Extraordinary love for extraordinary times
EXTRA-ORDINARY LOVE FOR EXTRAORDINARY TIMES(JN 13:35)
Covid-19 will call for extraordinary love among believers which is
1: Unconditional (Jn 13:16-30)
2: Sacrificial (Jn 13:31-35)
3: Supernatural (Jn 13:36-38)
This is our 4th week of being in a state of lockdown in South Africa. From the feedback we’ve been receiving it seems inevitable that the Coronavirus will sweep through our nation, many lives will be lost over the coming months and our economy will be plunged even deeper into recession. These weeks of lockdown have slowed things down and given the government some time to prepare for what lies ahead. Hopefully they are serving the same function for us as a church – giving us time with our families, giving us time to pray, giving us time to prepare for what lies ahead so that we can glorify God in it and through it.
Over the last 3 weeks I’ve tried to summarize what our response to this pandemic should be as Christians using a key word and a key passage.
· Week 1 we looked at Ps 29 and the key word was worship. As Christians we must see that God is sovereign over it all, in it all, through it all and look up to our God in the midst of the storm and worship Him through it all.
· Week 2 we looked at Phil 4 and the key word was faith. As Christians we need to trust God through this pandemic, to rely on Him for the peace, the power, the provision we need, and Phil 4 made it very practical how we should do that.
· Week 3 we celebrated Easter and looked at 1 Cor 15 and the key word was hope. As Christians we need to fix our hope on Jesus Christ. In a very real sense we were reminded that this pandemic has changed nothing important – Jesus has still died and risen and is coming again. Our eternal home and inheritance is still secure – and nothing that happens in the weeks and months that lie ahead is going to change any of these eternal realities.
This morning I want to look at Jn 13:35 and its surrounding context. I’ve called this message “Extraordinary love for extraordinary times.” The key word which summarizes how we as Christians should be responding to this pandemic, is the word “love.” We are living in extraordinary times which are going to call for extraordinary acts of sacrificial love.
Let’s go to the key text and then we’ll work out from it to put the text in its right context. Read: Jn 13:34-35
A new Commandment
To love – is hardly a new commandment. When God gave the Law He commanded Israel to love Him with all their heart, soul, mind and strength (Deut 6) and in Lev 19:18 they are commanded to love their neighbour as themselves. The Jews had long recognized that the entire law was summed up in these two commands – love God and love neighbour. So the command to love is not new. The kind of love is new.
the kind of love: “As I have loved you”
• This what is new – love one another, as I have loved you.
• Completely, to the uttermost, sacrificially – as I have laid down my life for you, so you are to lay down your life for one another.
• This is not love your neighbour as yourself – this is love your neigbour more than yourself. Love them to your own detriment.
• Read : Jn 15:12-14 – Jesus explains
• This is clearly how John understood Jesus' statement because he writes in 1 Jn ESV 1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
• To love is not new – to love in this way is new, to love to this extent is new
the objects of love: One Another
• Who they are to love is new – one another. Christ is bringing into existence a new covenant community, a community of disciples – a community of believers who have been drawn by Christ’s love and are compelled to live out this same love
• This is what Paul was speaking about in 2 Cor 5:14 when He said, the love of Christ constrains us, it controls us, it directs us irresistibly and uncontrollably to love those whom Christ loved.
The mark of true discipleship
• This is the mark of true discipleship – love for the disciples of Christ. This is what will characterize this New covenant community – love for each other.
• This theme dominates the closing chapters of John
◦ John uses the term “love” 56 times, more than any other writer.
◦ He uses it 12 times in first 12 chapters. 44 times from chapter 13 onwards.
◦ As John seeks to help us understand who Jesus is and what it means to believe in Him – the main idea is unequivocally the love of Christ demonstrated in the cross and the love of Christ lived out in the manner of the cross.
• We take this way too lightly, way too lightly!
◦ What does a Jew look like? You can look at a person and say, Oh, you are a Jew, you have those long tassels because you don't cut your sideburns, you wear those clothes, you have that hat on your head, you have the law bound on tassels on your clothes, you eat these foods, you keep these festivals, you perform these rituals – all of this marks you out as a Jew.
