For many of my 44+ years of ministry, I have chosen to “spend time with Jesus” as we would enter the fall and begin pointing to the end of another calendar year. I wanted this special time so we’d “fall in love with Jesus all over again.”
I want us to spend time with Jesus in two ways: in our Sunday morning class, we’ll study many of the miracles of Jesus, and in our time through lessons here during our worship time, we’ll study John 13-17, which is our Lord’s “farewell message” to His beloved disciples [climaxing with His intercessory prayer for them and for us. (Other farewell addresses in Scripture were delivered by Moses (Deut. 31-33), Joshua (Josh. 23-24), and Paul (Acts 20)].
However, Jesus added a significant “action section” to His message when He washed His disciples’ feet. It was an object lesson they would never forget…we’ll spend time there next week.
I’d like us to see the long-view today, especially since we begin a reorganization of Life Groups here with a group that will meet on the first Sunday of each month and another group that will meet on the 3rd Sunday of each month.
We’re asking all members here to choose to be part of one of these groups, and fully expect the need to add a 2nd Sunday group and even a 4th Sunday group because of your willingness to be part of this effort.
I quoted Charles Hodge a few weeks go in another lesson…remember? He once said “we should stick with those we’re stuck with.” We smiled when we heard it and some of us have thought of it since.
Today? “A fellow observed: “Christians don’t drink, don’t cuss, don’t smoke, and some Christians don’t like each other.” This is sad but true.
Jesus summed up Christianity in 13:34, 35 (it’s been called “the badge of discipleship”): A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, and you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
The badge? The badge is not the building, it’s not projects, it’s not doctrine, it’s not attendance, it’s not even good morals…it’s “love as Jesus loved.”
This can demoralize us. It is not “Were you baptized?”; “Can you pass our religious test?”; “Do you attend?”; “Do you give?”; “Do you teach a class?”; “Do you serve as a church officer?” No! It is, “Do you love your brother?”
It begins with servanthood.
John 13:3-5 (ESV) Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Jesus taught others through the towel and equally reminded Himself. “The hour” had come.”
The emphasis in John 13:1–3 is on what our Lord knew, and in John 13:4–5 on what our Lord did.
Jesus knew that “His hour was come.” More than any of the Gospel writers, John emphasized the fact that Jesus lived on a “heavenly timetable” as He did the Father’s will. Note the development of this theme:
2:4—“Mine hour is not yet come.”
7:30—“His hour was not yet come.”
8:20—“His hour was not yet come.”
12:23—“The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified.”
13:1—“Jesus knew that His hour was come.”
17:1—“Father, the hour is come.”
What was this divinely appointed “hour”? It was the time when He would be glorified through His death, resurrection, and ascension. From the human point of view, it meant suffering; but from the divine point of view, it meant glory.
He would soon leave this world and return to the Father who sent Him, Jesus having finished His work on earth (John 17:4). When the servant of God is in the will of God, he is immortal until his work is done. They could not even arrest Jesus, let alone kill Him, until the right hour had arrived.
In the Garden, His sweat had dropped like blood. Only the attitude of the towel would have the ultimate representation of a cross. Only with the attitude of the towel in Christians is Christ relived in the church. An unhappy church will not wash feet.
What Jesus knew helped determine what Jesus did. Jesus went into action. Action, many times, precedes attitude. “The right attitude is doing a thing even though you have the wrong attitude.” If you wait until your attitude is right, little will be done.
Take, for example, “Love your brother.” Jesus did not use the word “like.” This would be a burden no man could bear. We tend to confuse “like” and “love.” Many say, “Since I don’t like him, I will be a hypocrite if I am nice to him!”
That is wrong. Agape (love) says otherwise! “It is in the will, not the glands.”
I will serve the best interests of that person I do not like, regardless. God wants a servant church, not a success church. We are most like Jesus when serving.
Peter heard verses 32 and 33: “If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately. Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You shall seek me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ now I say to you also.”
