A New Commandment

 

(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)

 Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

February 11, 2001

A New Commandment
John 13:18-38
Last week we began our study of John 13 by looking at Jesus’ humble example of servanthood in washing the feet of the disciples during that last Passover meal. This was done as an example to them of how they should treat one another. It is a lesson for us as well.

It is very easy for any of us to think of ourselves as more important than we really are. We compare ourselves to one another and then rank ourselves in importance. That may be reality out in the world, but it is not how the Church, the body of Christ, is to work. We follow Jesus’ example of humility in both action and attitude. Paul’s admonition in Phil. 2:3,4 that we “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; 4 do not [merely] look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” is based on Jesus’ humble example. Jesus set aside His glory in heaven in order to take the form of a bond-servant as a man and willingly pay for our sins on the cross (vs. 5-8).

If we want to have God’s blessing, then we need to heed what Jesus says and follow His example (Jn. 13:17). God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5). It is the one who views themselves to be and acts as a humble servant of the Lord that knows that God’s favor is upon them.

Sadly, as the gospel accounts are examined for the sequence of events that night, it would not be long before the disciples would be arguing once again about whom was to be regarded as the greatest. Jesus would remind them again about the importance of servanthood in His kingdom.25And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ 26 “But not so with you, but let him who is the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the servant. 27 “For who is greater, the one who reclines [at the table,] or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines [at the table]? But I am among you: as the one who serves” (Luke 22:21-30)

A Traitor in Their Midst (18-30)

After instructing His disciples about following His example and being servants to one another, His attention turns to preparing them for what will be occurring later that night and the next day.

Preparing the Disciples for the Future (18-20): “I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but [it is] that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.’ 19 “From now on I am telling you before [it] comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am [He.] 20 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

Jesus had already said to Peter back in verse 9 that not all of the disciples were clean. Now He adds to this that not all of them were chosen, but that one of them would be fulfilling the Scriptures, ‘He who eats My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.’ This quote is taken from Psalm 41:9 in which David laments the treachery of his once trusted counselor, Ahithophel (2 Sam. 15:12f). One of them would be a traitor to Jesus just like Ahithophel was to David.

Jesus also explains to the disciples that He is telling them this information in advance so that they would not be shaken in their trust of Him and continue to believe. We must put ourselves in their shoes if we are to understand the importance of Jesus’ revelation here.

The disciples did not understand what was about to happen. They were still looking for Jesus to fulfill all the prophecies concerning the Messiah including reigning on the throne of David. They did not understand that those prophecies would not be fulfilled until a later time and that Messiah would first have to become the atonement for their sins (Isaiah 53). Even though Jesus had been warning them for sometime about what was about to happen to Him in Jerusalem (Matthew 16:21; 17:22,23; 20:17-19; 26:2), they still resisted the idea. Even when Jesus was arrested, Peter grabbed a sword and started swinging in Jesus’ defense until Jesus stopped him.

By telling the disciples before hand that He was going to be betrayed, Jesus eliminates any idea that He was a victim in the tragedy that was about to play out. By showing His omniscience, Jesus also assures them of His sovereignty. They will still be able to believe in Him without reservation.

In verse 20 Jesus also adds to their confidence by reminding them of whom it was that would be sending Him. Jesus will remain the Messiah who was sent by the Father, so that anyone receiving Jesus receives the Father. In the same way, those what will receive whoever Jesus sends out, will receive Jesus.

The Shocking Announcement (21,22)

In verse 21, Jesus is direct. There is a traitor among them. When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.”

Jesus’ own soul was troubled. He was disturbed, agitated. The word here is used for water that has been stirred up. It bothered Jesus that one of them would betray Him. Jesus “testifies” in His statement. This is a solemn affirmation about what He knew was already true. His repetition of “truly, truly” emphasizes the nature of what He is saying as a statement of fact and not speculation.

The disciples are shocked by it. They apparently did not fully understand the hints that Jesus had been giving them earlier. Now they do fully comprehend and are taken aback by it. 22 The disciples [began] looking at one another, at a loss [to know] of which one He was speaking. They do not know what to say. They are overwhelmed by the idea and are clueless about whom in specific Jesus could be talking about. The other gospel accounts record that they were “deeply grieved” and began to discuss among themselves who it could be. Then they started asking Jesus, “Surely not I, Lord?” For the eleven, this was a sincere question of great humility. “Could it be possible that my heart is so sinful that I would do such an evil thing?” For Judas, it was a question of the utmost hypocrisy (Mt. 26:25).