◦ Christians don’t have a distinct dress code, or hairstyle, or diet, or religious practise. We are an incredibly diverse group of people from all kinds of languages and economic brackets and cultures – the one distinguishing feature – the one sure mark = our extraordinary love!
◦ What allows the world to look at us and immediately say – they must be Christians.... our love for each other
So let’s look at the context before and after to draw out the distinguishing features of this love. 3 characteristics of extraordinary Christian love
1: It is unconditional 2: It is sacrificial 3: It is supernatural.
1: Ext.. Christian love is unconditional (13:16-30)
What has happened before this statement in Jn 13:35? The last supper, the last meal before Jesus is betrayed and crucified for sin. John doesn’t record any of the events of the last supper, he doesn’t record the meal, the breaking of bread, this is my body broken for you….What he does record is Jesus washing His disciples feet. For John, even more than the Passover meal, this is what represents the love of Christ in the cross.
Read Jn 13:1-6: This foot washing for John, was the most vivid image of what Jesus was about to do in the events of the cross, to humble himself and become their slaves, to wash them of the filth that they had accumulated from their daily walk in this world.
This was the demonstration of Jesus’ love, not just that He washed dirt from their feet with water on that night, but that he washed sin from their souls with His blood on the next day…..
The foot washing was shocking, but the cross that it pointed to, was even more shocking.
Notice what John keeps emphasizing throughout this narrative – Jesus loved his own to the very end, even Judas. Even Judas. The unconditional nature of Jesus love was most shocking to John….He did this, even for the one who was about to betray Him.
So we pick up the narrative in vs 16.
Read Jn 13:16-20
16: If the master, the Lord of the house, the king of the universe was to glorify God by laying down his life at the cross – surely the slaves should not expect to be above such service…. Do you believe that God is calling us to the same kind of extraordinary love as we see in the cross? We are never more like Christ than when we are giving ourselves in unconditional, sacrificial love for others…
17: Blessed are you if you do them. Knowing this is useless, doing this is fruitful. This is how we will come to know and experience God’s blessing. Do you believe that we know God’s blessing, God’s fullness, God’s fruitfulness as we love one another in this unconditional, sacrificial way? I think many of us still believe it is more blessed to have and to receive than to give what I have.
18-19: Not all of you will do what I am saying and be blessed. I know that because I know each of you, I even know that one of you will betray me and the rest of you abandon me. I’m telling you this beforehand so that you will know that I know. What is shocking about the events of the next day is not just Jesus extraordinary love, but the disciples lack of love. That is what makes Jesus love that much more shocking – is that He knew them, He knew what was in their hearts, He knew the one who was about to betray Him and He loved them anyway. For John its’ not the only the sacrificial nature of Christ’s love that is extraordinary, but the unconditional nature of it.
Read Jn 13:21-30
· As Jesus is busy saying these things, doing these things, laying down his life, sharing this last special meal with his closest friends – there is one among them who is busy plotting and planning to have Jesus arrested and killed for money. And Jesus knows exactly who that is AND HE LOVES HIM ANYWAY.
· He doesn’t exclude Judas from any of the proceedings of that night, its like Christ is trying to win him over with one last extraordinary display of love as he washes his disciples feet and comes to Judas and washes his feet too – knowing. That is what John wants us to sense the weight of – Jesus knowing…. That’s how be began chapter 13 Jesus loved his own and he loved them to the end – knowing that the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas to betray him, he loved him anyway.
· 22 the disciples all look around at one another in shock – who can it be. They don’t understand the sin and weakness that lies in their own hearts, that it could be any one of them, that in some sense it was all of them. But Jesus knows.
· 23 Notice how John likes to refer to himself. This became His badge of honour – don’t call me John, just call me the disciple whom Jesus loved. He delighted in being called that because he understood it said nothing about his dignity or worth – it said everything about the nature of Christ’s unconditional love.
· 24-25 If you put the parallel accounts together you will see here that John is on his right, Peter therefore asks John to ask Jesus to identify the one who would betray him.
