Description / Transcription
O gracious God, You are always leading us, even when we don’t know where we are going, even when we can’t feel that You are near, You are still leading us. So lead us now as we come to Your Word, show us Your glory, remind us of Your love. May we have ears to hear Your voice and grant us grace to obey all that You command. In Jesus we pray. Amen.
Our text this morning is from John’s Gospel, chapter 13. We have been going through John’s Gospel verse by verse for quite some time, and we come now to the middle of chapter 13, beginning at verse 21 through the end of the chapter.
There are some Sundays and some sermons where you know from the text that you are going to learn something new, and even if you’ve been in the church your whole life, you’re going to encounter some strange passage or some confusing text, like if you were here several Sunday evenings ago we went through some of the parts of Daniel.
And then there are other Sundays and other sermons that are quite simple. And we need those as much as the others, to be reminded of the things that perhaps some of us have forgotten and to learn the things that perhaps we need to hear for the first time. As simple and as profound as loving one another.
Follow along as I read, beginning at verse 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.’ The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom He spoke. One of the disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom He was speaking. So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.’ So when He had dipped the morsel, He gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. Then after He had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, ‘What you are going to do, do quickly.’ Now no one at the table knew why He said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, ‘Buy what we need for the feast,’ or that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
“When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek Me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
“Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you will follow afterward.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow you 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, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.'”
Last week in the first half of chapter 13 we saw the cleansing of the disciples’ feet, now we have the cleansing of their fellowship. Judas departs, leaving Jesus and the 11 remaining disciples. It’s almost as if Jesus was waiting for this moment, for once Judas has gone, Jesus launches into the longest section of private teaching that we have anywhere in the Gospel.
So look beginning at verse 31, this section going really through the end of the high priestly prayer in chapter 17 is often called The Upper Room Discourse. They’re here in this upper room which Jesus has prepared as they are partaking of the Passover meal, it’s Thursday night, the day before Jesus’ crucifixion, His betrayal and arrest are just a few hours away in the wee hours of the morning, so this is the last time, before the cross, for Jesus to prepare His disciples for what is about to happen to Him and all that will change and transpire on the other side of Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
This discourse is typical of what you might have in a Jewish farewell speech. You might think of Jacob’s speech before he dies in Genesis, or Moses’ speech. It was typical that one would, if he knew the end was coming soon in old age or here as Jesus knows that His hour has come, to gather your closest friends and family around you, perhaps try to comfort them, encourage them, maybe exhort them to obedience. Sometimes you might speak of passing along your spirit, like Moses did, or Elijah to Elisha passing on his spirit, so Jesus will talk at length about passing on not just a, a sort of metaphor His spirit, but the Holy Spirit.
We will find a number of recurring themes in this section. Jesus talks a lot about coming and going, and where He goes they cannot follow. He says a lot about the Holy Spirit, about the inner workings of the Trinity. He says a lot about the disciples’ relationship to the world. He says a lot about unity and joy. He says a lot about salvation and the judgment that is to come, and we will, Lord willing, get to all of that in the weeks ahead, but here’s where Jesus starts. Very profoundly and yet very simply: Glory and love. He wants to talk about two things at the outset of this discourse before His betrayal: Glory and love.
So first, in verses 21 through 32, we’ll see what Jesus does to speak of glory. The scene, up in verse 21, begins with Jesus troubled in His spirit. You see that in verse 21. Prior to this He has just finished with an allusion to His betrayal. He said in verse 18, “He who ate my bread has lifted up his heel against me,” referring to this prophecy from the Old Testament, so He is alluding to the fact that one close to Him is about to betray Him, and thinking now of His betrayal and then the death that is to follow, we read that He is deeply troubled in His spirit.
Have you noticed what occasions Jesus’ anguish in His spirit? There’s two other times in John’s Gospel where we read Jesus reacting this way. Just turn back real quickly. Look at John 11:33, “When Jesus saw her weeping (Mary), and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved,” same expression, “In His spirit greatly troubled,” there because Lazarus has died and the women are weeping, deeply troubled.
Turn the page, chapter 12:27, “Now is My soul troubled and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I have come to this hour.” So there He anticipates that His hour is coming and now for a third time in chapter 13 it says He is troubled in His spirit. You notice what holds all three of those in common? Death. The death of Lazarus, the mourning of his family and friends, and Jesus’ own death.
Death is the last enemy. You know it. Some of you have known it all too well in recent weeks. Some of you, most of you, know it at some point in your life, the sadness of burying a loved one.