The Traitor Revealed (23-26)

There is no indication that Jesus gave any of them a specific answer to their question, except Judas. Jesus’ first answer was that it was “one of the twelve, one who dips with Me in the bowl.” But that could be any of them since they were all sharing in the same meal. Peter wants to know more, so he takes advantage of a situation.

Verse 23 tells us, “There was reclining on Jesus’ breast one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” I agree with the traditional view and understand this to be John. John was always struck by the fact that Jesus loved him and referred to himself by that fact rather than use his own name (John 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 24). This is not arrogance on John’s part, but glorying in the wonder of Christ’s love for him.

Verse 24 Peter takes action. Simon Peter therefore ^gestured to him, and ^said to him, “Tell [us] who it is of whom He is speaking.” We do not know exactly where Peter is located around the table in reference to John, but it is far enough away that he has to gesture to John to get his attention, yet close enough that he can talk with him without the others hearing clearly what is being said. A likely place would be John and Peter to be across the table from each other at either end of the “U” seating arrangement.

John responds in verse 25, He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ breast, ^said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” Remember that they were not sitting at the table, but reclining on couches with their heads toward the table and their feet sticking out. They generally would lie on their left side and eat with their right hand. All John had to do was lean back slightly and whisper to Jesus. That is what is meant that John was reclining on Jesus’ breast. John asks directly, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus therefore ^answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He ^took and ^ gave it to Judas, [the son] of Simon Iscariot.

The “morsel” being talked about was a piece of flat bread – the matzoh cracker – that would be dipped into either a bowl filled with bitter herbs, vinegar and salt or one containing mashed fruit. Judas was already in the place of honor on Jesus’ left side, and it was an honor to receive the dipped morsel as well.

I have a hard time imagining that Judas would not have heard what John said and what Jesus said in return. I see Jesus’ method of identifying Judas to John, as a way to let Judas know that He is fully aware of what he is planning to do, while doing it in a cryptic way that would allow him to save face should he yet turn from his plan, and at the same time to bring out the heinous nature of what Judas is about to do. He was about to betray the one who was feeding him with His own hand!

The Traitor Confirmed (27-30)

But there would be no turning back for Judas. 27 And after the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Jesus therefore ^ said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” Satan had previously put it into Judas’ heart to betray the Lord (13:2), and now Satan takes full control of Judas to guide the rest of his actions. Satan can only enter into a person who will not submit to God and resist him (James 4:7). Judas would not heed Jesus’ warnings and he would not resist Satan any longer. He was now confirmed in his evil plot.

Satan was in control of Judas, but he was not in control of the situation. Even here we find that it is Jesus that does the commanding. He tells Judas to be quick about what he is about to do. Jesus would be betrayed and crucified in God’s timing alone. Judas would be the tragic fulfillment of the ancient prophecies.

Don’t ever think you can out maneuver God to get what you want. You may get what you think you want, but it will not satisfy in the end and you will have to pay the consequences. Judas could not do it. Satan could not do it. You cannot do it. Our Lord is sovereign.

John probably communicated the identity of the betrayer to Peter, but the rest of the disciples still were clueless that Judas was the traitor. 28 Now no one of those reclining [at the table] knew for what purpose He had said this to him. 29 For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, “Buy the things we have need of for the feast”; or else, that he should give something to the poor. 30 And so after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night.

From the statement of the text in verse 28, it can be concluded that even John and Peter did not understand what Jesus meant by what He told Judas. They all trusted and respected Judas. He was the last on the list to be suspected, so even something should have been seen as at least a little suspicious, they did not suspect. He was their treasurer, and so they thought he was leaving either to do some errand of something for the feast they had forgotten, or to perform an act of charity for the poor. They could not have been more wrong. After Judas received the dipped bread morsel Jesus, he immediately left with his heart filled with Satan. John’s comment that “it was night” reminds us that it is under the cloak of darkness that evil people perform their evil deeds. The blackness of the night would match the darkness that was now in Judas’ heart.

How easily we can be deceived! How often do we think one thing of someone only to find out later that they were the exact opposite? We do not know what is in a person’s heart. A┬áperson’s character is only proven over time, and especially when facing difficult circumstances. There are many who, like Judas, are very good at pretending to be something they are not, perhaps even fooling themselves (cf. Matthew 7:21-23).

This is one of the reasons that church leaders are not to be quickly chosen, but must first be proven to be beyond reproach (1 Tim. 3:6,10).

The Son’s Glorification (31-33)

Judas’ departure now frees up Jesus to have a very deep and personal ministry to His disciples that starts here and will continue on until the end of Chapter 17.