· 26 Jesus turns to Judas and dips the morsel and gives it to him. This was part of the Passover celebrations. The host would dip symbolic herbs in a bowl of salt water to symbolize the bitterness of their bondage in Egypt. He would then give it to the honoured guest on his left and he would in turn pass it around the table until all the guests had dipped. So in one sense Jesus was saying – who is going to betray me? All of you. But by the timing of Jesus’ words and actions, He was identifying Judas in particular. Of course they could only realize afterwards that as Jesus handed the bowl to Judas he said these things, knowing full well who he was handing the bowl to first and foremost.
· Judas was the honoured guest, seated at his left and as Jesus is giving him this special place of fellowship and intimacy, and washing his feet and saying these things – Judas gets up to go betray Jesus and Jesus knows. Vs 28 no-one else knows but vs 27 Jesus knows…and He loved him anyway. He loved him to the end, he loved him and honoured him and served him and engaged him and drew him into fellowship, even while He was in the act of betraying Jesus….
Now you can understand why John had no problem calling himself the disciple whom Jesus loved – because he understood that statement said nothing about him and everything about the nature of Jesus unconditional love.
So now I want to go back up to the verse I skipped, vs 20. Because I think we now have context to understand it. Let’s work backwards. Who is the one who sent Jesus? God. How do we receive God? How do we know God and fellowship withHim? By receiving Jesus. No-one comes to the father but through me Jn 14:6. How do we receive Jesus? How do we know Jesus and intimacy with Jesus? Two key words:
· “whomever” – showing unconditional love to whomever Jesus sends us in His name, fits us to know His unconditional love, which fits us to know the love of the Father who sent Him.
· I send – the people Jesus calls us to love, along with their needs and issues – the ones who have been specifically sent by Jesus to test our love, to strengthen our love, so that we can know God’s blessings more fully.
Do you believe this? That is going to be tested in the next few weeks. Will we show unconditional love for whomever. Will we love them, just because Jesus loves them. Will we receive them from Jesus hand as blessings, as channels through whom we can come to know His own love more deeply? They are the ones Jesus sent me, these are the opportunities Jesus has given me. This situation is tailor made for me, these needs are my privilege and opportunity – to love with Jesus love and to come to know His love more deeply as a result.
To receive, to welcome, to embrace with both arms, whomever Jesus sends us to test our love - is to receive Jesus and to rejects whomever He sends is to reject Jesus – that is the meaning and force of vs 20.
Extraordinary christian love is unconditional – secondly it is sacrificial
2: ext. christian love is sacrificial (31-33)
• Now is the son of man glorified. Now refers to what? The cross. (12:23-24, 12:27-28; 13:1)
• This is the glory of Christ, this is the glory of God = the cross.
• Please hear this statement as it ought to be heard!
◦ The infinite value of God, the infinite power of God, the infinite goodness of God, the infinite justice of God, the infinite excellence of God, the infinite wisdom of God, the infinite love and mercy of God – is shown most clearly in this hour, this blood event –
◦ When God demonstrates His infinite wisdom and providence in designing and executing such an astounding plan.
◦ when God the Son offers His infinite goodness as the perfect sacrifice for sin.
◦ When God the Father demonstrates His infinite justice by pouring out His wrath upon His beloved Son.
◦ When God the Spirit demonstrates His infinite power in raising Christ from the dead.
◦ When God, who is Father, Son and Spirit demonstrates His infinite love and mercy in doing all this for rebellious sinners such as you and I.
◦ In the cross of Christ, we have the holiness of God explicated, the wisdom of God vindicated, the wrath of God propitiated, the power of God demonstrated and the love of God radiated
Now you can understand why Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me let him renounce himself and take up His cross and follow me.” The cross is what glorifies God the most – that is why He planned it for Christ, why Christ embraced it for himself and why He commanded us to take it up for ourselves.
We are never more like Christ then when we are like Him in His self-sacrificing death….
Do you believe that? That is going to be tested in the coming weeks and months. Its not going to be possible to love each other from the comfort of our homes holding onto our financial security in the one hand and our health with the other. We must relinquish these, to lay hold of each other with Christ’s self-sacrificing love.
Glorified at once (31-32)
• Vs 31 Christ is glorified in the cross and God the Father is glorified in Christ through His death.
