Just as I Have Loved You

Zach Fulginiti, Speaker

John 13:18-38 | February 4 - Sunday Evening,

Sunday Evening,
February 4
Just as I Have Loved You | John 13:18-38
Zach Fulginiti, Speaker

Well, good evening. Pastor Tom began our new study into Jesus, the disciples, in the upper room this morning as he preached through the first half of John chapter 13. We’re going to pick up the narrative beginning in verse 18. So if you have your Bibles, please turn with me to John chapter 13. John chapter 13, verse 18 all the way down through the end of the chapter, verse 38.

“I 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.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am He. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives Me receives the one who sent Me.” 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 up at one another, uncertain of whom He spoke. One of his 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. 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.””

Let’s turn to the Lord in prayer.

Lord Jesus, we thank You once again for the opportunity to turn to Your Word. You and You alone have the words of eternal life. Where else shall we go, Lord? So we pray that You would help us, illuminate Your Word and Your truth to us here tonight. It’s in Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

It was Thursday night. The last Thursday night of Jesus’ life. He had rode into Jerusalem triumphant just a few days before and now is just a few hours away from an unjust arrest, trial, and execution. He was gathered with His closest friends and they were sharing a meal, a last meal together. To His right was John, one of the three men in which He was closest to. To His left was the man who would betray Him, Judas. They were reclining at the table, lying on their left side so that their right hand could be free to eat and drink. It was just Jesus and His 12 followers. Moments prior Jesus had done something very strange, very unpredictable, very unusual. He had stood up, stripped off some of His outer garments, grabbed a towel, tied it around His waist, and got down on His hands and knees with a basin of water and began to wash their feet. It was a jarring setting. Here was their Master, their Lord, their King, down on His hands and knees, taking the literal form of a servant, washing the dust and dirt and impurity off their feet. 12 men, 12 followers, 12 friends. They had walked together, they had eaten together, they had sat together, they had witnessed together. We can only presume that they had also laughed together, they had cried together, prayed together. For three years this group of disciples had been together.

And yet whether or not they realized it, this was the final night in which they would all be together. Not only with each other, but also with Jesus. You see, Jesus was preparing them for what was coming. He knew exactly what was going to happen next. This was the last time He would be with them. It was His last opportunity to teach them, to instruct them, to prepare them for what was about to happen.

So He finishes washing their feet and He gets up and He puts His outer garment back on, but it’s very clear that something is not right as Jesus stands back up. You can see it on His face. Jesus was troubled. We don’t know what that looked like. Maybe His lip was quivering or maybe His face was sullen and sad, or His head was down, but Jesus’ spirit was troubled. Something was very wrong.

Indeed, He says, “Truly, truly, one of you will betray Me.” You have to imagine, there might have been a gasp in the room, an eerie silence. One of you will betray Me.

No, no, no, that couldn’t be. Maybe some of those people out there, maybe some of our enemies out there. They had encountered a rising level of hostility. It wouldn’t have surprised anyone that someone out there was trying to get Jesus. But one of them? In that room? Reclining at that table? One of you will betray Me.

The room was so taken aback that even Peter dared not speak up at once. So maybe we could imagine him just whispering to John. “John, ask Him. Who is it?” So John, reclining at an angle just next to Jesus, leans all the way back into Jesus’ chest and asks Him, “Lord, who is it?” And Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread which I have dipped it.” So when He dipped the morsel, He turned and He gave it to Judas.

Our passage here tonight paints the picture of a deeply intimate scene, one that once you get a feel for what’s going on in the room, you almost feel very uncomfortable that you’re there, like I’m not supposed to be here. This wasn’t meant for me. This is Jesus and His 12 closest followers. What am I doing here? This is part of the Last Supper, the last series of moments of Jesus with His disciples.

Chapter 13 begins what is referred to as Jesus’ upper room discourse. Pastor Tom laid this out for us this morning. John’s Gospel containing four or five chapters recording the last night of Jesus’ life before He is arrested and taken away.

So what are we to make of this passage? What are to learn, to gain, to benefit from being a proverbial fly on the wall at this deeply intimate scene?