Jesus knew it. Jesus felt it. He mourned it. He is the Son of God and Jesus, the Son of God, in His humanity, is deeply anguished, deeply troubled, over death.
He makes one thing plain to them in verse 21. “‘Truly, truly,” verily, verily, amen, amen, “one of you will betray Me.” Well, the disciples don’t understand, in verse 22. Now we may think they’re just very dense, and it’s true the disciples often, you know, don’t underestimate their capacity to misunderstand things, but we have the vantage point of knowing the rest of the story, which they didn’t have. You can understand in this moment they’re confusion. They’ve been together for three years. Imagine, it’s an imperfect analogy, but a pastor with perhaps a group of young men that he’s been mentoring and pouring into and they’ve been meeting and they’ve been basically living life together on and off for three years and not only that but they’ve seen some amazing things, heard some amazing things, and then he starts saying all these sort of cryptic things about his time has come and in this meal one night he says, “One of you will betray me.” You’d be right to think, “What? What? We’re the ones who’ve left everything to follow you. We, we’ve been rubbing shoulders with each other. We know each other. Other people maybe, but this is us, your disciples, the 12. Someone’s going to betray the Master? Surely he’s speaking metaphorically or he’s thinking of someone else.”
Now we have to understand some of the particulars in this scene to understand what’s happening. You see verse 23, there’s a reference, “One of His disciples whom Jesus loved.” Now we know from the other gospels that it’s only the 12 disciples that are in the upper room. There was a larger group, sometimes 70, sometimes 120, that were following Jesus and some people supported Him out of their means, but here we have just this circle of the 12. So this disciple whom Jesus loved must be one of them. Now if we didn’t know better, we might think, “Well, it’s Peter.” Doesn’t Peter show up a lot in the Gospels? But Peter is going to speak in just a moment and motion to this other disciple, so it’s not him. We will find the disciple whom Jesus loved is mentioned at the cross in chapter 19, at the empty tomb in chapter 20, and then at the end of the book in chapter 21, where he says he’s the one who’s written the book. You see him often with Peter and so he’s one of the close-knit, inner circle, like Peter, James, and John, who were up on the Mount of Transfiguration, and the early church is uniform in their witness that the one whom Jesus loved is John himself, the one who is writing this Gospel.
Now you might think that seems strange, as if it’s some sort of boast, “I’m, I don’t even need to tell you, my Twitter handle is just #TheOneWhomJesusLoved. Okay, that’s me, I’m a pretty big deal.” But it’s actually just the opposite. Don’t hear it as “The one whom Jesus loved more than others,” but actually as a designation of humility, that John’s not drawing attention to himself, these people would have known when they were reading this who had written it, they would have understood his place in the early church, he doesn’t need to mention His name, he doesn’t need to draw attention to himself. In fact, he only goes by the designation here, “You know who I am? I’m simply another person that Jesus loves. That’s who I am.” It’s not a designation of pride, but of humility.
“Peter,” then, verse 24, “motioned to him.” Sort of fun to picture what this might have been like. Peter’s not one for subtleties, so he’s somehow across the table, not sitting right next to Jesus or right next to John, it seems, and he’s sort of getting his [sound effect/whispering] something. He’s, he’s doing something in a cross-cultural communication: “He just said something really big, John. He loves you, you’re next to him… Ask Him about this.”
It says “reclining at table.” Remember that they would have not been sitting at a table like the Last Supper da Vinci painting, but they would have been reclining and they would have been reclining on their left, dominant hand they would have been eating with their right, and so as they’re on these reclining dining couches with a common sort of mat of food there, John is like this and he leans back, literally leaning into the chest, into the breast of Jesus, who’s over here, so he’s sitting on this side, would have been a very easy thing lean back. And though it doesn’t say that it was in a whisper, everyone understands that it must have been a private conversation John to Jesus because even though the disciples are clueless, they’re not that clueless. Later, in a few verses when they say, “What does this mean?” So they are not hearing all that John and Jesus are saying. It’s a private whisper. And John, then, asks Jesus, leaning in close, “Lord, who is it?” and Jesus lets him in on the secret, “It’s he to whom I will give the morsel of bread.” Older translations say a “sop” which is just a food dipped into some sort of liquid with a sopping wet, it’s a morsel of bread, perhaps meat, likely break, and He gives it to Judas. John, too stunned or too scared to say anything, but the rest wonder what this means.
