Category Archives: Upper Room Discourse

“Don’t Stop Trusting in Me!” – John 14:1

John 14:1 – Do not let your hearts be troubled; trust in God, trust also in me. (ESV)

According to U.S.A. Today, “More than 20 percent of American adults took at least one drug for conditions like anxiety and depression in 2001 … including more than one in four women.”

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population).”

In our text today, Jesus has indicated one of the disciples is a deceiver (John 13:21) and predicted Peter will deny knowing Him at all (John 13:38; Luke 22:34).

While Jesus wanted Peter pre-warned of his failures, He also wanted him to know, on the front end, that it would be all right. “Don’t let it worry you or destroy you” is the message.

The basis for being untroubled was faith in God and Christ. Probably a better translation of this phrase is for both statements to be imperatives or commands. They did not understand at all what was happening at this point in Jesus’ life.

His answer is this, “Trust Me.” We do not all go through the same trial they did. But all of us face times when we just do not understand what is happening.

Jesus later told the disciples why he gave them glimpses of the future that would soon follow: “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe” (14:29 niv). They would not need to be afraid because all that he promised would come true.

Jesus has just told Peter that he would deny him three times and the other ten would scarcely fare any better. They are visibly shaken. So Jesus tells them to stop being troubled. With two more imperatives, Jesus gives the solution: Trust in God; trust in me!

Jesus said they had an option. They could be heart troubled by what he said. Or, they could trust him. The antidote to a troubled heart is faith in Jesus.

If this seems too simple, these are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ to troubled hearts. Either His words are true or they’re not.

I would ask you to consider whether perhaps you just haven’t applied these words before you conclude that they are simplistic or impractical.

And I also point out that Jesus’ words have given genuine comfort to countless believers in the midst of horrible trials over the past 2000+ years of church history. So before you shrug them off, consider whether or not you have truly applied them to your troubled heart

Faith is only as good as its object. Trusting in a faulty airplane won’t make it fly! As we’ve seen repeatedly, everything in the Christian life depends on the correct answer to Jesus’ question (Matt. 16:15), “Who do you say that I am?”

If Jesus is who He claimed to be and who all of Scripture proclaims Him to be, then He is absolutely trustworthy in every trial that you encounter.

If He is not who He claimed to be, then eat and drink, for tomorrow you will die (see 1 Cor. 15:12-19, 32).

“If Christ is raised, nothing else matters. If Christ is not raised, nothing matters.”

In Jesus’ day the kardia/heart was seen as the center of human volition or will. When he says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” it would be something like a modern person saying, “Don’t be wavering in your determination.”

This is why he follows this up with another command, “Believe in God and believe in me.” This is more than advice to trust God at a time of crisis. It is a perpetual command of Jesus for his disciples: Believe, Believe, Believe, and never stop Believing.

Do You Trust me? Faith is a living well-founded confidence in the grace of God, so perfectly certain that it would die a thousand times rather than surrender its conviction.

Such confidence and personal knowledge of divine grace makes its possessor joyful, bold, and full of warm affection toward God and all created things — all of which the Holy Spirit works in faith.

Hence, such a man becomes without constraint willing and eager to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer all manner of ills, in order to please and glorify God, who has shown toward him such grace. We have trusted many people and many things:

Personal nature: We often trust our families, we have trusted our friends

Public nature: We have trusted our transportation services

We trusted our national security services

We trusted our military services

What do all of these things have in common? Sometimes they fail our trust.

 God wants you to trust Him.

  • Moses trusted God to deliver the Israelites at the Red Sea.
  • Joseph trusted God while he languished in the Pharaoh’s prison.
  • David trusted God for a victory when he was facing down Goliath.
  • Jonah trusted God to answer his prayer in the belly of the whale.
  • Peter and John trusted God as they stood before the Sanhedrin and gave their defense of the Christian faith.

The words recorded in chapter 14 are intended to minister to the troubled spirits of the disciples—but not to give them immediate comfort.

Have you ever noticed that virtually every advertisement for pain relievers claims the same thing—fast relief? I have yet to find any advertisement which says: “Our product will not give you quick relief. If you purchase it and take the recommended dosage, nothing will happen for some time. …”

The “relief” which our text offers is not “fast” relief. The Upper Room Discourse is not a “play by play” account of the events that took place in the Upper Room, as the disciples experienced and perceived them at the time.

The Upper Room Discourse is a reconstruction of these events, recorded years later, after the death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord.

These words were written by John after the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost, who enabled the disciples to recall and understand what they had seen and heard in their last hours with the Lord (see 16:12-16).

The immediate effect of our Lord’s words to His disciples was confusion and sadness. I would like to suggest that this was exactly what our Lord intended them to produce—for the moment.

Suppose the disciples really did grasp what Jesus was about to do. Suppose, for example, that the disciples understood that Judas was about to betray our Lord and to hand Him over to the Jewish authorities, so that they could carry out a mock trial and crucify the Son of God on the cross of Calvary.

I think I know what Peter would have done—he would have used his sword on Judas, rather than the high priest’s slave.

I believe the disciples would have attempted to prevent what was about to happen, had they known what that was. But the confusion our Lord’s words produced threw them off balance.

The result was that when Jesus was arrested, they fled. They did not die trying to defend the Savior, and in part this was because they were utterly confused by what was happening.

Jesus’ words were not intended to produce instant “relief,” but eternal joy. The confusion and sadness that the Upper Room Discourse created in the disciples enabled Jesus to die just as He knew He must, just as it had been planned, purposed, and promised long before. The disciples were surely not “in control” at this point in time, but, as always, the Master was.

What does it mean to trust?

Webster: Basic dependence on someone or something, Belief that something will happen or someone will act is a prescribed way

Trust is found in our unswerving belief that the God of Heaven will indeed work on our behalf to bring His perfect will for our lives into being

Far too often in life we become completely focused on the trials and difficulties of life and we lose our focus on Christ. When Peter walked on the water with Jesus he was doing well until he took his eyes off of Jesus and looked at the waves.

The same is true of us today. God can get us through the most impossible situations but we must keep our focus and trust on Him. How can we ever expect to find help and healing when we are still focused on our difficulties and not our deliverance

Jesus was calling the disciples to trust God through any and every circumstance of life. He was  about to be crucified and they would be scattered. Jesus was telling them to trust even when they did not understand because God was still at work

If I were to ask you individually, most of you would very quickly say that you trust God but there are times when trust is not so simple. Trusting God means we believe in that which we cannot see and sometimes may not understand

Trusting God is literally against our human nature. Trusting God means that we have to admit that we are not in control of our lives

We need to place our trust in something or someone and we do it every day. We trust our cars to get us to our destination. We trust our employers to deliver paychecks. We trust our doctors top heals our illnesses.