Certainly there’s much we could dive into – servant leadership, the relationship between the Father and Son, the glory of the Father and the Son, betrayal, loss, grief, sadness. But in our limited time here tonight, I want us to focus on verse 34 and its implications and the pictures that we see of it in these verses.

Verse 34. The new commandment that Jesus gives – love one another just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

As I’ve heard it said, it’s a commandment so simple that a child could memorize it and so difficult that an adult will never master it.

Love one another just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

Here in verse 34, Jesus tells us of a new commandment. Yet it is strange, isn’t it? To hear that this is a new commandment. On one level this is the oldest and maybe most repeated commandment of the Scriptures, the commandment to love one another was as old as the Mosaic covenant itself. Leviticus 19:18 – you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus Himself taught this principle repeatedly in the Gospels. We see this in Mark 12:31 – you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Paul reaffirmed this in Romans 13 and Galatians 5 among other places. We see the Apostle John writing of this in his epistle 1 John 2.

Of any commandment, this may seem to be the least likely to be a new commandment. Yet that’s what Jesus says.

So how is this a new commandment?

First, we see that there’s a new, more expansive object to the commandment. It’s no longer acceptable just to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus expands this. See, the Jews tried to restrict the command to love your neighbor by putting qualifications on who was your neighbor.

You can think back to Luke 10 and the lawyer, the parable of the Good Samaritan, and who is my neighbor?

But here Jesus continues to expand the understanding and the application of this commandment by replacing neighbors with something much more broad, one another. You can’t misinterpret “one another.” Love your neighbor as yourself. Yes, but now the object of the commandment is even larger, more expansive – love one another. So there’s a new object to this new commandment.

But there’s also a new measure. What was “treat others the way that you want to be treated” or “love your neighbor as yourself” has now been replaced with this – love one another just as I have loved you.

Jesus now says that He Himself is the true standard, the true measure of how we are to treat one another, how we are to love one another. Love one another just as I have loved you. You can only imagine the disciples having an immediate picture of what just happened at the first half of John 13. Jesus on His hands and knees, with His hands in the basin, washing and scrubbing their feet, “just as I have loved you.”

No longer is mankind the measure of love, but we are to love one another just as Jesus loved these 12 men and demonstrated that love in John 13 1 through 17. It’s a radical standard of love, “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

My wife will probably not like me saying this but I remember early in my marriage Amy and I went through the somewhat popular five love languages by Gary Chapman. It has some very helpful, practical tools out there. I’m not trying to say anything negative about it. It can help us move from how do I want to be loved to how does my spouse want to be loved, but I must admit it probably wasn’t very helpful to my wonderful wife as we walked through this. Because as we went through I realized I don’t really like any of these love languages personally.

Word of affirmation. That’s not bad. Who doesn’t like a pat on the back.

Acts of service, though, not unless you are loading the dishwasher exactly the way that I want you to load the dishwasher.

Quality time. Maybe, maybe not.

Physical touch. Yeesh, no, thank you.

Gifts. Well, who wouldn’t just prefer cash?

I’m convinced that there has to be a sixth love language out there that we just haven’t discovered yet, and that one is mine.

But what we see here is the standard cannot be “how do I want to be loved” or “how do I want to love others.” It’s not even enough to say “how do they want to be loved.” We are called to love others just the way that Jesus loved us. That’s a radical proposition, one that we need the Lord’s help in. One that we should continually come to Him and say, “Jesus, help me love others like You have loved them.”

Friends, that is really hard. You can see how almost each and every day you could stop and ask yourself that very question – am I loving others the way that Jesus would have me love them? Do I love my spouse as Jesus would have me love them? Do I love my children as Jesus would have me love them? Do I love my neighbors as Jesus would have me love them? Do I love my coworkers as Jesus would have me love them? Do I love my enemies as Jesus would have me love them? Do I love those who would try to destroy me, who would try to ridicule me, mock me? Do I love them the way that Jesus would have me love them? When they laugh at my Christianity, when they exclude me from the places of influence?