• 32a If God the Father is so glorified in Christ in His death (and He is) – then God the Father will also glorify him (that is Christ)
• Christ glorified God in His death – so God will glorify Christ...and glorify him at once.
There is no delay in God’s response to Christ’s sacrifice. As Christ glorifies God by laying down His life , so the Father glorifies Him by raising Him up to the highest place of honour.
• This is Christ's confident assertion – that as he glorifies the Father by laying down His life, so the Father will be glorified and will glorify the Son by raising Him up to glory.
That is what allows Christ to lay down His life – the confidence, the sure knowledge – that God the Father will be glorified through His sacrifice and will in turn glorify, raise up and reward Him at once.
And that is the same confidence we can have as we lay down our lives to glorify Christ. If God sees, God knows, God rewards – then is any sacrifice too great?
The extraordinary love of a Christian is unconditional, sacrificial, and finally – supernatural.
3: Christian love is supernatural (13:36-38)
Peter can't get his mind off the fact that Christ said he is going away. He is hardly listening to Jesus at this point, because he has got stuck on what Jesus said about leaving them. Jesus says, you can't go now, but you will follow.
Peter says – why can't a follow, I will lay down my life for you...
This is Peter as we know Him – zeal without knowledge.
• Peter undoutedly meant this and intended this completely.
• Peter undoubtedly believed that he really would lay down his life for Christ. That he really would be willing to do anything for Christ.
• Peter was willing, Peter was zealous, Peter was determined – but Peter was weak. He simply did not have it in himself to do what it takes.
• That is a danger we all face. When we hear about how we must love one another we say, “We must do it.” Let's go for it. Lets follow Christ's example and lay down our lives for one another.
• Christ has just commanded the disciples to love one another as He has loved them – in other words to lay down their lives for one another.
• Now Peter wants to do just that for Christ. It's really the same thing isn't it? To lay down our lives for others, for Christ – I mean that is why we love others because we love Christ, why we are willing to sacrifice our lives for others because its ultimately for Christ that we are laying down our lives.
• 38: Yet look what Christ says here, “Peter, will you lay down your life for me.” Peter you can't do this...
• John is being deeply ironic here, he is showing the depth of self-confidence, the blinding self-belief that is in all of us...
• Here Jesus is about to lay down His life for the disciples and Peter is so full of himself that He puts Himself in the place of the Saviour, He reverses the roles, He paints himself as the one who is ready and able to lay down His life for Christ – when really Jesus is the one who is about to lay down His life for Peter...
• Will you lay down your life for me... before daybreak you will have failed in this endevour no less than three times.
• Friends, we cannot even begin to live out the love of Christ before we have been humbled by the love of Christ. Before we have come to the end of ourselves, before we have seen our utter weakness and inability, before we know without a shadow of a doubt that it is only Christ in me that can produce Christ's love in me!
• We must first believe before we can obey, we must first receive before we can give, we must first die to faith in ourselves before we can live by faith in God. We must be humbled by the love of Christ for me before we can live by the love of Christ in me.
This is more than nice sounding poetry – this is absolutely essential that we get this. It takes the death of Christ for me, to produce the love of Christ in me.
What does this mean practically?
• It means that I should not be motivated to go out into the world and lay down my life for Christ as a means of proving my love for Him. I am going to show Jesus just how much I love him – that's Peter before the cross – that's an invitation to failure.
• It means I am motivated to love as I am humbled by His love for me.
• As I contemplate His love for me, most clearly demonstrated in the cross, as I sit at the foot of the cross, I am increasingly humbled by my lack of love for Him and increasingly convinced of His incredible love for me. At the cross, and only at the cross, I am enabled to take my faith out of myself and my love for Him and place it instead in His love for me, His love in me, His love working through me.
• My love becomes a cross motivated love, a cross empowered love and a cross exalting love.
Why do you think Paul prays this prayer in Eph 3:14...
In these days, we need extrodinary faith, extraordinary hope, extraordinary love. We need the love of Christ to be in us and to flow through us so that when the world looks and says – wow, you Christians know what real love is, we can say – not I but Christ in me.
Let’s sing. A new commanment I give unto you.