Throughout my life I have grown to love two seemingly contradictory things. On the one hand I love palm trees basking in the sun, and on the other hand I love thunderstorms and the dark skies they make. One of the glories of living in Florida is the opportunity to see both of these things happen simultaneously. For example we were at the beach sometime ago and we saw that there was a storm brewing inland and yet as we turned around toward to gulf there was the sun shining brightly out over the water. I turned to look inland again and noticed a row of palm trees shining in the sun with a dark stormy sky behind them. It was breathtaking to behold the scene!
I bring up all this because as our passage today begins we glimpse something of a similar scene. The Satanic storm of Judas’s betrayal has just walked out of the room leaving Jesus with His 11 remaining disciples. As Judas, now indwelt by the devil, leaves the mood of the text immediately lifts and an ease seems to land on the group as Jesus continues teaching them…though they all know a dark and treacherous storm is drawing near on the horizon. It’s in this context that Jesus gave His famous new commandment concerning love. But as we examine 13:31-38 we find this love is rooted in the glory of the Father of the Son, the shame of the cross, and is challenged by the pride of man. Those are our three points this morning. Let’s look at these things as they come to us in turn.
The Glory of Father and Son (v31-32)
Before Jesus gives His new commandment He begins with the theme of glorification. He begins in v31 saying, “When Judashad gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.” The departure of Judas to betray Jesus as ugly and wicked and treacherous as it was, it seems, was the very act that began Jesus’ hour of glory. Because the betrayal is now taking place, His arrest – His trial – and His execution shall soon follow.Jesus knows this so, in no uncertain terms, He says “Now is the Son of Man glorified…” And the disciples probably think, “My goodness! Every time God has glorified Himself in the past throughout history there has been a magnificent display of power, a bright and blinding holy light, a grand quaking of the very foundations of the earth. What is Jesus’ glorification going to be like?” In a true sense it is right for them to think like this because the phrase Jesus uses here ‘Son of Man’ would take them back to Daniel 7:13-14 where we read of the everlasting dominion, kingdom, and power this Son of Man possesses. Yet here in John’s gospel notice the contrast presented to us. Five times the word glorification appears here in v31-32, but John doesn’t speak of it as we expect him to. He says the supreme manifestation of Jesus’ glory is powerfully displayed to us and “connected with what appears to usas the very opposite of glory,”the humiliation and shame of the cross.
Jesus continues. In this hour of shame and suffering Jesus is not only glorified, He says at the end of v31 that the Father is also glorified in Him. Which means the operation of the Son and the Father are so intertwined that the glorification of the Son is also and at the same time the glorification of the Father. He expands on this in v32, “If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him at once.” Three certainties are presented to us here.First, the Father is glorified in the Son. Second, the Father will glorify the Son in Himself. And third, the Father will glorify the Son at once. I’m aware that this language is immensely deep and is a bit boggling to the mind with all this interwoven Trinitarian glory here. But hunker down with me and see what Jesus is saying here.
In these three certainties given in v32 about the glorification of Father and Son there is a now and a not yet element.The not yetis seen in that the Father and the Son did indeed look past the humiliation of the cross to the glory they would once again enjoy after it was over. That’s in view certainly.But that’s not all in view here, there’s also the nowelement. In this nowsense there is an immediacy in view. The Father and the Son looked at the cross itself as the moment or ‘hour’ when they both would be glorified and made much of. This, in John 13, was only hours away. The Father’s wrath completely poured out on the Son, entirely satisfied by the Son, and (praise God!) fully quenched by the Son. Which, created and purchased a people who would be freed from the penalty of sin and freed to glorify both Father and Son forevermore. Not yetglory is in view in their reuniting after the redemptive work is done, and nowglory is in view in the cross which becomes the centerpiece of God’s redemptive work enabling all of the subsequent glories to exist.
If you’re still boggled that’s ok. The unique yet interwoven roles in redemption of the Father and the Son are an inexhaustible mine of wealth for our souls. These two verses show us some of those riches. Remember, this is all here for a reason. Before we get the famous new commandment to love one another in v34-35, Jesus gives us the foundation of that love in v31-32 rooting His new commandment in the glory of His cross. Why? Because it is the cross of shame that displays the greatest act of love the world has ever known, which in turn sets the tune for our love to one another, which then all leads to God being glorified among us. All of that is why v31-32 comes before the commandment in v34.