There’s actually, you can read some of the rabbinical literature later and it talks about sitting on the right or the left hand and the seat of first kind of first honor and second honor, and we can’t be certain, we know for certain that John was on one of those sides, because he leans back into Jesus, but many people suspect that Judas was on the other side of Jesus, and he would have had a position of honor as the financier, as the treasurer of this group, and the fact that Jesus could easily hand him a piece of bread suggests that he might have been the one at the other seat of honor next to Jesus. One on the left and one on the right. And He hands to Judas a piece of bread, dipped in perhaps drink or perhaps some sort of sauce, an act of unrequited love, maybe even we’re meant to hear some sacramental overtones. Not the Lord’s Supper in itself, but Jesus saying “I’m willing to offer you My body, My blood, I would die for you, Judas.”
But his heart is hardened and now we read he is fully in the grip of the devil, the devil enters him. Whether a full-blown demon possession or, I think more likely, an expression here that Satan has taken hold of his heart and he won’t let go, so Jesus says, “What you’re going to do, just get it over with.”
Remember Judas was the treasurer. If you go back to chapter 12, you read in verse 6, “Judas said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief and having charge of the money bag he used to help himself to what was put into it.” How did the disciples live when they’re on the road in Jesus doing his itinerant ministry? We know from other places in the Gospels there were some rich women that supported them, perhaps there were other sort of offerings, so they had people supporting them and there was a common money bag and Judas was in charge of it. People know that, he’s the treasurer of the group, and so when Jesus says “go out, what you have to do, and do it quickly,” they assume one of two things. One, Jesus means go out, buy what we need for the feast. Now they’re celebrating the Passover feast, so this means the feast of Unleavened Bread, which would carry on for the next week following this one. Or they think number two, go out and give all alms to the poor. It was very highly sought after, very prominent during these high holy days, lots of people around, lots of beggars, and so they think maybe He’s telling him to go an act of mercy.
Judas, of course, will do nothing of the sort, but he will leave to betray Jesus.
So Judas leaves. He takes the bread, but he leaves behind the love of Christ.
And then we have this ominous marker at the end of verse 30: “And it was night.”
Yes, it’s an accurate time marker, it was that part of the day called night, but more than that, there is surely an indication here of the spiritual moment at hand, the spiritual moment both for Judas and for Jesus. Although the moon is full at the time of Passover, the air is decidedly dark. This is a moment of nighttime, a moment of exceeding darkness.
Which brings us, then, to the upper room discourse and glory. Strange, you might think, that Jesus begins now that Judas has departed, his private sermon with a word about glory, verse 31. Shouldn’t Jesus say, “Now is the Son of Man about to be betrayed.” That would be true. Or, “Now we shall grieve together what is about to happen.” Or, “Now we see what evil there is in the world.” All of those would have been appropriate and would have been understandable responses, but that’s not what Jesus says. Rather, “When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified.'” What looks to be the beginning of defeat, Jesus knows to be the beginning of glory.
Judas, by leaving the room, has set in motion what God not only predicted through the prophets would happen, but what He had planned from eternity past to happen. Namely, the death of the Son of God.
So you have this juxtaposition that the mood and the physical atmosphere is dark, but just as in the darkest of the night you know that the dawn is coming, so Jesus understands that the sunrise, s-u-n and literally the S-o-n rise, is not far off. The Son will be glorified as He obeys the Father and dies for the sins of the world, while the Father will be glorified in the obedience of the Son and the satisfaction of divine wrath. You cannot understand Christianity, you cannot understand the Gospel, until you understand that at this moment of deepest darkness, when Judas is setting in motion the most despicable act of evil ever to happen on the planet, the crucifixion of the Son of God, it is at that same moment the beginning of the end of the very devil that has entered in to Judas.
Suffering is an opportunity to bring God glory. There’s temptation; we see that with Christ, you know that in your own life, but suffering is always an opportunity to bring God glory. Conquering the devil brings God glory. The redemption of sinners brings God glory. Maintaining faith in God in suffering brings Him glory. And so, yes, death is a terrible thing, Jesus feels it in the anguish of His heart. Death has always been an enemy, it always will be, until it is finally, decisively done away with. No doubt Jesus is in anguish at the thought to come. He is going to pray and pour out drops of blood and ask that might there be another way than to drink this cup of Your wrath. All of that is understandable, that’s what humans feel, that’s what Jesus felt fully human, and He knows what comes next.
