John Bible Study (That You May Believe)

John 13:21-38, All People Will Know You Are My Disciples

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The scene in the upper room continues. Jesus has finished washing the feet of the disciples. He has noted that there is one who has lifted his heel against the Lord (13:18). In verse 21 Jesus makes this truth very clear to the rest of the apostles. “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” Notice that this is not an easy thing for Jesus to say. Jesus is not impervious or emotionless concerning the fact that one of his close companions is his betrayer. Verse 21 says that Jesus was “troubled in his spirit.” This is a hard moment. This is the night of his betrayal. Interestingly, none of the disciples know who Jesus is speaking about. No one knows about Judas. No one declares that they always thought Judas was a scoundrel. No one knows who could possibly be the betrayer.

Peter wants to know who this betrayer is. So Peter motions to the disciple whom Jesus loved (which we think is John) to find out who Jesus is talking about. So John leans against Jesus and asks, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus answers that it is the one who he gives this bread to. Then Jesus hands the bread to Judas.  The dipping of bread into the sop and handing it to another has cultural significance as a sign of honor or friendship. This is another gesture of love toward Judas. However, Judas is unmoved by the act of service of Jesus, the act of love, and the act of honor and friendship toward Judas. Now it seems that the question and the answer were given quietly because no one knows why Jesus says to Judas, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” No one knows why Judas is leaving. They think that Judas is going to buy more things to prepare for tomorrow’s Passover meal. So the temptation now seizes Judas. We saw at the beginning of John 13 that Satan put the temptation into the heart of Judas to betray Jesus. Now verse 27 is not telling us something mystical happened or Satan caused Judas to do something outside of his will. Rather, this act of friendship by Jesus does not draw Judas to the Lord but away from the Lord. Now Judas confirms in his heart that he will do exactly what has been dancing around in his mind. He will betray the Lord. It is a time of wickedness and evil. Thus, John notes with great symbolism, “And it was night” (13:30). This is the spiritual reality that this moment. Now is the hour. The betrayer is at work. Things are in motion. Now is the hour for the glorification of Jesus.

The Glorification of God (13:31-33)

What makes Jesus glorious is how his life was all about God’s glory. God’s glory was displayed in the perfect obedience of the Son and the perfect revelation of the Father to humanity. God’s glory has been revealed in Jesus. Jesus viewed his death in terms of the glorification of the Father that would result from it. If it will give the Father glory, Jesus will do it no matter the cost. Five times Jesus uses the words “glorify” or “glorified.” It is all about the glory of the Father. Remember what the apostle Paul taught us in Ephesians. We are to be the to praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:12). God is to be glorified in us. How can God be glorified in our lives? Ephesians showed us a few ways but John wants to emphasize one way.

All People Will Know That You Are My Disciples (13:34-35)

Jesus says he gives his disciples a new commandment. The command to love one another is nothing new. Leviticus 19:18 is where we read the command given, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” So there is nothing new about the command to love one another. But here is what is new about this command: “Love one another, just as I have loved you.” The commandment is new because Jesus has exemplified what it means to love one another. Christ’s love for us becomes the new basis for what love looks like and what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves. We have never seen love in action like this until we see Jesus. Now we are able to see what it means to love one another. Notice how Jesus says this in verse 34. “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Think about what Jesus just said this command looked like. “Just as Jesus loved his disciples” becomes the standard by which we are to love one another.

Verse 35 becomes the point that we need to consider this morning. This kind of love is the mark of discipleship. Love will be how all people will know we are Jesus’ disciples. Going to a church building on Sunday is not the mark. Trying to be a good person is not the mark. Love for others is to be the reflection of our new status as God’s children. This new community that exists because we have been redeemed through the blood of Jesus has a trait that all people can see. The trait is not merely love. The trait is loving one another just as Jesus loved us. This is not a warm feeling for other people. Love is giving ourselves as seen through Jesus in footwashing and in the cross. To put together what we have seen in this chapter: God is glorified when we love others like Jesus loved us. We saw in our last lesson that Jesus showed amazing, humble, self-sacrificing service. Jesus showed a complete disregard for himself, who he is, his status, and his position and gave himself for us.

