
I would encourage you, believer, to identify what you’re fearful of and preach to yourself that God will be glorified in this. He will right all wrongs for the believer, so that the believer may sing a new song.
There’s an old song called “Whatever My God Ordains is Right,” and I want to read a verse of it to you:
Whatever my God ordains is right;
Though now this cup, in drinking,
May bitter seem to my faint heart,
I take it, all unshrinking.
My God is true; each morn anew
Sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart,
And pain and sorrow shall depart.
Whatever our God ordains is right. Trust in the plan of God.
2. Love in the name of Christ
Secondly, not only does Christ tell his disciples to trust him when they are fearful—and this is really a call from Jesus; he’s calling us to be obedient in our minds, is he not? Trust me. Now is the time for me to be glorified, even in this cross. Trust me.
Not only does Christ tell his disciples to trust him when they are fearful, he calls them to obedient action. He calls them to love in the name of Christ.
So first he calls them to think rightly about this whole trial, and then he calls them to act rightly in response to this whole trial. Not only is he calling them to trust in the plan of God, he’s calling them to love in the name of Christ.
Verse 34 picks it up. Before we get there, just to highlight. What he’s telling them is that while living in a hostile world, he’s calling his disciples to love one another in order to show him off. They’re to be different. They’re to be different because of what they’re about to learn.
Verse 34: “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.” He’s giving them a new command. Loving one another isn’t a new command. They could have found this in Leviticus, to love one another, to love people of the covenant community. That’s not new. What is new is to love one another as Christ has loved you. Love one another as Christ has sacrificed for them, given himself for them, humbled himself for them.
He’s about to die, be raised, and go to heaven, and he wants them thinking about one another. There’s no room for, I love Jesus, just not the church. No room for that with Jesus. Jesus says, I’m about to die and be glorified; you all love one another while I’m gone.
He wants them to exude so much effort to love one another, and remember, these disciples had not been doing a good job of that up until the upper room. Remember, just before the upper room, the other gospel writers tell us that they’re arguing about which one is greatest. That’s not an expression of love. That’s an expression of self-love, but not love toward one another. That’s what they’re known for. These disciples have debates about things like this, and he tells them, as I’m gonna leave, you love one another just like I loved you.
How did Christ love them? He washed their filthy feet when not even a Jewish slave would do that. He’s showing them that he’s died for them. He’s given himself up for them. He will take pain to give them what they need. He’s teaching them about what true love is.
Verse 35: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Jesus desires for his church to represent him well in how they love one another. Jesus’ love is meant to be put on display. It’s meant to be seen by others, by the world. This love that dies for sinners so that they would be his friends. This love that never ends, you see in verse 1 of John 13. This love that’s given to his enemies. Jesus loved unlike any other person, and he calls us to do the exact same thing. This is the love that we are to extend to one another.
There are some accounts of what the early church looked like in their love. It’s good for us to think about how the early church lived after the resurrection. They were changed. Listen to some of these expressions of love.
Justin Martyr wrote this: “We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have in common and share it with anyone who needs it. We used to hate and destroy one another and refuse to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.” Love changed the early church’s view of money and ethnicity.
In the early church, Christians refused to bring one another to court. 1 Corinthians 6. They refused to do that. Many Christians refused to bring anyone to court. Rather than being seen at odds with someone, they’d rather suffer wrong.
In the third century, there was a devastating plague that swept across the world. People would often—unbelievers, people who weren’t Christians—would often as their family members were dying, throw them out into the street before they had died because they didn’t want to be infected by their family members, and they let them die in the streets.
In the third century, that same plague, Christians would go and take care of those people with the plague even if it meant they would get it themselves and die. That was their love. They acted as if this life wasn’t the only thing to hold on to. Love changed the early church’s view of safety and risk. They acted as if this life was not everything. They acted as if there was more. I wonder where they would’ve got that silly idea.
In the early church, you would not have been able to identify a Christian’s enemies. You wouldn’t have known who they were. Because when people threw mud at them, nothing stuck. Nothing stuck. Love changed the early church’s attitude toward those who opposed them.
John, the one who’s teaching us from his gospel, wrote a letter to the churches later. Listen to what he says: “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:7-11).