How much more should we trust God?  Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Disasters strike and tragedies happen in our lives. Life can indeed be hard. Life can be uncertain. Life is beyond our control. In times like this, life is beyond our understanding. We are left with raw emotions and tough questions.

Answers are beyond us as we grapple with the question of why.

God asks the question: Do you trust me?

“Nothing and I mean nothing that we go through in life is beyond God.” The truth is that we can and must rely on God in every situation in life. Times that just don’t make any sense in human terms; we need to trust in God. The more senseless life becomes the greater our need to trust in God.

The writer of Proverbs states it simply and clearly that God wants your full and complete trust. Trust God with all of your heart. We must hold nothing back and surrender to Him all that we are, all that we have, all that we may become because without the presence and guidance of God we will go nowhere.

God wants you to trust even when you don’t understand. When life just doesn’t make sense. God wants us to follow Him when the future seems uncertain. It is only when we completely trust God that He to give us the power of His direction and the power of His presence.

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust n you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:9-10

When we feel weak, God is our strength. When we are pressured by life, God is our relief. When we need security, God is our refuge. The full resources of God are at our disposal when we place our trust in Him

If you do not place your trust in God, there is no access to His power, His mercy or His love. When trials arise and we go through difficulty; it is then that we must place our trust in God. Without trust in God there is no comfort, no peace, no strength and no relief.

Once my hands were always trying; Trying hard to do my best; Now my heart is sweetly trusting, And my soul is all at rest. Once my brain was always planning, And my heart, with cares oppressed; Now I trust the Lord to lead me, And my life is all at rest. Once my life was full of effort, Now ’tis full of joy and zest;  Since I took His yoke upon me, Jesus gives to me His rest.  — A.B. Simpson

God has made a promise that He will never forsake those who seek Him. The promise that God made so long ago is still valid today because God has never broken a promise yet.

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Posted by on June 5, 2023 in Upper Room Discourse


Judas Iscariot: From the Light into the Night – John 13.21-30

21After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 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. 27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 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. 30 So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

We see Jesus’ glory in the trouble He went through for our souls. Some reasons that Jesus was troubled in spirit on this occasion:

  • He was troubled because of the unrequited love of Judas
  • He was troubled because of the ingratitude in Judas’ heart
  • He was troubled because He had a deep hatred of sin and it was sitting right next to Him, sin incarnate
  • He was troubled because He was shrinking about from contact with the one about to betray Him
  • He was troubled because He knew of the eternal destiny in Hell
  • He was troubled because He could see with His omnipotent eye Satan moving around Judas
  • He was troubled because He had a knowledge of the sin of the betrayer and the terrors of his eternal punishment
  • He was troubled because He sensed all that sin and death meant
  • He was troubled because He had an inner awareness that Judas was a classic illustration of the wretchedness of sin, sin which He would have to bear in His own body on the next day, sin for which He would be made responsible, and would die for.

30 And it was night.

John has a way of using words in a most poignant way. It was night for the day was late; but there was another night there.

It is always night when a man goes from Christ to follow his own purposes. It is always night when a man listens to the call of evil rather than the summons of good. It is always night when hate puts out the light of love. It is always night when a man turns his back on Jesus.

If we submit ourselves to Christ, we walk in the light; if we turn our backs on him we go into the dark. The way of light and the way of dark are set before us. God give us wisdom to choose aright—for in the dark a man always goes lost.[1]

  • John’s little phrase carries a tremendous impact when you remember that light and darkness are important spiritual images in his Gospel.
  • Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12), but Judas rejected Jesus and went out into darkness; and for Judas, it is still night!
  • Those who do evil hate the light (John 3:18–21).

So Jesus was reaching out to Judas right up till the end. There is a mystery here in that Judas was betraying Jesus in fulfillment of Scripture (John 13:18; cf. Ps. 41:9).

In that sense, Judas’ sin was foreordained. And yet, Judas was fully responsible for his sin.

Judas—Putting the Pieces Together

Each of the Gospel writers has chosen to include certain details about Judas and to exclude others.[2]

  • Judas is chosen as one of the 12. Judas is sent out as one of the 12 (Matthew 10:4).
  • Judas accompanies Jesus with the other 11 disciples, beholding our Lord’s character and power, and hearing Him teach and claim to be the Messiah (Mark 3:14).
  • Judas is put in charge of the money box (John 12:6; 13:29). He begins to steal money from the money box (John 12:6).
  • When Mary anoints the feet of Jesus, Judas is incensed by her extravagance, and is distressed that Jesus would allow such “waste” when this ointment could have been sold, and the proceeds given to the poor. He apparently manages to convince his fellow-disciples, so that they verbally harass Mary also (John 12:1-8; Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9).
  • [At this same point in time the chief priests and Pharisees are panic-stricken by our Lord’s growing popularity, as a result of the raising of Lazarus and then the triumphal entry (John 11:45-53, 57; 12:9-11). They wanted to seize Jesus privately, but not during the feast of Passover, lest they stir up the crowds (Matthew 26:3-5; Mark 14:1-2). They become so desperate they decide to kill not only Jesus (John 11:53), but Lazarus as well (John 12:10). The time was “ripe” for Judas to come to them with his proposal of betrayal.]
  • Shortly after this incident with Mary, in which Jesus rebukes Judas and the other disciples, Judas goes to the chief priests and strikes a deal with them to betray Jesus and to hand Him over to them (Matthew 26:14-15; Mark 14:10-11).
  • Judas begins to look for the right moment to hand Jesus over to the chief priests and Pharisees (Mark 14:11).

A great many people within the religious world believe that a child of God cannot fall from grace. This view is summed up by the words of Sam Morris, in a booklet published at the beginning of this century, “We take the position that a Christian’s sins do not damn his soul. The way a Christian lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul.”

This teaching of the “impossibility of apostasy” is a doctrine commonly rejected by those who follow the New Testament pattern for their work, worship, and doctrine. Why have we chosen to be so uncommon by rejecting this teaching?

Where Did It All Come From?

  • Plato had a view of God and His sovereignty that was taken to develop a philosophy holding matter to be evil and spirit to be good.
  • The epistles of John were written against the teachings of the Gnostics, who came to practice this entirely
  • Augustine, much influenced by Plato, disassociated works done in the flesh from having anything to do with salvation—how could that which was thought to be evil do any useful thing?
  • Calvin further developed Augustine’s theology to come up with a concept of God’s sovereignty that left no place for humanity to contribute anything, even secondary contributions—he believed any contribution man might make would compromise God’s exalted place over the creation.
  • Though not believing there were any conditions to salvation, he avoided universalism by having God simply pick some to be saved and some to be lost.
  • Since man had nothing to do with the process, there were no conditions, the gift was only offered to those God willed to have it, it could not be rejected by the elect or embraced by the non-elect, and you could not lose it after you got it.