You see, when we stop and reflect on how we love others, we know that we inevitably fall short of this standard. Each and every one of us knows that we do not love the way that Jesus loves and never will.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t strive, we can’t work, we can’t put forth effort, we can’t pray, we can’t ask God’s help. But when we do fall short, when we don’t measure up, we know that we have a Savior who always did, “just as I have loved you.”

That should beg the question of us. Well, Jesus, how did You love? How were You loving? If this is now the standard for how I should treat others, should love others, how did You love? How did Jesus love? What did the love of Jesus look like?

There are many things that could be said about how Jesus loved. You could scan the pages of Scripture and each and every page find a different way that points us back to the love of Christ. Even in this passage we could observe so many aspects of His love. He spent time with those He loved. He taught them. He shared a meal with them. He served them. He pointed them to the Father. He set for them a worthy example of service. There are so many things that Jesus did to love them in this chapter.

But I want to focus on one or two. Look back with me at verse 1 in chapter 13, Pastor Tom read this morning. You ask the question of how did Jesus love. We didn’t read this as a part of our passage, but it does give us a glimpse into what it meant for Jesus to love. Love one another just as I have loved you.

So we go back to verse 1. 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 loved them to the end. What does the love of Jesus look like? There are many things again that we could say about this, but at least from verse 1 we know that the love of Christ never gives up, never quits, never throws in the towel. It’s unending and unchanging. What we see here is that Jesus’ love has no end. Here was Jesus, mere hours away from His arrest and trial and execution, and Jesus is loving His friends until the very end. He is stooping down to wash their feet and cleanse them. Jesus loved these men.

He was concerned for them. Verse 21 says that Jesus was troubled in His spirit. The same word is used a few chapters earlier when it comes, when Jesus comes late to see Lazarus. John 11:32 and 33 – Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here my brother would not have been dead. And when Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled.”

Again we see the same word used in John 12:27 when Jesus is speaking of the road to Calvary – now My soul is troubled and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour, but for this purpose I have come to this hour.

Jesus is troubled in His spirit for these men that He so dearly loves, that He is loving until the very end. He is troubled for them, and He’s troubled for one in particular. Notice again, again Pastor Tom pointed this out this morning, who He is loving until the very end. He’s loving all of them, all 12. Even Judas. So He gets down and washes Peter’s feet and John’s feet and Matthew’s feet and Andrew’s feet and Philip’s feet and on and on and on and on and on and He washes Judas’ feet.

One pastor says on the eve of the cross, just a few hours before He was going to be crucified, our Lord’s heart was troubled, but not for Himself, for another, specifically for the one who was going to deliver Him to death.

So here is Jesus knowing full well that Judas is about to betray Him and yet He’s still offering Himself to him. He hasn’t quite given up on Judas. Even in this passage, He’s still offering Judas a way to be clean. He tells them that he’s unclean in verse 10, “the one who is bathed does not need to wash except for his feet but is completely clean, and you are clean, but not every one of you.” Judas, you’re not clean. Judas, I know what you’re here to do, but I’m still here and you can still be clean.

Verse 18 – He who ate My bread has lifted his heel against me.

Jesus is quoting Psalm 41, which we read from earlier. He’s giving warning after warning after warning, making Himself available until the very end, telling him there’s still time to turn, there’s still time to repent, to be washed and cleaned, Judas, if you would only say the word.

So for us here and now, this should cause us to marvel at how great the love of God is, up until the very end, even until the last moment, His hand of salvation is offered to His betrayer. Even in the face of the worst betrayal imaginable, Jesus is still offering Himself to sinners.

Illustrations inevitably fall short, but there is something of an illustration of marital infidelity here. With one spouse knowing the other has been unfaithful, knowing that they’ve strayed, knowing that their heart has gone cold, and yet waiting patiently and praying and offering themselves, might they turn back, might they repent and come back.

Friends, the love of Jesus never runs dry. His offer of love is always there. His heart was there for these men, all 12 of these men here. He loved them to the end and His free offer of grace and mercy and unconditional love extends to us here tonight. It’s extended to you, it’s extended to me.