And listen to what John says: “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12). You see John echoing what Jesus said? If we love, people will see God. They’ll know God.
When I hear of ongoing conflict among Christians, and Christians say things like, I will never forgive them, or I can’t forgive them, John would question their profession of faith. John would question whether they really understand the gospel or not. Romans 5:8. While we were enemies, Christ died for us. And he calls us to love that way.
When I see ongoing lack of charity and lack of love in my own heart, I know that I am not meditating on the cross of Christ. I seem to be forgetting Colossians 1 in my own life. “And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death” (Colossians 1:21-22, NASB).
There’s no room for lack of forgiveness in the Christian church. None whatsoever. Our Lord told us to love so other people would know what he was like.
Is there anything that you can purposefully change in your life in order to live a lifestyle of loving other believers better? Can you reorient your time, your resources, your speech? Can you stop being offended by so many things, in order to love people better?
Let me ask this, and I ask it to my own heart: Who would others say that your enemies are? If you ask those closest to you, who do you think are my enemies, and they gave you even one or five, there’s something wrong with that. We love our enemies. We love our brothers and sisters. We should be characterized by love.
People who think differently than you about Christ, morality, and culture aren’t your enemies. They are the mission field. Christ loved the mission field. You don’t win the mission field by belittling them. You win the mission field by bringing the gospel of Christ to them as you imitate his character. A lack of charity should be the furthest thing from this local church, from any Christian.
One writer wrote this about the early church: “It’s no wonder that Christianity spread rapidly throughout the ancient world even though there were few organized missionary or evangelism programs. The love they practiced drew the attention of the world, just as Jesus said it would.” Let’s be known for that. Let’s be known for that.
People today won’t even darken the door of a church because of our poor reputation when it comes to loving one another. Now let me give a little caveat there. There’s no excuse for a professor of Christ to not be connected to a local body. There are no excuses for that. But I think as believers involved in a local body, we can say there’s probably more that we can own than we normally do. We need to acknowledge we haven’t always represented the love of Christ well to the world.
I would encourage you, if you are part of this body, spend time this week thinking about how to be known for your love, because you actually grow in your love. I’m not asking you to look better on the outside. I’m asking you to bring your heart before the Lord and ask him to continually renew it so that you are changed, and that would be then seen somehow, someway, in his time. Strive to be like Christ.
And this whole thing, Jesus saying in verse 35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Christ obviously wants his glory because of all this. This isn’t for his disciples’ glory. If you guys love one another, people are going to love you; if you guys love one another, I mean, they’re going to name buildings after you; if you guys love one another, you’re going to be famous. If you guys love one another, they will all know that you are my disciples. This is about his glory.
Jesus is talking to a group of fearful disciples. He reorients their thinking by telling them to trust the plan of God and to love the glory of Christ by loving one another. It would have been difficult to obey these exhortations before the resurrection. Jesus is teaching this now before the resurrection. It would have been hard for them to follow.
They’re probably still fearful, wondering, maybe even still bickering. We know that when he was arrested, they scattered. There’s not a lot of vigor in them yet. What changed all that? What made eleven men and a number of women around them who were closely associated with them, what made them go out and turn the world upside down? These fearful men in the upper room—these are the fearful men and the women with them who turned the world upside down. What in the world did that?
Well, when your best friend dies and rises from the dead, you can trust him in his overall plan, in the overall plan of God, no matter what you’re going through. When your best friend dies and rises from the dead, you can love your brothers and sisters, and you can love your enemies because even if loving them costs you your own life, you know what your future holds.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ brings confidence to the fearful. I’ve used this quote before, but it’s so good I got to use it again. D. A. Carson said it so well. “I’m not suffering from anything that a good resurrection can’t fix.” Let’s pray.
Father, we come based on your word to your throne as a confident group of people, confident disciples. We understand the fear of what it would have been like in the upper room, but we also know of confidence because we know what happened on Sunday. We know what happened forty days after Sunday. You, Jesus Christ, ascended to the right hand. You have the scroll. You can open the scroll. You can bring about reconciliation because of what you did on the cross and in the empty tomb.
Lord, make us confident in your plan no matter what we’re going through, and make us loving like you for your glory. We pray this in your Son’s name. Amen.
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