The New Commandment (v33-35)
Now in v33 Jesus continues saying, “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek Me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’” With fatherly affection He tells them what He told the Jews before in 7:24 and 8:21, that only a little time remains, and though they seek Him they will not find Him because where He is going they cannot come. Having brought up His betrayal and knowing it will lead to His departure (referring to His death andascension), Jesus now seeks to prepare His disciples for what’s to come and instructs them how they’re to live their lives in His absence. He does this in v34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This new command is simple enough for a toddler to memorize and deep enough to sanctify and rebuke the most mature believer for how poorly they put it into practice.How does Jesus instruct them to live their lives in His absence? Simply put, He tells them to live a life of love. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He goes onto say this love isn’t to be a general disposition or a universal love to all mankind, but a love toward ‘one another’ or a love to those who also follow Christ. And more so, it’s not just warm affections or a nice smile for those in the Church, it’s a love that mirrors God’s love to us in Christ. How did God love us in Christ? The cross. Thus, the love commanded by Christ we’re to give one another is a costly and sacrificial love. A love that’s not only willing to be inconvenienced by one another, but a love that’s willing to lay down our lives for one another. In this sense it is a new command. Love isn’t new. Leviticus 19:18 commands to love our neighbors as ourselves and throughout time the Jews watered this command down so they could love whoever they wanted to.The newness appears in the motivating purpose fueling and informing this love in that the love Christians have for one another is to exist on account of or because of Christ’s great love for us.Or, Christ’s followers love all other Christ followers for the Christ’s sake and when that happens the world notices and learns who Christ’s followers truly are. v35 isn’t an add on detail at the end, it gives the command to love a missional, outward, and spreading bent to it.
As you go through Acts and the New Testament letters commentator Kent Hughes says the scene we now behold is one where “Barbarian, Scythian, bond and free, male and female, Jew and Greek, learned and ignorant allsat down at one table, and felt themselves all one in Christ Jesus. They were ready to break all other bonds, and to yield to the uniting forces that streamed out from His cross. There had never been anything like it…and from seeing it the world began to wonder.”A New Covenant had been made, a new creation had begun, the disciples were living new lives, in a new community, directed by this new commandment. It is said consistently among the early Church Fathers that the pagans of their day used to notice the love present among the Church and say, “See how they love one another, and are ready even to die for one another!”
This is the new command…and this is so hard…because we are such selfish people.
I remember a time early on in our marriage when Holly and I were eating at a Chili’s with our pastor/my mentor. When the appetizer’s he ordered arrived I immediately grabbed a small plate and began stuffing my face. To my rebuke our pastor also grabbed a plate, handed it Holly, and waited patiently for her to grab some food before he did. I was thoroughly rebuked and humbled as I sat there with my cheeks full of food. That’s a tiny example of this kind of love in view here where we put the needs of others before ourselves. But don’t overlook those tiny lessons. I found in that moment and I’ve found in thousands of moments since that it’s often it’s in these tiny moments that humble us where God teaches us the big lessons of hard costly sacrificial love. And having learned them back then we’re more prepared to act in accord later.
Do you believe this? I’m sure most of you say you do, but when the rubber meets the road and a brother or sister in Christ wrongs you, would you still love them like this? Not just wronged you as in eating before you at dinner, I mean really wronged you. So much so that when you think of them your pulse increases, your face reddens, and you get all sorts of angst about seeing them. Would you love them in this way? Or does a list of excuses as long as your arm start to come together when you think about loving them this way? O that you would remember the cross and see in it the great love of God! Aren’t you glad God didn’t give excuse after excuse when He thought of loving you? He would have done no wrong if He chose not to love you. Yet, in full view of all your sin against Him, none of it was strong enough to change His mind. Why then, if we have been so loved by Christ do we think certain reasons are strong enough to not love each other? I know some wounds are deep and take time to work through but in all the wounds we’ll create or make in this fallen world this kind of costly, sacrificial, cross shaped love isn’t just for mature Christians, it’s for Christians. And those who do love like this show themselves to the world to be Christians while those who don’t show themselves to be false.
Praise God that in His Son’s absence we have His Spirit’s presence to empower, equip, and enliven this new commandment within us.
The Old Problem (v36-38)
We now see what the disciples were really interested in. Though Peter speaks first, as he often does, it is likely he is expressing what everyone else is thinking in v36 when he says, “Lord, where are you going?” It’s as if the disciples, hearing v31-33 are so concerned about Jesus’ departure that they didn’t even hear what Jesus said in v34-35, or if they had truly heard it they showed themselves much more concerned about His future plans than obeying His call to love. Jesus responds, “Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you will follow afterward.” Jesus will soon be glorified through the shame of the cross, Peter will not be so glorified…yet. One day Peter will follow Jesus in death, a death that would glorify God (21:18-19), and then he will join Jesus in glory.Peter then responds not so much out of anger but out of confusion saying, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Clearly, Peter has a high estimation of his ability to follow Jesus through whatsoever comes to pass. He is overwhelmingly ignorant of his own weakness and tendency to fall away. D.A. Carson reflects on Peter’s words saying this, “Good intentions in a secure room after good food are far less attractive in a darkened garden beforea hostile mob.”See here in Peter man’s oldest problem that challenges the love Jesus just commanded, pride. If humility is thinking of oneself less, pride is thinking of oneself too much.
It is thinking as Peter thinks here, that we can do what God calls us to do without His help coupled with a shock that we would ever think about doing the opposite. It is ‘the great sin’ as C.S. