Following Jesus #2 - In the Way of Love
Dr. Kurt Bjorklund begins into the later part of the Book of John, looking in the last days of Jesus' life and the impact of the conversation with his disciples at the Last Supper.
Good morning. It's good to be together. This morning we are continuing our series in the gospel of John. We started last week in something we're calling following Jesus, and what we're doing in these weeks, is we are looking at John 13 through 17.
You just heard part of John 13 read. And what we're doing, is we're talking about how different parts of the equation that are part of following Jesus, are called forth in these texts, in these passages, in ultimately what's known as the upper room discourse.
And here's what we're doing, is each week we're saying that following Jesus involves following him in the way of something. Last week it was humility. Today it's love. And when you heard the passage read just a few moments ago you may have said, "Love? Love was just a footnote in this passage," and we'll come to that.
And here's our hope. And that is, if you've been around church, if you're a follower of Jesus, if you consider yourself a person of faith that these weeks will help you to say, "These are some things that God has called me to and I want to live in these ways."
And if you are a person who says, "I'm not sure exactly where I stand," that this would help you to maybe, put aside some of, the nonsense that you hear and see about what following Jesus might mean, and hear and see what it means in Jesus's words, and you'd be drawn to say, "This is what I really want," as well.
And, so, today we're going to look at this passage that deals with the betrayal of Jesus, and Judas betraying him. And, here's where I'd like to start, with a modern story of betrayal.
It was 2016 and Marjorie Moon, who was a single mother of five, a nurse, worked in a surgical unit, came home one day from work and had a 12 hour shift. She traded her scrubs for a nice dress and heels, and went to meet a man that she had met online named Paul.
She had met him on plentyoffish.com. He had said to her that he was a CEO of a fitness firm, that he had two kids. And after a few pleasant exchanges they showed up together to a swanky restaurant that he had suggested.
She had a little moment of pause when he came walking up and wondered, "Does this man have a car?" But didn't think much of it. And so, they sat down and ordered a meal, and at every turn when it came time to order he ordered on the high end of the menu.
You ever been out with somebody who orders on the high end of the menu? This is what he was doing. Well, at about two thirds of the way through the dinner, after he had consumed most of his food he said that he had to take a phone call.
He took a phone call and never came back. Well, Marjorie was incensed. $250.00 was the bill and she felt completely betrayed and so, she decided to take to social media and posts this dine and dash dater to expose him.
She later found out that his name was not Paul [Azini 00:03:17] as he had said, but Paul Gonzales. Here's a picture of the dine-and-dash dater.
And soon others became aware of this story, because her story was trending on social media. He had told others that he was an NBC sports editor, that he worked for the Los Angeles Lakers, and it was CNN that finally picked up the story and tabbed him the, dine-and-dash dater.
Finally, in 2018 after two more years and presumably dozens, if not more, victims Victor Case, and investigator was able to catch up to him and charged him with seven felony counts of extortion.
It ended up that he was able to plead down to four misdemeanors and was ordered to spend 120 days in jail and pay restitution to two of his victims for $240.00.
Today he still claims that it's all a misunderstanding and that he was just a victim. Now, I don't know how you would feel about somebody tricking you into going out to dinner with them and then stiffing you with the bill.
Chances are you would have a little bit of a moment of, "Seriously? Is that something that people do today?" But that's really a pretty small betrayal in the scope of betrayals.
And in John 13 what we see, is we see this account unfold where Jesus is having this dinner with his followers and he says, "Somebody here will betray me."
And what I'd like to do today, is I'd like to simply ask three questions that I think get at the heart of this passage.
The first, is what do we learn from the betrayals? And that's intentionally plural, because there's two betrayals in this passage. We tend to think of Judas, but there's also Peter.
So, at the first part of the passage there's Judas, and then at the very end there's betrayal. So, it's inclusion in terms of the passage having a beginning and an ending, and what happens in the middle is framed by these two betrayals.
So, what do we learn from the betrayals? What do we learn from the prediction that Jesus gives right in the middle? And then what do we learn from the command that he gives?
And so, as we're looking at this we have to look at the betrayals, and as I said, there are two betrayals here. For Judas, he betrayed Jesus deliberately and in cold blood, because he went out and sold him in a sense, for 30 pieces of silver and watched him go to his death knowing full well what would happen.
And then Peter betrayed him, and this is at the very end of the passage when Jesus says, "You will deny me three times before the rooster crows."
And he denied him impulsively and in weakness, and here's why this is important when we say that there's betrayal's. Sometimes when it comes to either personal betrayal or betrayal of the things of God we can have what we consider to be a pretty significant scale.
Where we can look at somebody else and say, "Well, that's a substantial betrayal, but mine aren't that substantial." But there are two ways to betray. One is deliberately and intentionally, methodically. The other is to do it impulsively and in weakness.
And what we see here, is that there are both of these that are present in this passage. Now, we're told at one point that Satan entered him. Speaking of Judas. And this has been debated in church circles forever, the role of Satan.
Some would say that Satan can't enter a believer. This shows that Judas wasn't really a believer. Some would say that the word entered is more to say that he oppressed or worked on him.
And over the course of history what's happened is, is people have generally been in two camps when it comes to the idea of Satan. Some have seen Satan as behind everything, and the reason that we could say, "If I do something it's Satan's fault."
You would be aware if you're of a certain age, of an old sketch that used to be on Saturday Night Live where, "Who do you think made you do it?" And the person would say?
Yeah, except they would say it with a long, drawn out thing. You have to be a certain age to get that, but here's the idea. Some people will say, "Well, Satan's behind everything." And then on the other side some people will say, "Well, Satan's behind nothing."
Well, in the bible the reality of Satan is evident. He's active, he wants to destroy people and their lives, but at the same time the bible never puts the full responsibility on Satan, it just says there's an active force working against God's people and their good. An act of being working against God's people and their good.
But the responsibility is ultimately on the people. So, even though it says that Satan entered him, the responsibility is still on Judas. And here's what we see when we're looking at these betrayals and that is, that there are different kinds of betrayals and that God holds even the things that seem contrary to his glory in his hand.
Now, sometimes people turn away, because of the behavior of some people who claim to be followers of Jesus. They see somebody who does something, like a betrayal or some kind of, hypocrisy or turning against what they once held or believed, and they say, "Well, if that's what it's like, then I can't believe at all."
But here's the truth. And you know this is true. And that is, we are able to separate people from a cause all the time in our lives, and here's how I know this is true.
Many of you are Steeler fans. Do you know that there are some Pittsburgh Steelers who do some bad things? And you know what? You still cheer for the Steelers, even though there's some Steelers that do some things, that you're like, "That's not very cool."
And here's the thing. You can still cheer for the Steelers, even though they're Steelers who do bad things, just like there are Christians who do bad things and you can still worship Jesus, because ultimately you're not looking to what people do, you're saying, "This is about Jesus," and it should not surprise us that there are people who will make choices within faith that will be contrary to the things that are of God.
Some of us have been let down by people who have been part of the ministerial, the clergy, the pastors. Some of us have been let down by our parents, who did things, said things, and acted as if they were all in on following God, and then the things that they did were so contrary.
And so, we say, "How could I ever believe in a God like that?" And the truth is, there's a little bit of betrayer in all of us. Some are more sensational, maybe in cold blood and intentionally, and some of us betray in vulnerability and weakness.
And what we see here, is that even though it doesn't excuse Judas in any way, the inclusion of Peter reminds us that there's a little bit of a betrayer, even in those of us who have the best of intentions.
And what it reminds us to do, is not to say, "Therefore, the whole thing's irrelevant." Bruce Milne, who is a commentator on John and other books said this about this paragraph in the scripture about the betrayal.
He said, "This paragraph is a powerful and disturbing reminder of the ambiguity of the life of the people of God in every age. Despite all the laudable and entirely appropriate attempts, particularly since the Reformation to obtain a pure membership for the church, it remains as Calvin acknowledged in the sixteenth century, a mixed multitude."
"Only Christ can truly unveil the heart as he will do at the coming judgment day. Then and only then will the true flock of the Lord be assembled by the good shepherd. Until then the church is an irreducible, ambiguous company. At once both holy and profane, embracing the servants of Christ and the servants of Satan. This must not surprise us however, or cause us to stumble."
In other words, the very presence of people like Judas and Peter, reminds us that there's not something horribly wrong in our day and age when somebody goes off the track, but that we instead look in the mirror and say, "There are times when I've gone off the track, and it's the grace and the goodness of God that keeps me on the track, if that's where I've stayed."
I was in a setting not long ago and there were some questions being asked, and somebody asked me about a very specific thing that was known, that somebody had done and then how they had functioned in a particular area, because of that.
And I heard myself just, kind of, respond in, the moment and I said, "Well, it's kind of, an absurd hypocrisy." And as I reflected on that I realized that it wasn't wrong to say that it was an absurd hypocrisy. But the truth about me, is that there are some absurd hypocrisy's in my own life, and if we're honest there's absurd hypocrisy's in any of our lives. And what we learn when we look at these betrayals, is that they shouldn't shock us, they shouldn't surprise us, and they shouldn't discourage us, because this is how it has always been.
But here's the thing that's really amazing, and that is, what we see is that God, through Jesus Christ demonstrated love, even in the midst of the betrayal.
In fact, most commentators say that the whole business about, "Who will betray me?," when they started to ask him. He said, "The one that I'll dip the bread with." That, that signified that Judas was sitting right next to Jesus at this meal.
And the way that the culture worked in those days, was that the host would have the guests of honor sit in kind of, order of importance to the host, and so the closer you sat to the host the more prominent you are.
This is kind of, like going to a fundraising dinner and you get to the front table if you're somehow prominent, and you're at the back of the room if you're not. It's kind of, like that deal.
And so, Judas is sitting right next to Jesus most commentators believe, because he could physically dip the bread with him. Now, think about this. He's hours away from being betrayed by Judas, and what does he do? He gives him a place of prominence.
It's almost like he was saying, "Here's another appeal of love, here's another attempt for me to say I still care for you, even though I know exactly what you're going to do."
And that's the way God is, even when he knows our propensity to walk away he says, "Here's my love for you." If we could put it in the modern parlance of the story that we started with it would be almost like he knows that sometimes our betrayals or our dine and dash strategy was coming, but he still takes the dinner.
Think about having a God like that. So, we learn from the betrayal something of God's character, something of our character. What do we learn from this prediction?
Now, I say prediction, because verse 31 and following gives a little prediction of Peter's denial, but before that there's a prediction here of Jesus being glorified.
Here's what it says. Verse 31, "When he was gone Jesus said, "Now the son of man is glorified and God is glorified in him, if God is glorified in him, God will glorify the son in himself, and will glorify him at once."
The word glory is used 23 times in John, five times right here. And glory is a word that typically has a connotation of excellence or reputation.
It's used in Romans 3:23, "For all have sinned and come short of God's glory." The glory of the Lord. His excellence, his reputation.
So, it's a word that speaks of his greatness, and here's what I believe Jesus is predicting. He's saying that, "The son of man is glorified in God, and God in him."
But then he says, "God will glorify the son in himself and will glorify him at once." Now, why is he saying this here and now? I believe what he's doing, is he is saying to all who are gathered as Judas is heading out into the night, "That even this is in my hands."
You see, sometimes we tend to think of glory as only the exultation of things, of the good and the excellent, but what we're going to see, is that God was glorified in the humiliation of his son, and the cross, and the death of Jesus Christ.
In other words, glory doesn't just mean things are always getting better and better, but even the things that we look at and say, "That's not a good thing at the moment," God turns to his glory, to his good.
And here's how you know this is true. In verse three it says this, "Jesus knew that the father had put all things under his power." Do you want to know what the Greek is for all things? All things.
In other words, it just simply means everything's under God's hand. And then he goes on and he talks about this betrayal and here's why this is significant. Here's what this shows you and me today, and that is, whatever it is that you are facing, whatever it is that is difficult, whatever it is that you say, "This doesn't seem like God could ever use this for his glory, for his good," is still in God's hand in your life today.
So, if you're here today and you're just, looking at your life and you're saying, "I've been mistreated, why doesn't God come in justice and let the truth be known, and seen in this situation?," there's a sense in which you can say, "God still holds this in his hand and he will yet be glorified."
Maybe you're here and this week has brought, or this month a bad report from the doctor for you or somebody you love. And you sit and you say, "How can God work in this?" But this too is in God's hand and can be turned for his glory.
Or maybe you've experienced an economic downturn, or the loss of a job that you thought was secure. This too is in God's hand and can be turned to his glory.
Maybe you found yourself walking through a divorce that you never wanted, never anticipated. Maybe you found yourself alone for months or years and you think, "God, what are you doing?" And you can say, "This too is in God's hand and can be used for his glory."
Maybe you've experienced a betrayal or you're facing incredible pressure, hardship. Maybe your kids are taking some significant missteps, or maybe you've experienced recently the loss of somebody who was dear to you, but all of these things are in God's hand and can be turned for his glory.
You see, Jesus, by predicting at this very moment that all things are under God's hand, by saying that earlier and then saying here that glory, that Jesus will bring glory, he knows that he's going to his death and what he's doing, is he's saying, "I want you to see that even what seems like a betrayal and seems awful is still in my hands and it can still be used to bring about my glory."
Now, sometimes that's hard to believe when we're in the middle of it, but if you can see that, you can see something about the heart of God for you, the hand of God in your life.
So, now we turn to the third question. And that is, what do we learn from this command? And so, there's a command here. Verse 34, "A new command I give you. Love one another." Now, in what sense is this a new command? Hasn't God commanded people to love from the beginning?
Well, in one way it's not that new, but it's probably new in its basis, because now it's going to become based on who Jesus is, what Jesus has done, and it's new in that it's part of the new covenant.
So, he says, "A new command I give you, love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Now, this seems almost out of place to me, just to be honest. As you read through this you have a story of betrayal, you have a prediction of glory, and you know what's coming and then all of a sudden, Jesus says, "Hey, I have a command for you. One guy betrayed me, another guy's going to betray me, here's my command. Love one another."
Now, we tend to think of love as being an emotion that we have, and a way that we just relate to people when we feel like loving. But love is something much bigger than that. Here's how one author defined it.
He said, "Love for your neighbor consists of three things. To desire the greater good of everyone, to do what good we can, and to bear, excuse, and hide the faults of the other."
It's to want the best for everybody, it's to say, "I will do what good I can for the people in my life, and I will excuse or bear the faults of another."
Now, I don't believe that definition is taking into account abusive or destructive behavior, and that, that means you need to bear abuse. This is talking about the normal flow of relationships, and to love in some cases means to separate from somebody who's being destructive in your life.
But in normal relationships to love means to be willing to bear, excuse and to take the good of somebody else and elevate it in your own life. And Jesus here is saying, "This is what I want my followers to be marked by."
Again, Bruce Milne, in his commentary put it this way. He said, "Love is the final apologetic. Jesus places no limit on this demonstration, and all will recognize and know it. Unlike other associations, which are based upon common interest or outlook, the church is marked by an inclusiveness, which echoes the universal appeal of Jesus. It is designated as a community, which welcomes all people irrespective of background, age, gender, color, moral history, social status, influence, intelligence, religious background, or lack of it."
"To love like Jesus, is to love inclusively, indiscriminately, universally, when that kind of love flows within a congregation the world will take note of how they have been with Jesus. No need for this standard to daunt us. As one of the church fathers, Tertullian reported in the late second century the comment of the Pagans of his day was, "Behold, how these Christians love each other. How ready they are to die for each other. Their mutual love was a magnet, which drew the multitudes to Christ."
And then Milne says this, "It has the potential to do so still." In other words, this command in the context of disappointment and betrayal, and Jesus's prediction here, is Jesus's way of saying, "If you want to know what will be substantial, it is that you choose to be part of a loving community."
Don Carson, another commentator put it this way. He said, "Church is made up of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus's sake."
You see, love is something that our culture loves to talk about saying, "We should have a loving environment, we should care about one another," but here's the issue and why this is difficult in our culture. And that is, when you say, "We will love somebody," you'll love somebody as long as they share your views, as long as they practice what you practice, as long as they endorse what you endorse.
But in the church what happen is, all of those things become secondary, and the thing that's primary is the relationship with Jesus Christ, and because of the relationship with Jesus Christ, there's no longer a need to divide over the secondary things, but instead to say, "I can love, even those who I don't necessarily find lovable."
This is why from time to time you'll hear us here talk about the reality that church is not a building, it's a group of people. And this is why, in a sense church is not an event that you attend, but it's a family you belong to.
It's not something that you say, "I come and I decide was the music good today? Did I like the message? Did it move me enough?" But instead it's part of saying, "I'm part of a group of people that have decided to do life together in a way that commemorates who God is."
This is part of why when somebody decides to leave a church and go to a different church, and treat it like a consumer, kind of, issue like, "Maybe this church has something a little better," that they often don't think of it as a big deal, because they haven't understood the theology that says, "You love one another, and this is how the world will know you're my disciples."
Now, certainly there's a time to make a transition from one church to another. I'm not suggesting that there never is, but sometimes I'm shocked when people assume that they'll change churches and that all their friendships will stay the same, because it's like you're leaving a family at times.
Now, I know some of us may be sitting here saying, "Well, I've been part of churches, and I haven't always experienced love." And it's easy when you hear this to say, "Well, people should love me better," instead of, "I'm called to love."
And what happens when you say, "People should love me better," is then you start looking at everyone else and saying, "How much are people loving me?" And, what can happen is, we can become petty, we can become people who say, "I'm here to receive," rather than to say, "How do I love the people that God has put around me?"
And, here's how this can sometimes happen. I remember years and years ago somebody was struggling and they said that they came to church here at Orchard Hill, could have been probably, any church, and they said they decided to just stand in the lobby and see if anyone would talk to them.
And they stood in the lobby and evidently no one talked to them, so they said, "We're done with this church. We're going to go try to find another church."
And I wanted to say to them, and I was probably kinder than this. I wanted to say, "Well, did you try to talk to anybody?" You see, it's easy to say, "No one's inviting me to dinner. Nobody's caring for me. Nobody's doing anything for me," instead of, "How am I choosing to love the people that God has put in my life?"
And here's a question. If you were here last week I just mentioned this, but Judas sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver. And we don't know exactly how much 30 pieces of silver is in today's terms, but we know it isn't very much.
It could have been the price of a nice dinner, it could have been a week or two salary, but whatever it was, it wasn't a whole-lot. Could it be that Judas turned on Jesus, not as much for the money, as because he didn't feel the connection and love of the community that he was in?
And that, that's why Jesus right here says, "I give you this commandment, love one another. This is what I want you to do. This is what I want to mark and define my people."
Now, here's the truth. And you know this is true. And that is, a lot of times when people who aren't part of a church or faith community look at the church what they see, is they see a bunch of people who can't get along, who don't care for one another, who don't have any kind of radical generosity toward one another, or radical care toward one another in difficult times.
And, so, they say, "You know what? I don't need that. Don't need any part of that." Instead of being able to say that, "These people have something different about them."
And here's where ultimately the strength comes from to do this, because if you simply walk out and say, "Well, I'm going to be more loving." What will happen is, you'll try for a season and then in time somebody will annoy you, somebody will irritate you, and you'll say, "I've had enough of this love thing."
I mean, you probably won't say that, but that'll be the reality. Here's where it comes from. As Jesus gives this command he says, "A new command I give you, love one another," and then what's the next phrase?, "As I have loved you."
"Just as I've loved you." Here's where we really get the strength. And that is, when we see that we have been betrayers in some ways to God, and he has loved us anyway.
That when our difficulties and hardships are pushing us into a place where we say, "I don't know where it's going," and saying, "God still holds this in his hand and I know that he's loved me, even in those moments," That we can say, "Now I can love."
Sometimes we tend to think of God as having no emotion. As just, being a God who set the world in motion and lets mechanical things take their course, but one of the things that we're told here, is that Jesus was troubled by the events that were about to take place.
And the word troubled is a rich word in the original language that means to be disturbed deeply to the depth of your being. To be unstable, because of what's going on.
In other words, Jesus was moved emotionally, deeply, because of the betrayal. And here is why this matters. And that is, if you can see God as being emotionally moved by your betrayals, your disappointments, the things you've done that have fallen short, instead of looking at others, what will happen is, you'll be able to say, "God, you've loved me in spite of my imperfections, in spite of my shortcomings. You sent Jesus in my place, therefore as i savor that, celebrate that, think on that, worship because of that, now I can see how you want me to interact with people in my world."
And that can change everything. You see, if I live in a place where, whenever I'm annoyed, or I'm betrayed, or I'm disappointed, I'm accused, or somebody lies about me, or misrepresents something, I take it all and I go, "How dare they. I'll never love," but if I say, "I have done some of those things in my relationship with the God of the universe, and he's been troubled by it, but he chose to love anyway," then I'll be able to love better than if I just simply try to do it in my own strength.
And the challenge for a group of people who come together in any place in the name of Jesus, is to say, "There will be betrayers among us, because we're all betrayers. Some will be more sensational, some will leave, some will cause disrepute, some may even not have been real followers, genuine followers, but those things will happen, but God holds them all in his hand."
And he says, "But I still want you to let your place be a place where people experience genuine love, because of how I've loved you." I hope that you and I can live with the amazement of what God has done. That can be so top of the mind that our natural impulse is one of saying, "I want the best for everybody. I'll do the good I can and I'll overlook the things that have been disappointments along the way."
Father, we thank you for your word and your truth, and God, I pray that you would help each one of us to encounter your love in, a new way. God, for those of us in Wexford, in Butler County, in the Strip District, I pray that we would be of one mind and that the way of love would be truly a way that motivates us and calls us forward. And we pray this in Jesus name, amen.
Thanks for being here, have a great day.