And this is the privilege that all of you have if you’re a Christian. You know what comes next. First the grave, then glory. We do not mourn as those who have no hope. It is appointed for every man to die once, then the judgment, but for those who are in Christ, first the grave, then glory.
Hebrews later tells us, for the joy set before Him, Jesus despised the shame, the agony, of the cross. He set it aside; He considered it as worth little to the all surpassing glory that was to come.
So don’t miss, before we get to the more familiar parts of these verses, how Jesus begins this upper room discourse, in the midst of the most exquisite suffering ever to be felt, Jesus says the first thing I want to tell you about, disciples, is glory. Now they don’t understand it yet, but later when the Holy Spirit leads them unto all truth, they will understand that even though Judas went out to sell His Master for a pittance, for 30 meager pieces of silver, it was the beginning of the supreme act of the glorification of the Son of God.
And then He talks about love. Verse 33, “Little children, yet a while I am with you. You will seek Me, and just as I said to the Jews, so I now also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you.”
A new commandment. When we get to Holy Week, there’s Palm Sunday, the triumphal entry; then there’s Good Friday, the crucifixion; there’s Easter; and then we also have a service and some of you may not be familiar with it, but on Thursday, called Maundy Thursday. All my life growing up as a kid I was confused, how come it’s always on Thursday, never on Monday, if it’s Monday Thursday. But it’s not Monday Thursday, Maundy.
Maundy is from the Latin word “mandatum” which means “command.” It is commandment Thursday, so-called because of this verse right here, that a new commandment, in the Latin a new mandatum, a new mandate, I give to you. And so it is Maundy Thursday.
Now, you’d be right to ask, “A new commandment, Jesus? Really?”
Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.”
Leviticus 19:8: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Mark 12: Jesus summarizes the law with these two commandments, every Jew knew that was the summary of the law. That was a very common summary, love God, love your neighbor.
Romans 13:10: Paul can say that love is the fulfillment of the law.
So wait a minute. A new commandment? This isn’t the first time that God’s people have been told to love one another. So how is this a new commandment?
Well, it’s new in at least three ways. Number 1, because it is going to initiate and inaugurate a new covenant. So the old covenant with Moses being superseded by the new covenant in Christ, a page is turning in redemptive history and God’s way of interacting with His people will be with this new covenant superseding the old one with Moses, so that’s new.
Second, there will be a new power. Jesus is going to talk often about the, the comforter, the paraclete, who is to come, the Holy Spirit who will give you power from on high to be My witnesses and also a new power to obey.
So there’s a new covenant, there’s a new power, and then most importantly and clearly in this passage, we see it’s new because there is a new example. New covenant, new power, and a new example. That’s what’s explicitly mentioned.
Verse 34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
So there’s a new paradigm. There’s a new example. Yes, you’ve heard it before, love your neighbor, we all know that. But you have never seen love in the flesh like this, “Just as I have loved you.”
So John later will write in 1 John 2, talking about God’s love and loving one another, he says, “Dear friends, I am not writing to you a new command, but an old one which you have had since the beginning. The old command is the message you heard, yet I am writing you a new command, its truth is seen in Him and you because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.”
There’s a little bit of John’s commentary on Jesus’ statement. Yes, it’s an old commandment, but it’s new in this way, that now you have seen it, and you’ve seen it in Him and now it will be seen in a more profound way in you.
There has never been any love like the dying love of Jesus. He washed their feet, including the one who would betray Him. Unrobing in an act of almost scandalous vulnerability, stooping to wash their feet, the One through whom their very feet were created, the One who for eternity and ages never beginning and never ending knew all the glories of splendor Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and trinitarian love and communion. This Son of God stooped to wash their feet.
You see His love in verse 33. John will use this language often in his epistles. It’s the only time here we have Jesus speaking this way, “Little children.” You hear the pathos in it, the tenderness, my little ones, my dear friends, my little children.
And also do you notice the love of Jesus highlighted because in the midst of covenant betrayal, we have Jesus’ supreme act of covenant loyalty. We’ve already seen, you can just see it with your Bibles, what happens before the new commandment, Judas leaves to betray Him. What happens after the new commandment? Jesus predicts that Peter will betray Him. You see, Peter as Peter would do, in verse 36, “‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus says, ‘Where I’m going you can’t come, but you will follow afterward.'”