There may be those here tonight who think that the love of God has been rescinded from them, that whatever you do you could never merit God’s love. Maybe there are some of you that think that even if I wanted the love of God, I would be rejected. Maybe the love of God has been rescinded, maybe it’s been rejected, but it’s not for me, and what we see here is that is not Jesus. He loved these men to the end, and so He will with you and with me if we would only let Him. He offered Himself even to Judas until the very end.

You can even notice who they were arranged. Though we aren’t told exactly the seating arrangements, there’s good reason to maybe believe that Judas was on Jesus’ immediate left. Some scholars even believe this to be the place of honor seating at a table. Now we know Jesus could have arranged the table however He wanted, but might it be that He purposely seated His betrayer right in the seat of honor, right next to Him? You see, unlike da Vinci’s portrayal of the Last Supper, they’re not sitting kind of Indian style, sitting right up. They’re kind of leaning, very awkwardly, as if you’ve ever done that, you’re just kind of leaning. You’re on your left side at the table, eating. Very odd for us to think about. Not in Jesus’ day.

But it was so that Jesus’ head was maybe right in Judas’ chest, all night. So every bite He took, every sip He had of wine, Jesus is literally right there. You could literal say that Jesus was in Judas’ hands that night. It was a vulnerable, intimate setting, one in which Jesus wanted Judas right beside Him.

Kent Hughes points out that in the culture at that time it was to take a morsel from the table, to dip it in a common dish, and to offer it to someone else was a special gesture of friendship. We can think back to the story of Ruth and Boaz. Boaz invites Ruth to come and eat some bread and dip your morsel.

Jesus was reaching out to Judas. He was saying, “Judas, here is My friendship, here is restoration. Judas, here is My heart. All you have to do is take it, old friend. Will you?”

We know that Judas refuses. We know that his heart was hardened. We know that the devil had already put it into his heart as verse 2 says, but it isn’t until the final rejection where Satan enters him in verse 27 – then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him, in verse 27.

Friends, I don’t know each and every one of your stories, it’s impossible to know everyone in a room as large as this, but I don’t know where you’re coming from, but I do know this – that Judas’ story does not have to be your story here tonight. None of us will ever be in the position of Judas. We don’t need to make that mistake. But all of us are tempted in some form and fashion to betray our Lord. It may not be as bold for silver, but it might be a little more subtle. Maybe for tiny grabs of power, maybe tiny grabs of prestige and acceptance of our peers. Maybe we’re tempted to betray Jesus just for sheer pleasure. All of us will face temptation to betray our Lord to varying degrees because we are all sinners, and yet Judas tells us something, especially in a room like this. Judas’ life should stop us in our tracks because the reality is that when we look at Judas’ life, we see someone who walked with Jesus, who listened to Jesus, who followed Jesus for a season, who served Jesus and who even sat right next to Jesus, all without embracing the love of Jesus.

Yet the hand of Jesus is still extended to him. The offer of salvation is still there for him. Judas’ story does not have to be your story here tonight because all Judas had to do was turn from the path he was one and ask for Jesus and Jesus would have given Himself.

Verse 30 we find this rather ominous sentence – “and it was night.”

The clock had struck midnight in Judas’ heart. He had rejected the love of Christ.

Friends, if you are here tonight and you find yourself far from Jesus, far from the Gospel, this does not have to be your story. It does not have to be night in your soul this evening. Judas rejected the love of God, but you do not have to because the love of Jesus never ends. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another just as I have love you.

When we think about this new commandment, our passage gives us three pictures as to what this means. We’ve already looked at two of them. We see Jesus as the perfect embodiment, the perfect fulfillment of the law, loving until the very end, perfectly fulfilling this great new commandment.

On the other end we see Judas as the one who would reject the love of Christ, betray the Son of God.

But there is one more picture that we see in our passage here tonight, one more encounter with this new commandment, and that’s Peter. Pastor Tom mentioned this in his morning sermon. There are three characters named in this passage – Jesus, Judas, and Peter.

Chapter 13 is not Peter’s best look. He starts by refusing Jesus’ initiation to wash his feet. Verse 8 – you shall never wash my feet. He then quickly reverses course, kind of fumbles through, and asks Jesus, fine, if You’re going to wash my feet, wash everything about me, but also my hands and my head.