Salvation is a gift from God offered to all mankind. We are free to accept or reject salvation. Once we accept salvation, we are still free to make choices. We can become unfaithful and lose our salvation or we can remain faithful until death and receive a crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)

Most of the New Testament was written to Christians encouraging them to remain faithful and receive eternal life. If a man could not lose his salvation, why write all these letters encouraging him not to lose it?

It has long been my personal view that no one who has put their faith in Christ should fall from grace…they almost have to ‘want’ to be lost (based on their habitual choices) since God is so willing to forgive us!

In short, a view of man’s nature from Greek philosophy, rather than from the Bible, came to influence the way people viewed Christianity.

First, Some Clarification.

We do not mean that a Christian has no security. Faithful Christians do have security.

(1 John 5:13)  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

(1 Corinthians 10:13)  No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

(1 John 1:7)  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

However, we believe the Bible teaches that a faithful Christian can become habitually (it become the pattern of their life) unfaithful:

(Hebrews 10:26-31)  If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, {27} but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. {28} Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. {29} How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? {30} For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” {31} It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Neither do we mean that the works of a Christian are the basis of his/her salvation. Works cannot save in the primary sense, only in the secondary sense.

In the primary sense, the sense that accounts for salvation and pays the price for it, we cannot be saved by works (Rom. 4:1-8). Only through Christ can we who are sinners be saved (Rom. 3:21-27).

Works relate to our salvation in the secondary sense, the accessing of the gift of salvation. Faith without works is dead (James 2:26). In the sense of merit, our works have nothing to do with our initial or continued salvation.  In the sense of faith in God, our works are a necessary expression of true faith.

We do what we do as Christians out of appreciation and due to maturity…not in order to earn salvation. It’s the idea of “bringing our salvation to maturity.”

In a common sense answer: why were the epistles written except to teach, encourage and warn first century Christians in regard to their life in the world. If it doesn’t matter what one does after becoming a Christian, why so much emphasis on that most important aspect of our life?

(2 Timothy 3:16-17)  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, {17} so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The Bible Clearly Teaches That A Child Of God Can Fall From Grace.

Those who trust in law keeping can fall from grace (Gal. 5:4).

 (Galatians 5:4)  You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

Those who become partakers of the Holy Spirit can fall from grace (Heb. 6:4-6).

(Hebrews 6:4-6)  For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, {5} and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, {6} if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

Those who escape the defilement’s of the world can fall from grace (2 Peter 2:20-22).

(2 Peter 2:18-22)  For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. {19} They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity–for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. {20} If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. {21} It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. {22} Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”

Our response?

Realize the worst situation a person can place their soul’s condition in—is to be an unfaithful Christian. There is no hope at all because they have rejected the one hope that is offered to the sinner!

(Galatians 6:1-2)  Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. {2} Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

The Greek word is “kartartizo” and is the same word used in:

(Matthew 4:21)  Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them,

(Hebrews 11:3)  By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Imagine the picture of mature Christians working diligently to mend or form or restore the lives of individual brothers and sisters in Christ who are struggling and “drifting” away.

We see Jesus’ glory in His patience and love toward Judas right to the end.

Even though Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him, He did not remove him from the apostolic circle.

He treated Judas with the same patience and grace as He treated the other disciples, since none of them suspected that Judas was the betrayer.

We see Jesus’ glory in the same way today. He endures the hostility of sinners against Him (Heb. 12:3) with amazing patience and love. When I see the wickedness of this world, especially the blasphemies that are brazenly spoken against Jesus, I want to cry out, “Lord, just blast these evildoers off the planet!”

That day will come. As Peter points out (2 Pet. 3:10), “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”

But to back up one verse, Peter explains why that day is delayed (2 Pet. 3:9): The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

Judas’ betrayal of Jesus should give us deeper understanding of the terrible depths of human sin. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Darkness and Light [Baker], p. 52) observed: “It is people who have the deepest understanding of sin and what it means who have the greatest understanding and appreciation of the love and the grace and the mercy and the kindness of God. A superficial view of sin leads to a superficial view of salvation, and to a superficial view of everything else.”

In a similar vein, he wrote elsewhere (God’s Way of Reconciliation [Baker], p. 201): “In order to measure the love of God you have first to go down before you can go up. You do not start on the level and go up. We have to be brought up from a dungeon, from a horrible pit; and unless you know something of the measure of that depth you will only be measuring half the love of God.”

So let’s “go down” by learning five lessons from Judas’ sin so that these lessons will give us a greater understanding of God’s love and grace:

A. Judas shows us the awful nature of sin.

Think of what Judas had witnessed in his three years of close association with Jesus! He had heard Jesus’ teaching, both in public and in private. He had witnessed most of Jesus’ miracles.

He had seen Jesus’ grace and love toward the ungrateful and unlovely. He had never seen any hint of sin in Jesus, whether in public or in private. And yet he betrayed Jesus to the Jewish leaders for a few lousy pieces of silver!

James Boice (The Gospel of John [Zondervan], 1-vol. ed., p. 894) points out that Judas teaches us that sinners need more than a good example to be saved. Judas had the best example who has ever lived, but he was still dead in his trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1).

B. Judas shows us that Jesus supplies religious sinners with a solemn warning.

Judas is one of many warnings in the Bible that especially apply to religious people. Religious people are often blind to their need for the new birth. They grew up in the church. They know all the religious jargon. They can quote Scripture. They have served in various ministries. Perhaps they even have theological training. But, like Judas, they have never repented of their sins.

C. Judas shows us that we can expect to find hypocrites among the followers of Jesus.

Often skeptics will say that they don’t believe in Jesus because of all the hypocrites in the church. You should answer them, “Yes, and there are hypocrites in the world, too.

There was a hypocrite among the original disciples. But that doesn’t invalidate who Jesus was. The key issue is who Jesus is, not whether some of His professed followers are hypocrites. Just make sure that you’re not a hypocrite!”

Keep in mind that Judas didn’t look like a villain in a dark coat, gloating over how he was going to profit at Jesus’ expense. When Jesus announced that one of the twelve would betray Him, the other eleven didn’t all turn toward Judas.

Hypocrites can fool other people, but they never fool God, who looks on the heart. We shouldn’t be shocked, although we often are, when a respected church leader turns away from the faith. It doesn’t shock the Lord, who knows and keeps all who are truly His. He warns the disciples in advance so that Judas’ defection will not shake their faith. Keep your focus on Jesus, not on those who fall away. Do not let someone outside of God’s will discourage you from doing God’s will!