Now Peter does not realize it right now, but if he has a memory, that word “afterward” is going to mean everything to Peter, because Jesus says “you’re going to follow me afterward.” In other words, Jesus knows there’s some stuff coming, Peter, that you’re not going to be proud of. There’s some stuff you’re going to do and you’re not going to follow me, and you’re not going to stick by me, but you will afterward, you’ll come back. He doesn’t give that comfort to Judas. So there’s an ultimate betrayal with Judas, and there is a temporary betrayal coming with Peter. That’s a word you’re going to want to remember, Peter, “afterward.”
It’s a word maybe some of you need to remember this morning, thinking of things you’ve done, places you’ve been, ways you’ve disowned Jesus, and perhaps He’s whispering in your ear this morning, “afterward.” Today can be your afterward.
Presently, Peter thinks he’s going to lay down his life for Jesus. Verse 37: “I will lay down my life for you.” It’s almost the same language Jesus used in John 10 talking about the Good Shepherd. So Peter thinks, “No, no, no, yeah, I’d do anything for you.” And once again Peter has gotten it exactly wrong. Jesus does not need Peter’s death, but oh, how Peter needs Jesus’ to lay down His life for him. Bold, brave, Peter will falter at the footsteps of a servant girl. Three times. Not once, Peter, not twice. Three times you’ll deny me.
Carson puts it well: “Sadly, good intentions in a secure room after good food are less attractive in a darkened garden with a hostile mob.”
It’s why you’ll sometimes hear me say, “You need to decide now in your heart, in this moment, that you’ll follow Jesus no matter what, because it does not get easier than right now. You’ve got a roomful of people and singing songs and praying and you’re thinking about the Bible and it’s open on your lap and yeah, okay, I’ll follow you, I’ll believe that. I won’t falter.”
It will not get easier. If you cannot be committed here, you certainly won’t be committed later.
Peter was, he thought he was, committed here and it turned out that he was ready to crumble. Sadly, it probably happens a whole lot of Mondays through Saturdays, people come to church on Sunday, “Yes, yes, yes! Yes! Servant girl… No, no, no! My boss, my classmate, my neighbor, my friend, my parents.”
Afterward, Jesus says, there will be another chance for you, Peter.
But we see the love of Jesus sandwiched between an ultimate and a proximate act of covenant betrayal and in the middle is Jesus’ supreme act of covenant love and faithfulness, not like Judas, not like Peter. Love like me, Jesus says.
And so they hear the commandment with fresh ears, a new commandment with me as your new example, love one another. And it’s not only for these 11 disciples, but it’s for these 1300 disciples. Yeah, we love our enemies, that’s true, that’s Bible. You love your family, right? In a sense we love all people in a common grace sort of way. You want to be friendly, you want to look out for them, you want to be a Good Samaritan.
But there is something unique here: Love one another. I believe in all my heart in the importance of the family. I love my family, you love your family, family is the basic building block of any healthy society, and yet in a scandalous way, Jesus does relativize at times the importance of the family. Not to say your relations don’t matter, but to say there is an even greater calling that you have. To love your kids, that’s good. You don’t need the Holy Spirit to do that. Well, I mean, you really do actually to love them, but you know what I mean. You don’t need to be a Christian to want to love your kids, to want to love your mom and dad.
But there is something unique here in this love for one another. Don’t think that it means that the Church shouldn’t care about outreach and that we can just be some holy huddle. Of course that’s not what Jesus means. He is going to give the Great Commission to go. But there is a very unique sense in which we love our spiritual brothers and sisters in a way that we love no one else, to love the church, to love your fellow disciples.
Some of you had this. You ever go and you, you travel overseas and you go to some place that’s a very different culture, and eat very different foods and speak a different language eve, and have you experienced, I’ve experienced this many times, there is a wonderful sameness when your with other Christians. Yeah, they say some words differently and, you know, they have their foods differently and their services may have different instruments and they may dress differently, but there’s, there’s a fellowship, there’s an understanding, there’s a way of treating people, there’s a way of worshiping that we have more in common as brothers and sisters in Christ. That’s true internationally, it’s true locally. And we have to pray that God would give us grace to live this out.
Now, they were told to love each other in the Old Testament, for sure. But by and large, to be God’s people was to be an ethnic Jew. Now some people were, were grafted in from time to time, and you could have proselytes here, but it was mainly to be an ethnic Jew.
Well, now it’s going to be Jews, Gentiles. That no longer is the, the glue that holds them together going to be, “Hey, we’re probably related somewhere up the, you know, the Jewish tree.”
