Grace For The Journey
Yesterday we began to look at what love has to do with our Christian faith. In Monday’s blog we saw that love is one of the defining marks of a Christian. Today and tomorrow I want us to look at John 13:31-33 and see how the Bible how God’s love is to be expressed out in our lives.
A preacher once asked a class, “What do you do with the commandments in the Bible?” A little old lady raised her hand and answered, “I underline them in blue.” The pastor responded, “Okay, but then what do you do with them?” Underlining all the commandments in blue may help you spot them as you read your Bible. But the point of the commands in the Bible is that we obey them, not just underline them in blue.
If we were to rate ourselves on a scale of 1-10 on how well we obey the biblical command to love others, probably most of us would put down a 7 or 8. Maybe a few would dare to score a 9. A 10? Nobody’s perfect so we won’t go there! I have a hunch that most of us think, “You know, I’m a basically loving person, but I sure wish my wife (or kids, work associate, or friend) would be more loving.”
But, when you stop to think about the fine print in Jesus’ command, your ratings will plummet. Our Lord said in John 13:34, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” The “fine print” is that phrase, “even as I have loved you.”
That raises Christ’s command
Up to a Mt. Everest kind of command!
Very few make the summit of Everest,
But no one lives up there.
Likewise, on rare occasions, we may succeed in
Loving others as Christ loved us,
But none of us live there consistently.
It’s the same as God’s command that Paul wrote about in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her.”
You never reach a point where you can say,
“I’ve got that one down! Let’s move on to other things!”
These are commands that we’ve got to keep working on.
You may wonder, in what sense is Jesus’ command a new commandment? After all, the Bible commands in Leviticus 19:19, “… you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The entire Old Testament law is summed up by the two commandments, love God and love your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). So how is Jesus’ command new? I agree with most scholars who say that the newness of Jesus’ command is the new standard that He gives, “even as I have loved you.”
Jesus’ sacrificial love
In going to the cross for us
Is the new standard.
So the main idea of our text
Is fairly simple to state,
But impossible to live out consistently
Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit:
Jesus commands us to love one another even as He loved us. The crux of this command is to understand how Jesus loved us. I want to look at five aspects of this love from John 13:31-33 in my next two blogs:
- Jesus’ love was costly love.
John 13:31-32 says, “Therefore 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 will glorify Him immediately.’” This statement takes us back to John 12:23, where after hearing that some Greeks were seeking Him, Jesus said, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” As the context there makes clear, He was referring to His death on the cross. The cross glorified both Jesus and His Father (John 12:28).
On one level, the cross was the epitome of humiliation and shame. There was no worse way to die than to be stripped naked, flogged, and then nailed to a splintery cross and hung up to suffer a slow death as a public spectacle. But in another superior sense, the cross was the epitome of glory both for the Father and the Son.
To glorify God is to magnify or display His perfect attributes.
At the cross, God’s love, righteousness, justice, mercy,
And grace were magnified as at no other time in history.
At the cross, God’s justice was upheld as His sinless Son bore the awful penalty that His justice demanded for all sinners. His love and grace shine forth as He offers eternal life to all who will repent of their sin and trust in Jesus alone.
John 13:32 refers to Jesus’ resurrection and ascension: “… if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately.” The resurrection was God’s stamp of approval on Jesus’ death. Jesus’ ascension into heaven exalted Him again to God’s right hand, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:21).
But the point is, Jesus’ love as seen at the cross was costly. That theme is repeated over and over in the Bible . . .
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
Ephesians 52, “… walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.”
Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her ….”
1 John 3:16, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”
For Jesus to go to the cross was an act of supreme self-sacrifice. It was costly.
- Jesus’ love was caring love.
John 13:33 says, “Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’” We see Jesus’ tender care for His disciples here in two ways.
First, He addresses them as “little children.” This is the only time that this word is used in the Gospels. It is only used elsewhere in 1 John, where the apostle whom Jesus especially loved uses it seven times (2:1, 12, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21). It was a word of tender feelings, much as a parents have toward their children.
Second, we see Jesus’ tender care for His own in that He explains to them that He will be leaving them soon. They could not follow Him to heaven at that time, although, as He explains to Peter (John 13:36) and to all (John 14:1-4), they will follow later. The picture again is of a caring father explaining to his children that he has to go away for a while, and they can’t accompany him. But he promises that they will be reunited later. The point is, Jesus’ love was filled with tender feelings for His disciples.
There used to be a popular Bible teacher who emphasized knowing Bible doctrine above all else. He taught that biblical love is not a feeling, but rather a mental attitude. But in practice, he was rude, insensitive, and arrogant. Jesus’ love was not like that, and neither was Paul’s love. He wrote in 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, “But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having so fond an affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us.”
This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”