D. Judas shows us that we should never walk away from the opportunity to receive the love of Christ.

He offered Judas the opportunity to repent right up to the end. But Judas walked away from the love of Jesus.

Matthew 27:1-4 (ESV) When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. 2  And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. 3  Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, 4  saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.”

Judas felt remorse, but not repentance. He threw down his betrayal money in the temple, went away, and hanged himself.

Don’t reject the love of Christ! No matter how badly you may have sinned, the Lord Jesus graciously reaches out to you, even right now through this message, with His love. He invites all thirsty sinners to come and take the water of life without cost (Rev. 22:17).

Let Judas teach you the bitter end of those who walk away from the love of Jesus. Come to Him now and you will be satisfied with His grace.

[1] William Barclay, ed., The Gospel of John, vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975), 147.

[2] This sequence may not be flawless, although I think it comes close to reality, but let the reader judge for himself.

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Posted by on June 1, 2023 in Upper Room Discourse


Jesus is in control: His relationship with Judas – John 13:18-30

19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

Before we look with some detail at this section in our study of the Upper Room discourse, we need to acknowledge that Jesus was completely aware, and in control, of everything that was happening, and all that would happen. It was not a surprise to Him!

John wants us to see that all this was prophesied ahead of time. He wants His disciples to know that much prophecy will not be understood at the time it is being fulfilled, but in hindsight, it can be seen clearly.[1]

Jesus is not telling His disciples these things so that they will understand Him and believe what He has said at that very moment. He tells them these things which will occur in the future so that they will believe when these prophecies are fulfilled. Then His disciples will know that Jesus was in full control, bringing about that which the Father had purposed in eternity past. In His earthly sojourn, Jesus was always in control. He was never, a helpless victim.

        1I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

One of You Will Betray Me

  21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 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. 27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 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. 30 So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. [2]

In this life there are a good many things that are very difficult to understand or to explain. In our text, the disciples found it extremely difficult to comprehend what Jesus was saying when He told them that one of them was about to betray Him.

When we read John’s account of this event in John chapter 13, we find it hard to understand why the disciples didn’t quickly grasp what Jesus was telling them. We marvel at the “dullness” of the disciples.

We are tempted to read the Gospels like I watch my favorite movies. We know the entire story, from beginning to end. And thus, when we read any one text, we know what came before, just as we know how it all will end.

We know, for example, that Jesus is going to be arrested, found guilty, and crucified—all within a few hours. We also know that He is going to be raised from the dead, and that He will ascend into heaven and return to the Father.

But what is so clear to us in hindsight was not at all clear to the disciples. They heard Jesus say that He was about to be betrayed by one of them. Peter even inquired of Jesus (through John, it would seem) about just who the betrayer was.

Jesus told John that it would be the one who took from His hand the piece of bread that He dipped into the dish. Yet when Jesus dipped the bread into the dish and gave it to Judas, who took it, no one did anything. No one even seemed to grasp what Jesus had just indicated. You have to understand that what Jesus was saying was so far from what they expected, they simply could not grasp what seemed to be clearly indicated.

Judas—Putting the Pieces Together

Each of the Gospel writers has chosen to include certain details about Judas and to exclude others. It may be helpful for us to begin this lesson by reviewing what we know about Judas in sequential order:[3]

  • Judas is chosen as one of the 12 (Luke 6:12-16; Mark 3:13-19).
  • Judas is sent out as one of the 12 (Matthew 10:4).
  • Judas accompanies Jesus with the other 11 disciples, beholding our Lord’s character and power, and hearing Him teach and claim to be the Messiah (Mark 3:14).
  • Judas is put in charge of the money box (John 12:6; 13:29).
  • Judas begins to steal money from the money box (John 12:6).
  • When Mary anoints the feet of Jesus, Judas is incensed by her extravagance, and is distressed that Jesus would allow such “waste” when this ointment could have been sold, and the proceeds given to the poor. He apparently manages to convince his fellow-disciples, so that they verbally harass Mary also (John 12:1-8; Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9).
  • [At this same point in time the chief priests and Pharisees are panic-stricken by our Lord’s growing popularity, as a result of the raising of Lazarus and then the triumphal entry (John 11:45-53, 57; 12:9-11). They wanted to seize Jesus privately, but not during the feast of Passover, lest they stir up the crowds (Matthew 26:3-5; Mark 14:1-2). They become so desperate they decide to kill not only Jesus (John 11:53), but Lazarus as well (John 12:10). The time was “ripe” for Judas to come to them with his proposal of betrayal.]
  • Shortly after this incident with Mary, in which Jesus rebukes Judas and the other disciples, Judas goes to the chief priests and strikes a deal with them to betray Jesus and to hand Him over to them (Matthew 26:14-15; Mark 14:10-11).
  • Judas begins to look for the right moment to hand Jesus over to the chief priests and Pharisees (Mark 14:11).

Judas—Who Would Have Ever Thought …

I’m glad I don’t know what the Father is doing with other people. John 13:27–28: “Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him and Jesus said to him, ‘What you’re going to do, do quickly.’ Now, no one at the table knew why he said this to him.”

If you’ve ever seen da Vinci’s The Last Supper, it was kind of like that. There was a U-shaped table, and Jesus, the host, sat in the center. They’re reclined on couches, and there were two places of honor as people sat around the host. One was to the host’s right, and one immediately to the host’s left. Now, it’s obvious from the text that a man by the name of John was sitting to the right of Jesus. They were on couches and literally leaned on the breast of the person to their left. And so John was on the right of Jesus eating with his right hand and leaning on Jesus.

Now when you read the text carefully, who is sitting to the left of Jesus? Judas. And I can see Jesus going to Judas before the dinner saying, “Judas, sit with me tonight. Sit here beside me tonight.” Now, if John was leaning on the breast of Jesus, Jesus was leaning on somebody’s breast. Whose was that? Judas’s. Let me tell you something else. Whenever a host wanted to particularly give honor to a guest in the household, right before the meal he would take a piece of bread or piece of meat and dip it in the wine dish, and then he would give it to the beloved guest. Did you note the person to whom the morsel was given by Jesus? Judas. What was Jesus saying? He was saying, “Judas, don’t do it. Judas, it’s not too late to change your mind. Back off.” It was an amazing appeal of royal love to the center of hatred.

Think of all the miracles which took place before the eyes of Judas. He witnessed the casting out of demons, the giving of sight to the blind (even a man born blind—John 9), and the raising of the dead (e.g., John 11).

He was there when Jesus stilled the storm (see Luke 8:22-25) and when He walked on the sea (John 6:19-21). He took part in the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-14) and then of the 4,000 (Matthew 15:29-39). Each of the other disciples grew in their faith at each new manifestation of our Lord’s power, love, mercy, and holiness. Not so with Judas.