The love that they have for one another will be the glue, will be their defining characteristic. Is that true for our fellowship? It’s, it’s Jesus, it’s the love of Jesus, the love we have for Jesus, and it’s the love of Jesus manifested in love for one another, that people would say, “You know what, you know what the folks at Christ Covenant?” Hopefully, they wouldn’t say, “You know what really keeps them together is they all kind of look alike” or “they all live in the same basic kind of house and apartment, same kind of part of town, they all really vote exactly the same.” No, you know what they have in common? They shouldn’t have anything in common, but they love one another, and they know the love of Christ. So that what’s holding us together is, is not a color of skin or what we check off in the voting booth or even the language that we may have as our heart language, but it’s that we know Christ, we’ve known the love of Christ, and we want to love one another with that same love.
We hear a lot about identity in our day. Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad. But this identity must be more important than your political affiliation, than your nationality, than the color of your skin. Are you marked? Are we marked fundamentally by love?
Now, don’t, don’t, don’t let the other, don’t let the world steal that word. Yeah, everyone wants love. “All you need is love, love, love, love, love is all you need, all you need is love.” Great poetry, the Beatles came up with there. “What the world needs now is love, sweet love.” Yeah, everyone wants love. We know what it means. We know that the Bible means by love. So don’t be afraid to wave the banner of love. Don’t think, “Well, that’s, that’s kind of a weak thing to do. That’s not what a Presbyterian church ought to do.”
Well, it’s what the Church ought to do. Your home, my home, is it marked by love?
I’ll tell you the one time it’s very difficult to be marked by love, it’s when we’re all trying to get to the new Sunday School time on time. That’s very hard.
Listen, a lot of you, you kids, young people, you listening? You live in a home, you go to church, you’re here right now. Some of you have gone through a class, you’ve made profession of faith, you take communion, you’re Christians. You profess Christ. Is your life marked by love? Can people look and see the way you treat your brother or sister, I mean your physical brother or sister, and say, “Wow, you must be a Christian, ’cause I don’t see brothers treating sisters like that.” Or does it look like everybody else, every other home?
Our school? We have lots of different schools represented in here, but is Covenant Day School marked, all schools, all grades, is it marked by a pervasive sense of love for one another?
Our church? Would people having been here for maybe six months and say they had to move away but they left and someone said, “What’s Christ Covenant like?” Would that be in the first minute of their description? “That’s a loving place.”
And of course you understand love is not just mere sentiment, it’s not watered down, just universal affirmation of everything you could ever want to do. Love takes concrete action and generosity toward one another and bearing with one another and forgiving one another. Look around this room. To the degree I know there may be visitors here, people who may be considering Christ, but to the degree that this room is filled with Christians, you look around this room, there should be no hardworking, honest person or family here with their basic needs unmet. That’s what it looks like to love one another. No one here should have to cry or struggle alone. There should be no unforgiveness among us in Christ. No angry backbiting and backstabbing. There should be an eagerness to help, to pitch in, especially those in times of greatest need. We should be especially looking for newcomers, for those who are growing older and maybe infirm, the sick, the single parent, the overwhelmed parent, the grieving, those who perhaps have other obstacles to overcome in just fellowshipping with us because they are not of the majority. These, in Christ, are your mothers, your fathers, your sons, your daughters, your brothers, your sisters.
Now I can say as your pastor that I see a lot of that already, so don’t hear a stern rebuke. There is much to be thankful for and I do think many people would testify that they have known and experienced the love of Christ here, but God is reminding us again that it’s not simply, there’s no beating around the bush, there’s no cutting corners on this one, there’s no option. This is not if you’re into it, if you want to be a loving church, go for it, but maybe you want to be a different kind of church. No, there is no other way to be as a church than to love one another.
Tertullian writing 100 years later, quoting a non-Christian observer who said famously, “See how they love one another, see how they are ready to die for one another.”
What is Jesus’ example? It’s an example of love, love found in humility and sacrifice. The humility to wash one another’s feet. To sacrifice His own comforts, His own glories, for the good of others.
Is your home, is your small group, is your college fellowship, is Christ Covenant Church marked by a humility and a sacrifice, each for each other? As that song from, was it the 70s, said I grew up singing, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” May it be true. May people notice in your walk, in this place, in your family, in your life, “I may not agree with these Christians and what they say about marriage, I may not like a lot of the things they stand for, I may not believe their Bible, but I think that person, that’s gotta be a Christian, because the way they love one another.”
Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, help us, give us Your spirit. We are not able to do these things in our strength. We look to Christ as the One who showed us the way and is the way, and so as He has loved us, let us in turn love one another. We pray in His name. Amen.