31 When therefore he had gone out, Jesus ^said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; 32 if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately. 33 “Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You shall seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, I now say to you also, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’

Jesus now reminds them again of what is soon to come. He would be with them only for a little while longer and then He would go where they could not follow, in reference to His coming death. But Jesus’ stress here is that this is all part of God’s plan to glorify Him, and in turn, God Himself being glorified by the Son. This was to happen “immediately” and not far off in the future. It was in reality only hours away – Gethsemane, Gabbatha (the trial & judgement) and Golgotha. Judas’ depart was going to set the final events in motion.

The New Commandment (34,35)

Recall from verse 20 that Jesus had already spoken about those He would send and that those receiving them would be receiving Jesus. Now He tells them how the people who belong to Christ would be identified. 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. 35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This is an incredible statement. Some have wondered how this could be “new” since God had already commanded His followers to “love their neighbors as themselves” (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39). But this was new, for the standard would no longer be a person’s own innate selfishness, but the example of Jesus Himself. The love they were to have for one another was to follow the example of Jesus’ love for them. It would be that demonstration of love that would proclaim to all that they were true followers of Jesus Christ. Without it, their claim would be suspect.

What was Jesus’ example of love so far? It was far beyond the kind of love that humans normally show one another. Jesus’ love was different in scope, depth, patience, commitment, and length.

Scope – In Matthew 5:46 Jesus describes the normal love of humans – 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? 47 “And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more [than others]? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? People love the people that love them. They are friendly to the people that are friendly to them. We all know the reality of this, for all of us must admit that given our preferences, we would rather be with people that we know like us.

Jesus’ love was greater in scope. He loved even those that hated Him. Paul points this out in Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The love of God is not based on there being something attractive to Him in us or something that we can give Him. Jesus did not become a man, live a sinless life and then willingly die in our place because we loved God or were even friendly towards Him. Man loves himself and is in rebellion against God. We do not give Him the honor that He is due and we disobey His commands. Even now, any love a person has for God is in response for what God has done first. We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:9). Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost (Luke 19:10), and He spent so much time with them that He was called the friend of tax-gatherers and sinners (Luke 7:34).

Jesus’ love is greater in scope because it extends to the unlovely, the downtrodden, the weak, the despised (1 Cor. 1:26-28), and yes, even to His enemies. Even while on the cross, Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him because they did not know what they were doing (Luke 23:34).

Jesus wants us to have the same scope in our love. Jesus said in Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you 45 in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

This example has been followed by countless Christians, so you are not exempt from it because you think it is too hard. It is too hard for you, but it is not too hard for God to do it through you. Consider the thousands of missionaries that have given their lives for the people they were striving to reach with the gospel. I think specifically of those whose family members were martyred, yet they went back with the gospel to those who did the murdering. A case in point is Elizabeth Elliot who lived among the Auca Indians and whose children played with the children of those that had killed their father. That testimony of love eventually played a role in those who had murdered Jim Elliot, Nate Saint and three other to became believers and eventually church leaders. Years later they were the same ones that baptized Nate Saint’s son and daughter. That is the scope of love we are to have.

Depth. The depth of Jesus’ love is also greater. It is one thing to tolerate other people. It is another to actually care for them. It is still another to sacrifice yourself for them. The depth of Jesus’ love is seen in His sacrifice of Himself on our behalf. As I already pointed out from Philippians 2, Jesus set aside His glory in heaven in order to become a man and take the form of a bond-servant. He then willingly died in our place. Jesus Himself said, “greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” Again, the example of countless martyrs, many of whom died in trying to protect others, sets the example for us that this command can be followed. What is the depth of your love?

Patience. Jesus commitment also meant His love was superior in patience. How many relationships have you had that ended because it was just too frustrating to deal with the other person, or vica versa? People could get on Jesus’ nerves at time. He lamented to His disciples about “how long” He would have to “put up” with an unbelieving and perverted generation (Luke 9:41). He also lamented about the disciples “little faith” (Matt. 8:26) and their slowness of heart (Luke 24:25). Yet, continued to love them to the end (John 13:1). Even after Jesus’ physical departure, he has kept His promise to “never leave them or forsake them” (Heb. 13:5) through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 14:16; 16:7).

Yet, this is the love we are to have for one another. We are to forbear with one another (Eph. 4:2). We need to learn to put up with one another’s idiosyncracies for love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). And when there is sin that needs to be dealt with, we speak the truth in love, bearing one another’s burden in helping them out of their sin (Gal. 6:1-4). We never give up on someone who continues to work at following Christ, and even for those that do leave us, we keep the door open for them to come back at work at it again.