And yet Judas seems to be the last one any of the disciples would have suspected of being the betrayer of whom our Lord was speaking. He seems to have been seated in the place of honor at the Last Supper, beside our Lord.

He quotes from Psalm 41:9: “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

Jesus was concerned that Judas’ treachery would not weaken His disciples’ faith. This is why He related it to the Word of God: when the disciples saw all of this fulfilled, it would make their faith stronger (see John 8:28). Judas had been disloyal, but He expected them to be loyal to Him and His cause.

After all, He was God the Son sent by God the Father. They were the Christ’s chosen representatives; to receive them would be the same as receiving the Father and the Son: “I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

It was a very significant thing to sit at a man’s table and to eat his bread. In the ancient world, sharing a meal together was almost to make a covenant (in fact covenants were often made in association with a meal).[4]

To share a meal with guests was to offer them not only provisions, but protection. In the ancient Jewish (and perhaps more broadly, the Near Eastern) culture, inviting a man into one’s home and to his table was a most significant act. If the host made such commitments to his guest(s), one would expect the guest to reciprocate in some way. And yet the one who sat at our Lord’s table and ate His bread actually betrayed Him. What a horrible thing Judas is about to do to His Master, and immediately after eating His bread.

“After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.”

As I read the text, our Lord’s distress is not self-centered; He is distressed over the spiritual condition, conduct, and destiny of one of His own. How easy it would have been for our Lord to reveal the identity of His betrayer, or at least to expose him as a thief. I can imagine that Peter would have happily used his sword on Judas, if he had known what would happen in the next few hours.

But Jesus remains silent, determined to die as the Father had purposed. At the same time, Jesus was greatly distressed over the destiny of Judas.

For the moment, Jesus focuses His attention on Judas. Jesus dipped a piece of bread in the dish and handed it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. What an incredible, defining, moment this was! Jesus and Judas must have locked eyes. Judas had to have known that Jesus knew everything. Jesus knew Judas was the betrayer. He knew Judas had already reached an agreement with the chief priests. He knew that Judas would soon go to the Jewish authorities, and lead them to Him, to arrest Him. In spite of all this, Judas reached out and took the bread, knowing what that meant.

Judas leaves, but Jesus is still in charge, not Satan. Keep in mind that Judas knew what he was doing and that he did it deliberately. He had met with the Jewish religious leaders and agreed to lead them to Jesus in such a way that there would not be any public disturbance (Luke 21:37–22:6).

The instant Judas was gone, the atmosphere was cleared, and Jesus began to instruct His disciples and prepare them for His crucifixion and His ultimate return to heaven.

The same sun that melts the ice only hardens the clay.

  • Judas leads the soldiers to Jesus, where he identifies Jesus as the One they are to arrest by kissing Him (Matthew 26:47-50; Mark 14:43-46; Luke 22:47-48; John 18:1-9).
  • Matthew 27:1–5 (ESV) When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.
  • At a time when our Lord could have been obsessed with His own imminent suffering and death, He devoted Himself to serving His disciples by preparing them for the things which were to come. I think of Paul and Peter, as they wrote their last Epistles, knowing that the time of their departure was at hand. They did not focus attention on themselves, but upon others. They sought to prepare the saints for the time when they would be gone. That is what I see in our text. Our Lord is here preparing His disciples for what lies ahead. When one sees suffering (for God’s sake) as glory, then one need not dwell on his pain or sorrow. He or she is freed to focus on others, even in the last hours of our own life.

We should be constantly amazed at the way, in secret, God deals with other people. This morning the Father is working. Now. There are men, and women, girls and boys, married couples and singles as well…that are pondering God’s will for your life. Right now.

He’s wanting us to put Him first in all things. He’s wanting us to realize the importance of the church, of which He is head, and choose to be more a part of the community…family…aspect of the church.

God’s is doing business in this place with a man who’s made much money….and trying to decide what he’s going to do with it before it burns a hole in his heart.

It behooves us to back off because we can’t see that. Let him do his thing—this morning and tomorrow and the rest of the week.

Conclusion: No story but your own. In The Chronicles of Narnia you will remember that Aslan is the symbol for God. In one of the books, The Horse and His Boy, one of the children asked Aslan, God, the lion, about another child. And this is what Aslan says: “I’m telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”[5]

[1] See Isaiah 48:5-7.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 13:17–30.

[3] This sequence may not be flawless, although I think it comes close to reality, but let the reader judge for himself.

[4] See Exodus 24:9-11.

[5] Christianity Today, Today’s Best Sermons: 52 Sermons on Holidays & Special Events, vol. 3, Today’s Best Sermons (Christianity Today, 1988).

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Posted by on May 29, 2023 in Upper Room Discourse


Follow the Leader: A lesson on Holiness – John 13:6-11

     “He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Do You Wash Dirty Feet? John 13:12-20

Robert Service begins his well-known poem, “The Cremation of Sam McGee”: “There are strange things done in the midnight sun, by the men who moil for gold….”

If I may take off on that line, there are strange things done under the sun by the men who claim to be Christians. And one of the strangest was the story of Simeon the Stylite.

Simeon was born about 390 A.D. He lived in a monastery in northern Syria. Then around 423 he started to live on top of a platform on top of a pillar. Gradually he increased the height of the pillar until it was about 60 feet off the ground. Simeon lived up there by himself as an ascetic for 36 years! Don’t ask how he took care of basic bodily functions! I’m reasonably certain that the pillar was not equipped with modern plumbing! But he thought that he was being holy by being separate from the world. People flocked from miles around to listen to him preach from the top of his pillar. His example led to a movement that lasted for centuries, where others dwelled on top of their own pillars.

Strange! But, maybe Simeon was onto something! Think how much less conflict there would be in the local church if we all built our own pillars out of shouting distance from each other (with no phone or email)!

Yet, while we aren’t living on top of our own respective pillars, sometimes Christians, at least here in America, are an independent, isolated bunch. We view the Christian life as each of us having our own relationship with God, which is essential. But then often we isolate ourselves from other believers.

We go to church on Sundays like we go to the movies. We walk in, nod to others we don’t really know, sit through the program, and go home. Except on a superficial level, we have little personal contact with other believers throughout the week.

It’s not unusual for me to counsel someone about a personal problem. After listening, I’ll ask, “Do you know any other believers closely enough with whom you can share these things and pray?” Often the answer is, “No.”

But if we’re not close to one another, we can’t obey Jesus’ command (John 13:14-15), “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.”

To wash someone’s feet requires pretty close personal contact!

