What We Learned Together Sunday March 19, 2023
INTRODUCTION “The Last Letter”
We are in the Upper Room Discourse found in John Chapters 13-17. Here Jesus is instructing His disciples in this unique narrative found only in the Gospel of John. We receive this teaching by Jesus for His disciples. Words from Jesus for His disciples because of His departure. Some commentators give John 13:31-14:31 this section in The Upper Room Discourse. These are departing words of comfort and care. His words of instruction and direction. The mask of Judas been removed by Jesus and a shelter of comfort in His words given to His disciples. In this first division of the Upper Room Discourse there is a series of questions from His disciples [Peter 13:37, Thomas 14:5, Philip 14:8, Judas 14:22]. We have entitled our message today “First Things First in These Final Words by Jesus.”
First, His Statement of His Divine Glory [13:31-32]. Jesus says this Because of the Reality of All That Is Going to Happen and The Necessity He Be Glorified in All Ways. One commentator defined glory as “In general the glory of God refers to his "own essential worth, greatness, power, majesty, everything in him which calls forth man's adoring reverence." Glory is the wonderful majesty and magnificence of Who God Is as He Has Revealed Himself. The repeated word glorified as Jesus states plainly the focus and emphasis that he deserved to be glorified. In verse 31 Jesus describes The Glory of the Son of Man and the Glory of God In Him. “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.” Now it was to happen that the glory of God displayed [cf. 7:37-39; 12:16, 20-23; 16:14; 17:4-5]. For you and me to truly understand the perfections of God we must preoccupy ourselves with the work at Calvary. There the satisfaction of God’s righteousness and God’s justice. There the manifestation of His holiness and His faithfulness. There the demonstration of His wisdom and His grace as the One who is both just and justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. In verse 32 Jesus states God Will Glorify Him and His Glory Will Be the Glory of God. “if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself.” What glory He displayed and how glorified He is because of what he would do on the cross according to the will of the Father. He is glorified in us as we show Him to be the One who saves, rescues, redeems, delivers. He is glorified in our songs about Him, about His cross, about His saving work. As J.C Ryle wrote, “Let it be noted that the Lord regards His own atoning death on the cross as the most glorious part of His work on earth; and that nothing so tends to glorify the Father’s attributes of justice, holiness, mercy, and faithfulness to His promises as the death of the Son. Let it be noted that the Lord does not speak of His death as a punishment, disgrace, or humiliation, but as an event most glorious—glorifying both to Himself and to the Father. So Christians should learn to “glory in the cross.” [Expository Thoughts on the Gospels]
Second, His Announcement of His Departure [13:33]. Jesus says this Because of The Reality of His Going Away from Them and The Necessity They Would Remain Without Him. Jesus addresses His disciples as “Little children” because they are dear to Him, He is endeared to them, and He loved them. His language of affection during all that would happen that night and the days ahead. The words of Jesus comfort them, help them, encourage them, and strengthen them. Remember how John began this chapter “Jesus, knowing that His hour had come that He would depart from this world to the Father.” [13:1] Here the words of Jesus are striking in contrast to what He just said about Him being glorified. Jesus says to His disciples, “I am still with you a little longer . . . now I also say to you: ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.” The phrase a little while is from the word micron we use in English. Therefore Jesus speaks about going to prepare a place for His disciples in John 14:1-6. Even later in this Upper Room Discourse Jesus explains further why He must go away. “But I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I am leaving; for if I do not leave, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” [John 16:7] And also Jesus spoke these words, “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.” [16:28]
Third, His Commandment for His Disciples [13:34-35]. Jesus says this Because of The Reality of His Love for Each of Us and The Necessity of Our Love for One Another. In verse 34 Loving Disciples of Jesus Knowing His Love for Each of Us. “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another.” Again present active verbs in these words of Jesus. And then Jesus said, “just as I have loved you that you yourselves love one another.” Their love for one another newly defined from His love for them. We often have two categories of people in these matters. Those who are easy to love and those who are hard to love. The love by Jesus of His disciples is the standard and measure of our love for one another. As we have said throughout this chapter the love of Jesus is shown in the way He serves, sacrifices, speaks, shares, supports, and suffers. Charles Spurgeon said, “We are to love our neighbor as ourselves, but we are to love our fellow-Christians as, Christ loved us, and that is far more than we love ourselves.” What hinders our ability and choice in loving one another? It