Think about what one of the biggest criticism there is against Christianity in the world. Isn’t the criticism that Christians do not show love? Now, I recognize that there are false criticisms. It is love to tell people that if they continue living their lives the way that they are they are going to lose their souls and suffer eternal punishment. I am not loving you if I do not tell you that the wrath of God stands against us all if we do not come to Jesus. I also recognize that people use the lame excuse that the church is full of hypocrites. I have no problem with that criticism. I do not live up to what God has called us to do. I do not love like Jesus commands me to love in this text. That does not mean I am not trying. But I am not going to lie to anyone and suggest that I obey God perfectly. I would not need Jesus if I did. Being God’s people means admitting that we are a bunch of sinners in need of forgiveness by God. So the excuse of hypocrisy will not work because no one is exempt for this charge.

But what I think we must consider is if we really look different to the world through the love we show toward one another. By showing self-sacrificing love and humility, we show the world that we are disciples of Jesus. Think about what this looks like in practice. In marriages, the love that spouses show for each other, humbly submitting and serving each other will show the world that both of you are disciples of Jesus. In family, the love that is shown for parents and children, humbly serving and doing what is in each other’s best interests will show the world that we are disciples of Jesus. In our assemblies and when Christians come together, humbly submitting and serving each other will show the world that we are disciples of Jesus. Remember who Jesus showed this love to in this room. Jesus washed the feet of Judas, his betrayer. Even the one who had lifted his heel against Jesus would be the recipient of Jesus’ humble service and amazing love.

Now let us consider one more aspect of this command before we move on. If the world is to know that we are Jesus’ disciples by this love, then this demands that this love is not contained inside our homes or inside this building. All people will not know we are his disciples if our love is not seen outside of these facilities. Let us add this to our thinking: God is glorified by showing love outside of these walls to the world so they can see we are disciples of Jesus. We must live in such a way so that all people will know that we are disciples.

Do you know what I do sometimes? I try to live in a way so that people will not know that I am a disciple. I get afraid. I get discouraged. I get nervous. So rather than living my life so that all people will know that I am a disciple of Jesus, I live so that no one will know that I am a disciple. I try to blend into the world. I try to act like the world. I dress like the world. I talk like the world. I don’t want to stand out. But doing this is denying Jesus as my Master and Teacher. Jesus says that the goal is to let all people know that we are his disciples. We do not let the world know this to draw attention to ourselves. We do not let all people know to boast in ourselves. We let all people know that we are disciples so that God is glorified through our loving other people. How do we get to this goal? We have to completely deny ourselves. We have to stop thinking about ourselves and acting for ourselves. This is what we learn at the end of this chapter.

Following Jesus (13:36-38)

Peter seizes on something Jesus says. Jesus said, “Where I am going you cannot come” (13:33). Peter asks where Jesus is going. Jesus tells them that they cannot follow Jesus now, but afterward they will follow him. Peter seems to be perceptive about what Jesus is saying. Peter responds in verse 37. “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Peter understands that Jesus makes a spiritual declaration. Peter understands what following Jesus now means. Peter says he will go to the death for Jesus. Jesus has said that these disciples cannot follow him now, but they will follow him in this manner later. They won’t give their lives now for Jesus. But they will later, after the resurrection. Peter is going to deny Jesus now but will follow Jesus to his death in the future. Here is the point: the disciples were not ready yet to follow Jesus all the way.

Conclusion

All people will know we are disciples of Jesus when we go all the way in self-denial. This is the only way to love. This is the love Jesus showed us. This is the love that is the new commandment to our lives. God is glorified when you love others like Jesus loved you. We will do this when we live for God and not for self. Go all the way giving your life completely to Jesus so that people will see Jesus in you.

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