Now right away my thought is, “Foot washing is something I can do quite well by myself, thank you.” In fact, I’d rather do it myself! It’s kind of personal, especially if my feet are really dirty! So, please, just let me do it myself. And, I’d really prefer not to wash your dirty feet either. I’ll give you the basin, the water and the towel and let you do it. But I’d rather not wash your dirty feet, either.

But that’s not what Jesus said. He didn’t say, “Provide the basin, the water, and the towel so that everyone can wash their own feet.” He said, “You wash one another’s feet.”

But that’s asking us to get a bit too close for comfort, isn’t it? Yet, down in verse 35, Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples”—not by you all living sanctified lives by yourselves on top of your own pillars. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

And so this act of washing one another’s feet is certainly a picture of the love that we should have for one another in the body of Christ. The main idea is: Jesus commands us all to wash one another’s feet.

But that raises some questions: What do you mean, “wash one another’s feet”? How do we do it? And, why should we do it?

What does it mean to wash one another’s feet?

He was pointing to a symbolic meaning behind what He had just done. Paul commends widows who have washed the saints’ feet (1 Tim. 5:10).

Peter is silent on this in his letters, but he does instruct us to clothe ourselves with humility toward one another (1 Pet. 5:5). I believe that that is the overall idea here, which we can view in four parts:

1. Washing one another’s feet is a ministry of forgiveness, cleansing, refreshment, and humble service.

A. Washing one another’s feet is a ministry of forgiveness.

As we saw in our last study, Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet pictured the relational forgiveness between each of them and Himself. It is paralleled by 1 John 1:7, “… the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

This refers to a repeated application of God’s once-and-for-all forgiveness to our ongoing sins. We confess our sins to God and ask His forgiveness, not to secure our position with Him as His children, but to restore our relationship with Him as our Father.

Ephesians 4:32 commands, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

We are to extend the forgiveness that we have received from God through Christ to those who have wronged us. In that way we symbolically “wash their feet.”

It makes me sad when I see believers who do not forgive other believers who have wronged them. Granted, the other person needs to ask for forgiveness before you extend it verbally. But we are required to root out all bitterness and forgive the offender in our hearts so that we are ready to extend forgiveness verbally the instant the offender repents.

When you forgive, you wash the offender’s dirty feet.

B. Washing one another’s feet is a ministry of cleansing.

In Ephesians 5:26, Paul talks about Christ cleansing the church “by the washing of water with the word.”

When we share the Word with one another, we wash off the sin and filth of this world.

Sometimes a brother has fallen into some sin. When that happens, Paul instructs (Gal. 6:1), “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”

One of the most effective ways to restore a sinning brother is to use God’s Word.

At other times, maybe a brother has dirty feet not because of sin, but just because he’s been walking in this dirty world. To share a verse that God has used in your life or a verse that you’ve memorized and applied to some problem can be a source of cleansing.

But as someone has pointed out, when you wash someone’s feet with the water of the Word, make sure that the temperature is right!

Some sanctimonious believers love to wash their brothers’ feet with scalding water! “Here, brother, stick your feet in this basin!” “Yeoww!” That’s why Paul says that we are to restore in a spirit of gentleness. Don’t blast someone with the Word. Restore him so that he will feel cleansed, not scalded! That leads to…

C. Washing one another’s feet is a ministry of refreshment.

When you came in off the dusty roads with dirty feet, it was refreshing to get them washed.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul mentions three men who had come to him from the Corinthian church. He adds (1 Cor. 16:18), “For they have refreshed my spirit and yours.” He tells Philemon (1:7), “… the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.”

Have you ever known someone like that? A person who is always fresh with the Lord, so that when you get around him, you feel refreshed.

Do you do that with others? Do they feel refreshed in the Lord after being with you? What about at home? That’s the test!

D. Washing one another’s feet is a ministry of humble service in ways that may be unpleasant to you.

Having a foot-washing ceremony where you wash already clean feet is relatively easy. But Jesus’ command here to wash one another’s dirty, smelly feet is not so easy. He meant that we should do unpleasant tasks that serve others in their area of need. As I said last week, this means that no task should be beneath us as we serve others for Christ’s sake.

One practical way that we all can serve here on Sundays is to pick up litter that you see around the building. Maybe you’re thinking, “Doesn’t our custodian do that?” Yes, he works hard at it. But it shouldn’t be his job only. He’s got a lot to do.

You can serve the Lord and that visitor by picking up the trash that you see…Mark Mathews was here early last week painting over some graffiti on the wall in the parking lot.

Another way you can humbly serve others is, if you’re healthy, don’t grab the closest parking spot unless you have a lot of stuff to carry inside. Leave the closest spots for visitors and get some exercise!

We wash one another’s feet by being humble servants of Christ and by being in close relationships with others.

Being humble servants of Christ deals with our focus and motivation; being in close relationships looks at the practical requirement for obeying Christ’s command.

In verse 16, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.”

Clearly, Jesus is the master (“Lord,” John 13:13, 14) and we are His slaves. He gives the commands and we are to obey without questioning or grumbling. No task was beneath a slave’s dignity to do.

As Jesus taught (Luke 17:7-10): “Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”

So here He states (John 13:17), “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

“These things” refers back to the example and commandment that He has just given, that we are to wash one another’s feet. We are humbly to serve one another in ways that may be unpleasant to us.

But obedience requires more than just doing it while you grumble under your breath.

Obedience requires doing it cheerfully and thankfully, out of love for Christ, who gave Himself on the cross for you. It’s all about your mindset and your motivation.

One other thing that Jesus’ example shows us is that we need to wash one another’s feet without looking for or expecting a favorable response from others. In other words, we don’t serve others hoping that they will reciprocate or express their deep gratitude. Often they don’t.

Jesus washed Judas’ feet, but he went out and betrayed Jesus. He washed Peter’s feet, but he denied Him that night. He washed Thomas’ feet, but he doubted Jesus’ resurrection. He washed all the disciples’ feet, but they all deserted Him and ran when He got arrested.

If you humbly serve Christ in any capacity, I can guarantee that you will not receive the appreciation you deserve from those you serve. You’ll probably get some appreciation, but you’ll also catch some undeserved criticism. And it won’t come from those outside the church. It will come from believers.

So you have to keep your focus on your Master. You are His slave because He bought you with His blood. You serve others for His sake.

We wash one another’s feet by being in close relationships with one another.

As I mentioned earlier, foot washing can’t be done if we’re all sitting on top of our individual pillars, with no contact with one another. It can’t be done by sending a robot across the room to wash others’ feet.

It requires a rather uncomfortable closeness to wash someone’s feet and to allow them to wash your feet. It requires being vulnerable and honest. You have to let the other person see just how dirty your feet really are.