He never heard verses 34 and 35: “. . . love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
We need to be patient with Peter. For 3.5 years, Jesus had been his entire life. He thinks, “Jesus is leaving?” Listen to verses 36 through 38: Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you shall follow later.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right 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, a cock shall not crow, until you deny Me three times.”
Peter was shattered. Love Like Jesus “Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You shall seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, I now say to you also, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ A new command-ment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, . . .” (13:33–35).
There was nothing new about love. Jesus talked about it often. But because of the example and emphasis of Jesus, there is now a new dimension: love “as Jesus loved.”
He loved the apostles to the end: Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
He washed their dirty feet. If you are not growing spiritually, you are not developing relationships. Nothing is more profound than knowing you are known, yet still loved. To be loved as a celebrity in distant places is not reality. This is why the early church practiced the holy kiss and hospitality.
The key to the early church was fellowship. “I sought my God, but my God I would not see. I sought my soul, but my soul eluded me. I sought my brother, and I found all three.”
Family Relationship Love.
The church is a family. There are no “Lone Ranger” Christians. We are members in a body. We are “one of another.” In a family you do not get to pick your brothers or sisters. In a family you are stuck! The difference in an institution and a family is love.
Most congregations all basically say and do the same things; some grow and others die. What is the difference? Love! Some love; some do not. Without love churches die.
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor (Romans 12:10).
Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor (1 Corinthians 10:24).
Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another (1 Thessalonians 4:8, 9).
And hope does not disappoint; because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:5).
There are two John 3:16’s in Scripture: John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16! Because Jesus died for us, we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren!
Some people I cannot love, but Jesus can, and the Holy Spirit can (Romans 5:5 (ESV) “and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us). Jesus can love through me.
A place where many are doing great church work does not mean there is family life. It requires two years for new members to become part of the family. This is why meals are so important. John 13 is in the middle of two meals! The church in Acts ate together. We’re pretty good at eating, aren’t we? We don’t often miss a meal, and we especially enjoy them with our physical family.
Tragically, we are not very good with love! We need to share meals with our spiritual family!
“We are foolish, yea, fakes with love.” We are scared of love. We will always be amateurs at love.
Paul wanted to cry in 1 Corinthians 3. The carnal, little brethren could not act like men. Some pout and refuse to speak. You speak to them and force them to grunt! Jesus even spoke to Judas during the betrayal.
Why do we encourage this? Self-seeking is a relationship killer. We must love or be lost! The only cell that lives for itself is a cancer cell.
I believe strongly that we as a congregation will never be what we could be unless we spend more time together in smaller groups…that is accomplished in Sunday, Monday and Wednesday classes…in monthly men’s and women’s devotionals, in attending a baby shower, as some will do this afternoon in the fellowship hall…eating together, listening to one another, laughing together, talking to someone I’ve never really talked with before (or at least in a long time)…you get my point.
George Gallup has said, “Americans are among the loneliest people in the world.” In the midst of busy lives, overcommitted schedules, and congested cities, we feel alone. Yet we are a culture craving relationship. In the midst of our crowded existence, many of us are living lonely lives. We live and work in a sea of humanity, but we end up missing out on benefits of regular, meaningful relationships.
That is not God’s intention! We were never meant to live in a state of functional isolation. We were created to be relational beings. None of us was meant to live alone, away from meaningful connection.
It seems God creates inside this man a kind of “human-shaped-void” that God himself will not fill. Living life alone does not accurately reflect the One whose image we bear. Alone and isolated were never to be used to describe His children.
Henry Cloud says it well: God created us with a hunger for relationship – for relationship with Him and with our fellow people. At our core we are relational beings.” He goes on to say, “The soul cannot prosper without being connected to others.” I believe one of God’s biggest dreams for us is authentic community – the kind of meaningful relationships that are best characterized by oneness with Him and with one another.
As important as it is for each follower of Christ to give and experience this unique kind of relational life, the benefits go beyond ourselves. They influence a watching world. Notice Jesus’ concluding words: “…so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Do you feel the weight of that statement? Jesus is saying that the credibility of His life and message in the eyes of unbelievers is dependent upon the way we as His followers relate with one another.
I believe that life change happens within the context of intentional relationships.