is usually because we look at the person and judge them from our own perspective rather than loving them as Jesus loved us. What I mean is that we must have certain thoughts about others removed from our thinking about others. Such thoughts would include, “they are not worthy of my love,” or “they do not deserve my love,” or “I will not love,” or “they have not earned my love,” or “they have not loved me.” This love we are commanded here by Jesus in His words for us as His disciples is the choice to sacrifice, commitment to service, and conduct to share. We are quick to place limits for the degree of our love, and boundaries around the measure of our love, rather than simply modeling Jesus’ love for His disciples. And more specifically His love for you as His disciple! In verse 35 Being Disciples of Jesus Having This Love for One Another. Jesus then says, “by this all will know that my disciples you are if love you have among one another.” A distinguishing mark for His disciples. A defining quality for His disciples. One commentator wrote, “So Tertullian reports the pagans of his day (a century after this Gospel was published) as saying of Christians, ‘See how they love one another!’” [A. B. Bruce] There are other measures of discipleship, but they come after this mark. Jesus would mark us as His disciples by our love for one another. We can mark ourselves as His disciples by our love for one another. The world can mark us as His disciples by our love for one another. Did you notice the last phrase in verse 35? Literally translated, “if love you have among one another.” A third class conditional sentence used by Jesus here to state that this would be true for some and not true for others. This then calls us to examine whether this is true for us here now in this place among His disciples here at New Life Fellowship. This command to love one another is the consequence of His grace, obedience to His voice, and the presence of His place as taught that the Holy Spirit would be sent to His disciples. And let us not forget the first fruit of the Spirit is love [Galatians 5:22]. Some Scripture passages which speak to the obedience of love in the Christian life: “Let all that you do be done in love” [I Corinthians 16:14] . . . “but faith working through love” [Galatians 5:5-6] . . . “but through love serve one another” [Galatians 5:13] . . . “showing forbearance to one another in love” [Ephesians 4:1-2] . . . “but speaking the truth in love” [Ephesians 4:15] . . . “fervently love one another from the heart” [I Peter 1:22] . . . “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins” [I Peter 4:8] . . . “Little children, let’s not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” [I John 3:18]. And finally, The apostle John wrote, “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” [I John 3:22]
Fourth, His Fulfilment On Behalf of His Disciples [13:36-38]. Jesus teaches us here Because of the Reality of Our Own Limitations and The Necessity of His Own Sufferings. Another prophecy of Jesus to soon be fulfilled highlighting His words. Some parallel accounts are found in the Synoptic Gospels [Matthew 26; Mark 14; Luke 22]. See how Peter skips over the words of Jesus in verses 34-35. Have we not also at times skipped these words of Jesus in wanting to know what we wanted to know? See the words of Jesus to Peter. “Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.” [John 13:36] Especially explained in chapter 14 as Jesus communicates that He desires for His disciples to be with Him. Peter mistakenly puts confidence in his own flesh and his own will in what he would do for Jesus. The words by Peter are indeed bold, direct, confident, and proud when he said, “I will lay down my life for You.” It was not what Peter would do for Jesus but what Jesus would do for him. What assurance and confidence these words of Jesus give us as His disciples who fail, struggle, battle, and even deny in moments of weakness. The final phrase, “Truly, truly I say to you . . .” notes the grace of Jesus knowing what peter would do and still He loved him even to the end. Here we see “Peter did not recognize his own limitations” and “unaware of his weaknesses.” Oh the grace of God and the love of Jesus in the life is this man Peter who would one day lay down his life for Jesus!
We have see both The Reality and Necessity in these First Things First in These Finals Words by Jesus.
Again the Lord Jesus promises and predicts showing that He understands all the things that are going to happen and therefore we look to Him. Next, Glorifying Jesus because of Who He Is and What He has Done. Also Obeying Jesus because of How He has loved us and Who We Are as His Disciples. Therefore Being a disciple of Jesus showing the love of Jesus for His disciples as those who know the love of Jesus as His disciple. Always remembering the Christian standard according to the words of Jesus for His disciples. Following Jesus in His example of Humble service [John 13:15] and His love of His disciples [John 13:35]. Are you following Him in these two areas of your Christian life? Will your testimony this week be you are His disciple in your humble service and sacrificial love for others? May the Lord Jesus be glorified in us as His disciples hearing His words and following Him as a church body and as Christians in our community.
Pastor Timothy J. Atkins
Husband, Father, Grandfather, Pastor, Teacher, Discipler, and Follower of Jesus.