We see Peter in the middle of the chapter. Normally he’s the one that speaks up, but he’s very timid and shy in this setting and he asks John, “hey, John, would you ask Jesus what’s going on here?”

Then we finish the chapter with this picture of Jesus foretelling Peter’s denial. Verse 37 – Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for You. And Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow until you have denied Me three times.”

Safe to say that Peter’s a bit presumptuous from time to time. He’s loud, he’s boisterous, at times he’s a leader, he’s full of great faith, he makes great declarations. Like in John 6 – Lord, You have the words of eternal life. Mark 8 – You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

He steps out on water, yet he’s also the one that quickly begins to sink. He speaks before he thinks. He’s prone to pride, a bit of arrogance, probably self-reliance. Peter’s story goes beyond the scope of our passage here in John 13 tonight. But at least the way that chapter 13 ends, it leaves us wondering, “Is Peter really that dissimilar from Judas?”

True, Judas’ betrayal was a whole different category. It was a very active one. It was an act in which he initiated this betrayal of Jesus by turning Him over, and Peter’s denial is a little bit different. It’s more passive in which he’s confronted with his identification with Jesus and he in turn he denied, and he failed the test. But in some sense they’re not that dissimilar.

A new commandment was given and they both failed. Yet we know that Peter’s story did not play out like Judas’. The devil never grabbed ahold of Peter like he did Judas. The devil never entered into Peter like he did Judas. Yes, Peter would fail, but he would not fall like Judas.

Why is that? Why is Peter’s story different than Judas’ story when at least in chapter 13 we see some semblance of similarity between the two? They were both of kind of going down the same path, but one goes left and the other goes right. Why is that?

It’s because Peter repented and Judas would not. Peter recognized his failures and he was broken over them. Judas’ failures only hardened his heart even more. Peter’s failure never overtook him. Judas’ failure consumed him to the point where he took his own life. Judas gives us one way to go, Peter gives us the other way to go. For as often as Peter got things wrong, for as often as Peter spoke up before he knew what was going on, Peter loved Jesus.

We’ll get to chapter 21 later in the spring. We’ll see Peter’s restoration. But let us not miss that there was not one man who betrayed Jesus in the passage – there were two who were sitting at that table who would deny him.

I mentioned it earlier. If you’re far from Christ, if you feel like you’ve failed Him, you’ve fallen, you do not have to end up like Judas, because the love of Christ is here tonight and Jesus continues to extend His hand to you. Your story does not have to be Judas’ story, it can be Peter’s. A story that, yes, includes sin and failure and even temporary betrayal, but ultimately it’s a story marked by grace, by repentance, by restoration.

Why is that? Why is Peter’s story so much different than Judas’? It’s because Peter got the love of Christ. He knew Christ loved him and it transformed his life. He received the love of Christ and it controlled him. Maybe that’s why Peter wrote this later in his life – above all, keep loving one another since love covers a multitude of sins.

Maybe in the back of Peter’s mind was this new commandment Jesus gave the night before He would die. Maybe in the back of Peter’s mind was this new commandment that Jesus had lived out and demonstrated before him. Maybe in the back of Peter’s mind were Jesus’ words to him in John 21 – Simon, son of John, do you love Me?

And how did Peter respond? O Lord, You know everything. You know that I love You.

Tonight may we marvel at the love of Jesus and may we be like Peter, who received the love of Jesus and in turn may we live out this new commandment to love one another just as Jesus has loved us. Amen.

Let’s pray. Lord, when we think of Your love for us, Lord, we have to ask, why us? Why would You choose to love us? For that we may have no answer. Yet, Lord, Your love extends to us nonetheless. So we give You thanks and praise. We pray for those here tonight who are maybe wandering, who are far, maybe friends or family who are far from the love of Christ, who have rejected God’s love. We pray, God, that You would bring them back, that the love of Christ may be manifest in their life and may take hold of it. We pray that You would help us to grow deeper in the love of Christ each and every day. We thank You again for Your Word and we thank You for Your great love for us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.