Imagine the scene; Jesus and the disciples are sharing a meal in a room hidden from the authorities, because by this time they know how unpopular Jesus is with the Scribes and Pharisees
The disciples think that Judas has perhaps gone for more food, but only Jesus knows the Judas has gone to betray Him. So this is it! And so Jesus is telling the disciples what they must do.
This passage mentions ‘glory’ four times:
(1) The glory of Jesus has come; and that glory is the Cross. The tension is gone; any doubts that remained about what happens next, have been finally removed. Judas has gone out, and the Cross is the next step. Here we are faced with a basic fact of life. The greatest glory in life is the glory which comes from sacrifice. In any warfare the supreme glory belongs, not to those who survive but to those who lay down their lives. As we hear at remembrance services:
“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them.”
In medicine it is not the physicians who made a fortune who are remembered; it is those who spent their lives that they might heal people. It is the simple lesson of history that those who have made the great sacrifices have entered into the great glory.
(2)In Jesus, God has been glorified. It was the obedience of Jesus which brought glory to God. There is only one way for a man or woman to show that they love and admire and trust a leader; and that is by obeying him, if need be to the bitter end. The only way in which a child can honour a parent is by obeying the parent. Jesus gave the supreme honour and the supreme glory to God, because he gave to God supreme obedience, even though it led to the Cross.
(3)In Jesus, God glorifies himself. It is a strange thought that the supreme glory of God lies in the Incarnation in the first place, and the Cross. There is no glory like that of being loved. Had God remained aloof and majestic, serene and unmoved, untouched by any sorrow and unhurt by any pain, men might have feared him and men might have admired him; but they would never have loved him. It is in the Incarnation and the Cross that God’s supreme glory is displayed.
(4)God will glorify Jesus. Here is the other side of the matter. At that moment the Cross was the glory of Jesus; but there was more to follow–the Resurrection; the Ascension; the full and final triumph of Christ, which is what the New Testament means when it talks of his Second Coming. In the Cross Jesus found his own glory; but the day came, and the day will come, when that glory will be demonstrated to all the world. The enthronement of Christ must follow his crucifixion; the crown of thorns must change into the crown of glory. It is the campaign of the Cross, but there will be a Second Coming. If this isn’t true, what is Christianity about, and why has it lasted for 2000 years?
THE FAREWELL COMMAND Jn. 13:33-35
Jesus was laying down his farewell commandment to his disciples. The time was short; if they were ever to hear his voice they must hear it now. He was going on a journey completely alone; he was taking a road that he had to walk alone; and before he went, he gave them the commandment that they must love one another as he had loved them. What does this mean for us, and for our relationships with our fellow men? How did Jesus love his disciples?
(1) He loved his disciples selflessly. Even in the noblest human love there remains some element of self. We may think–maybe unconsciously–of what we are to get out of it. We think of the happiness we will receive, or of the loneliness we will suffer if love fails or is denied. We may be thinking: What will this love do for me? So often at the back of things it is our happiness that we are seeking. But Jesus never thought of himself. His one desire was to give himself and all he had, for those he loved.
To some extent, this was shown by the way our local community pulled together during the recent power cuts.
(2) Jesus loved his disciples sacrificially. There was no limit to what his love would give or to where it would go. No demand that could be made upon it was too much. If love meant the Cross, Jesus was prepared to go there. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that love is meant to give us happiness. So in the end it does, but love may well bring pain and demand a cross. We make sacrifices for our children, even if theses sacrifices don’t always bring us happiness.
(3) Jesus loved his disciples understandingly. He knew his disciples through and through. We never really know people until we have lived with them. When we are meeting them only occasionally, we see them at their best. It is when we live with them that we find out their moods and their irritabilities and their weaknesses. Jesus had lived with his disciples day in and day out for many months and knew all that was to be known about them – if they had worn socks in those days, Jesus would have known how often they changed them – and he still loved them. Sometimes we say that love is blind. That is not so, for the love that is blind can end in nothing but bleak and utter disillusionment. Real love is open-eyed. It loves, not what it imagines a person to be, but what that person is. The heart of Jesus is big enough to love us as we are.
(4) Jesus loved his disciples forgivingly. The leading disciple was to deny him. They were all to forsake him in his hour of need. They never, at that time, really understood him. They were blind and insensitive, slow to learn, and lacking in understanding. In the end they were cowards. But Jesus held nothing against them; there was no failure which he could not forgive. The love which has not learned to forgive cannot survive. This is often experienced within families. For that very reason all enduring love must be built on forgiveness, for without forgiveness it is bound to die.
Fast-forward to Luke’s account in Acts. 11:1-10
The apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judaea heard that the Gentiles too had received the word of God. So when Peter came up to Jerusalem he was criticised because, they said, “You went in to men who were not Jews and you ate with them.” So Peter began at the beginning and told them the whole story. He said, “I was praying in the city of Joppa; in a trance I saw a vision. I saw a kind of vessel coming down like a great sheet let down by the four corners from heaven; and it came right down to me. I was gazing at it and trying to make out what it was and I saw on it the four-footed beasts of the earth and the wild beasts and the creeping animals and the animals that fly in the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter, kill and eat.’ I said, ‘By no means, Lord, because food which is common or unclean has never entered my mouth.’ Again the voice spoke from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed do not reckon as common.’ This happened three times; and they were all drawn up into heaven again.”
The importance that Luke attached to this incident is shown by the amount of space he devoted to it. In ancient times a writer had by no means unlimited space. The book form had not been devised. Writers used rolls of a material called papyrus. Now a roll is an unwieldy thing and he must have selected with the greatest care what he was going to set down; and yet he finds this story of such importance that he twice relates it in full.
Luke was right. We may not realise how near Christianity was to becoming only another kind of Judaism. All the first Christians were Jews and the whole tradition and outlook of Judaism would have made them inclined to keep this new wonder to themselves and to believe that God could not possibly have meant it for the Gentiles. Luke sees this incident as a notable mile-stone on the road along which the Church was groping its way to the idea of a world for Christ.
The fault for which Peter was initially on trial was that he had eaten with Gentiles. By so doing Peter had outraged the Law and traditions of his people. Peter’s defence was not an argument; it was a statement of the
facts. Whatever his critics might say, the Holy Spirit had come upon these Gentiles in the most notable way.
The proof of Christianity always lies in facts. It is doubtful if anyone has ever been argued into Christianity by verbal proofs and logical demonstrations. The proof of Christianity is that it works; that it does change people, that it does make bad people good, that it does bring to people the Spirit of God. It is when our deeds do not support our words that the gravest discredit is brought on Christianity.
It is when our words are borne out by our deeds that the world is presented with an argument for Christianity which cannot be denied, and as Christians, we must be true to this.