Length. Jesus love is also superior in length. Human love varies greatly in how long it will last. Tragically, in our society, committed love is under severe attack by selfishness. Friendships are nearly as disposable as grocery sacks. You keep them as long as you can get something out of them, but once they are empty, you throw it away. This selfish mindset is at the heart of the large percentage of couples that live together instead of getting married. There is a fear about saying, “I do.” What if it is for worse instead of better, or sickness instead of health, or poorer instead of richer? And for many that do get married, divorce is in the back of their mind as their option out if it becomes too much work. Then there are those that stay married for whatever reasons, but the love died long ago.

That is not how the Lord wants our marriages or our love for our Christian brothers and sisters to be. God commands the husband to love the wife “as Christ loved the church.” It is to be sacrificial and enduring in seeking out her best interests in helping her to become like Christ. Jesus commands us to love one another as He has loved us. Jesus’ example of superior love is the example and the standard of love for all Christians.

How are you doing at loving others? Where do you lack? What do you need to do to change things? Perhaps there is someone you need to get things right with so that you can love in this manner. Today is the day to do it, don’t put it off any longer.

Warning Against Arrogance (36-38)

In verses 36-38 Jesus rebukes Peter for his arrogance. I will cover these verses in detail next week, but in brief, Peter claims to have a love for Christ in which he emphatically claims that he was ready to lay down his life for Jesus (vs. 37). Jesus questions him on his arrogant claim and then gives the first of two prophecies that Peter would deny the Lord before the night is over.

I only point this out here today to say this. Don’t arrogantly claim that you are going to fulfill this commandment and love everyone like Jesus did. You cannot do it in your own strength, just as Peter could not keep His boast. There is only one way you can love others in this way. It must be the love of Jesus Christ flowing through you to others. You are to be His hands, His feet and His voice of love to the world.

How do you do that? In faith, obey Him.

It really is as simple as that. Jesus’ love was not born out of warm feelings of affection, but out of a commitment to do the Father’s will. He gave Himself for the best interest of those He served. That is what Jesus is asking us to do. Will you commit yourself to loving one another in this manner. If you do, then all men will know that you are His disciple. If you don’t, then people will wonder about the hypocrisy of your claim.

R. Kent Hughes briefly tells about the struggle of the Belgian Evangelical Mission. They had little success and it seemed the people were impervious to the gospel until their leader, Johanne Lukasse devised a plan based on the command here in John 13. He rented a house and gathered a mixed group of Belgian, Dutch and American Christians to live together for seven months. There were of course the natural frictions of people living together, plus the additional conflicts that arise when different cultures mix. As these believers worked through their conflicts in prayer, love and victory, non-Christians began to respond to their witnessing. Outsiders called them “the people who love each other.”

I wonder how outsiders would describe us? I would hope we would be called the same, but that depends on each of us putting into practice Jesus’ new commandment on a daily basis.

Sermon Study Sheets

KIDS CORNER

Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times Judas is mentioned. Count how many times the word “love” is said. 2) Talk with your parents about Judas and his betrayal of Jesus. Talk with them about how you can love others like Jesus.

THINK ABOUT IT!

Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

What was Jesus’ example of service? Who was the Old Testament parallel to Judas? Why did Jesus tell the disciples beforehand that one of them would betray Him? How would that help? Why were the disciples so shocked? Why didn’t they suspect Judas? Why did Jesus reveal to John that Judas was the traitor? Why reveal it in that manner? What was the morsel? What was its significance? What changed in Judas after receiving it? Who was in control after that? – of Judas? Of the situation? How as Jesus’ commandment “new”? In what ways is Jesus’ love superior to normal human love in scope? Depth? Patience? Commitment? Length? How well do you follow His example of love? Why is it so important to love others as Jesus did? What is hindering you from loving others in this way? What can you do to improve your love? When will you change those things? How were the responses of Peter and Judas toward Jesus the same? Different?

Sermon Notes – 2/11/2001 A.M.

A New Commandment – John 13:18-38


A Traitor in Their Midst (18-30)

Preparing the Disciples for the Future (18-20)

The Shocking Announcement (21,22)

The Traitor Revealed (23-26)

The Traitor Confirmed (27-30)

The Son’s Glorification (31-33)

The New Commandment (34,35)

Scope

Depth

Patience

Commitment

Length

Warning Against Arrogance (36-38)