It’s easy to come to church, smile at everyone and say hello, and go home without ever divulging to anyone that your feet are dirty. I’m not suggesting that you share your innermost struggles with everyone you meet. There needs to be an appropriate relationship of trust before you share where you’re hurting.

But the point is, we need to be developing some close, trusting relationships so that we can serve one another by washing each other’s feet. Get involved in a home fellowship or small group. Ask God for a godly brother or sister in Christ that you can get to know well. You can’t wash others’ feet or have your feet washed from a distance.

But then, once you’ve grown close to someone, you’ve still got to do it. You’re blessed not just by knowing that you should wash one another’s feet, but by doing it (John 13:17). It’s not enough to find out that the other person is hurting, and then to say, “I’ll pray for you,” and walk away. You’ve got to get your hands dirty by trying to help. Do it gently, not with boiling water, as I said. But, do it!

You can ask, “May I share from God’s Word some ways that I’ve been helped?” Pray with the person. Don’t judge or condemn. Remember, you’ve got dirty feet, too! But the point is to grow close enough in relationships so that we can offer genuine encouragement, help, and refreshment through God’s Word.

So washing one another’s feet is a ministry of forgiveness, cleansing, refreshment, and humble service. We do it by being humble servants of Christ and by being in close relationships with one another.

Why should we wash one another’s feet?

We should wash one another’s feet because the Lord and Teacher has washed our feet.

Jesus said (John 13:14), “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

In other words, because Jesus has cleansed your sins by His death on the cross, because He is the Lord of all, and because He is the Teacher from whom you learn how to live, you serve others in love because He commanded you to do so.

Or, more succinctly, your salvation is the reason why you serve Jesus Christ. He bought you with His blood. Now you’re His slave.

“From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

Jesus is saying, “Don’t despair when Judas betrays Me and I am crucified. Remember that I told you this in advance. Keep believing that I am He (John 14:19). You will be My ambassadors and whoever receives you receives Me; and “he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (John 13:20).


I heard about a successful doctor in Southern California who met Jesus Christ and left his lucrative practice to serve in a primitive country. His non-Christian partner couldn’t believe that he would do this. On one of his trips around the world, he stopped by to see his former partner. The Christian doctor was performing surgery on a poor woman in very primitive circumstances. The non-Christian said, “Don’t you remember how much you would have made doing this surgery in Southern California?”

“Yes, many thousands.” “Then why are you doing it?”

“Several reasons: See her clenched fist? In it are several coins that she will give to our mission. See those kids in the other room? They will be forever grateful if I can save their mother’s life. But there’s one more thing: I hope to receive from my Lord someday the words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”

That’s why you should wash others’ dirty feet. You do it because the Lord and Teacher washed your feet. You do it for Him.

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Posted by on May 25, 2023 in Upper Room Discourse


A lesson on humility – John 13:1-5

We all can relate to Linus in the “Peanuts” cartoon strip when he shouts in frustration, “I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand!” It’s easy to love the human race in the abstract, but when it comes to loving specific irritating people that we can’t avoid, the process becomes a lot more difficult!

In our text we see the Lord Jesus loving men who did not deserve it. Luke 22:24 tells us that at the Lord’s Supper, just after Jesus announced that one of them would betray Him, the disciples got into a dispute about which of them was the greatest.

But sometime during the supper, Jesus got up and performed a task, which normally was the job of servant-slaves.

Not only were the disciples bickering; also Jesus knew that Judas was about to betray Him, Peter was about to deny Him, and all the disciples would desert Him (John 13:2, 38; 16:32). All of these show that the disciples did not deserve Jesus’ love.

They dirty feet reminds us of their need for cleansing from sin. And, we’re just like them. We all have dirty feet that Jesus needs to wash. In fact, the very reason Jesus came was to die in the place of dirty sinners so that they can be cleansed.

Also, His example of humility in washing the disciples’ feet gives us a practical example of how we can love those who do not deserve it, even as He has loved us.

From time to time, we are faced with the task of “saying goodbye” to a congregation, some employees, or even our employee of many years. It is never easy.

All of us have had our share of “dirty work,” and I doubt that we have really enjoyed it. Some of those “dirty work” experiences could range from “changing dirty diapers” to “cleaning grease traps” while in the military.

John’s mention of the Passover draws attention to the fact that Jesus is our Passover lamb. Just as the Jews put the blood of the Passover lamb on their doorposts and lintel to protect them from the angel of death, so Christ’s blood protects us from the wrath of God. The mention that Jesus knew that His hour had come reminds us that God ordained the cross.

While the sinful men who crucified Jesus were responsible for their awful deed, at the same time the cross was predestined by God (Acts 4:27-28).

It didn’t take Jesus by surprise. He deliberately laid aside His glory, just as here He laid aside His garments. He took on the form of a slave and became obedient to death on the cross.

Then, after His resurrection from the dead, He returned to the Father in glory. But don’t miss the point: Unless Jesus is your Passover lamb, unless you have applied His shed blood to your heart by faith, then you are under the curse of death, which means, eternal separation from God.

John also emphasizes that Jesus’ disciples were “in the world.” Jesus was about to depart from this world, but His disciples were still in it.

As Jesus will pray (John 17:15-18), He doesn’t ask the Father to take these men out of the world. That is the sphere of ministry to which He sends them. But they are to be distinct from the world. But walking in this world means that you get your feet dirty. Thus the need for cleansing.


Two verses out of five focus on the actual washing of the disciples’ feet by our Lord. Three of the five verses provide us with background information, which John believes his readers need to know in order to properly understand the Lord’s actions.

Verses 1-3 provide us with information that gives us insight into all of their “state of mind.”

John emphasizes that Jesus knew His earthly mission was nearly complete, and that He was returning to the Father in heaven. He knew that everything had been given over to Him by the Father.

In other words, He knew that everything was as it should be, and that He was in complete control. It is our Lord’s sovereignty that is being stressed here, and not His suffering.

When John the Baptist desired to give expression to his feeling of unworthiness in comparison to Christ, he could think of no better way to express this than to say that he deemed himself unworthy of kneeling down in front of Jesus in order to unloose his sandal straps and remove the sandals (with a view to washing the Master’s feet).”

Apparently, they were so shocked that they sat in stunned silence, until Jesus came to Peter.

He probably verbalized the thoughts that the others had been afraid to say when he protested (John 13:8), “Never shall You wash my feet!” But as Jesus will go on to explain (John 13:14-15), He did this to give us an example of how we should humbly serve one another.

When men find themselves in this position, they are tempted to behave very differently: “Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions exercise authority over them’” (Mark 10:42).

In spite of who He was; in spite of the fact that all authority had been given to Him, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples.

In spite of the fact that He could have required men to minister to Him, catering to His every whim, Jesus humbled Himself by washing the feet of His disciples.

Humility requires thinking of others more highly than of yourself. The disciples hadn’t washed one another’s feet because they were arguing about who was the greatest.

Two women in the church in Philippi were having a dispute. Paul wrote to that church (Phil. 2:3-4), “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

He went on to cite the example of Christ, who willingly took on the form of a servant and went to the cross for our sakes. So many quarrels in the church and in our homes would evaporate if we would, with humility of mind, regard the other person as more important than ourselves!

It is Christ’s example of humility that Paul appeals to in his exhortation to serve one another: Philippians 2:3-8: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. {4} Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  {5} Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: {6} Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, {7} but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. {8} And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!”

* He got up from the meal–just as He’d left the throne of heaven

* He took off His outer garments–just as He’d divested Himself of heaven’s robes

* He wrapped a towel about His waist–just as He’d clothed Himself with humanity

* He poured water in a bowl, got on His knees and began to wash feet–just as he would pour out His life on the cross.

Jesus in effect said: “I’m God. I spoke the universe into existence. I have all power and glory, yet I came to serve! And if you’re to follow me, you must emulate my example.”

Humility requires getting your focus off your rights and your needs and onto others’ needs.

He wasn’t focused on His needs or His rights, but rather on their needs. They not only needed their dirty feet washed, but they also needed this lesson in humble service.

How many quarrels at church and in our homes would stop before they started if we would take our eyes off ourselves, our rights, and our needs, and instead think about the other person’s needs!

A husband thinks, “I’ve worked hard all day, putting up with hassles at work so that I can provide for my family. Don’t I have a right to some peace and quiet when I come home at night?”

Maybe, but that’s the wrong focus. Your focus should be on how you can serve your wife and children.

The wife thinks, “I’ve been changing diapers, shopping for groceries with screaming kids, cleaning up messes all over the house, and trying to get dinner in time. Don’t I have a right for a little time by myself?” Maybe, but that’s the wrong focus. Humble service requires getting your focus off yourself and onto others’ needs.

Jesus knew that “His hour was come.”

It was the time when He would be glorified through His death, resurrection, and ascension.

* Jesus also knew that Judas would betray Him.

Judas is mentioned eight times in this gospel, more than in any of the other gospels. Satan had entered into Judas (Luke 22:3), and now he would give him the necessary thought to bring about the arrest and crucifixion of the Son of God.

* Jesus knew that the Father had given Him all things.

There are at least two reasons why Jesus chose this activity:

  • Their feet were dirty.
  • Their hearts were proud.

Jesus’ disciples were ready to fight for a throne, but not for a towel. He gave them an unforgettable lesson in humility, and by His actions rebuked their selfishness and pride.

The more you think about this scene, the more profound it becomes. Confucius called humility “the solid foundation of all the virtues.” The Greek word means “low” or “to stoop low,” and it carries the idea of serving another person.

It might be explain by a Malay proverb: “the fuller the ear is of rice-grain, the lower it bends.”

It has well been said that humility is not thinking meanly of yourself; it is simply not thinking of yourself at all! We need to be careful that we’re not filled with a worldly spirit of competition or criticism.

Humility is unannounced.  It is also willing to receive without embarrassment. It is not a sign of weakness and it does not play favorites (in the example of Judas).

Humility requires receiving, not just giving.

It’s easy to serve or to give to those in need out of pride. Peter’s unwillingness at first to let Jesus serve him did not stem from humility, but from pride. It embarrassed him to think of Jesus washing his feet.

That implied that his feet were dirty and in need of washing! It would have served Peter’s pride much more if he had washed Jesus’ feet. But Jesus explained that if He didn’t wash Peter’s feet, then he had no part with Him.

Many people are offended by the gospel or don’t see their need for it because they’re proud of their good works. They’re proud of all that they do for others. They view themselves as having clean feet.

It would embarrass them to admit that their feet are dirty and that Jesus needs to wash them.

But to receive the gospel, you’ve got to recognize that your feet are filthy and that no one gets to heaven by washing his own feet or by washing others’ feet. You only get to heaven when you let Jesus wash your feet.

Cleansing is necessary because of who Jesus is.

Limiting ourselves to our text, we see that Jesus is the eternal, omniscient one. He knew that His hour had come and that He would shortly be returning to the Father, with whom He had dwelled before the foundation of the world (John 13:1). He knew that Judas would betray Him (John 13:11). He knows each of us thoroughly.

Also, Jesus is the loving one. In spite of our failures and sins, which He knows in advance, He loves us as His own children.

Further, Jesus is the sovereign one. The Father has given all things into Jesus’ hands. He was in complete control of His own death. Neither Satan nor Judas could thwart God’s sovereign plan through the cross, but rather inadvertently fulfilled it.

Lastly, Jesus is the suffering servant who died for our sins. When you come into the presence of the Holy One of God, you instantly recognize your need for cleansing. With Peter, you fall down at His feet and cry out (Luke 5:8), “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

Cleansing is necessary because of who we are.

We all are guilty sinners in need of cleansing: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Jesus is saying, “I must wash away your sins by My atoning death or you have no part with Me.”

Cleansing is necessary because of where we walk.

We walk in this sinful world, so our feet get dirty. Again, if you have trusted in Christ through being immersed in water so your sins can be forgiven, you are never so dirty that you need a complete bath again.

But at the same time, although you have trusted in Christ, you are never so pure that you don’t need to get your feet washed again. It’s an ongoing process to maintain your relationship with the Lord.

Sometimes, your feet get dirty because of deliberate sin. You choose to do what you know God’s Word forbids you to do. At those times, you need to confess your sin and appropriate the forgiveness that Christ secured for you by His death.

At other times, you just feel defiled because of contact with this dirty world. Maybe you’ve been bombarded with sensual advertisements or just the magazine covers at the supermarket checkout.

Perhaps you’ve had to deal with worldly people at work, so the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2:16) have left you feeling defiled. Those are the times to open your Bible and let “the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:26) cleanse and refresh your soul. Let Jesus wash your feet!

Conclusion. So ask yourself three questions:

(1) Do I consistently experience Christ’s undeserved love? If not, you need to figure out why not and get that problem resolved.

(2) Do I consistently follow Christ’s example of humble service? If not, jot down some specific ways that you can begin this week.

(3) Do I consistently come to Christ for cleansing from my sins and from the filth of this dirty world? If not, He’s waiting with the basin and the water of His word to wash your feet!

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Posted by on May 22, 2023 in Upper Room Discourse


The Badge of Discipleship – John 13:1, 34-35

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.


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Posted by on May 18, 2023 in Upper Room Discourse

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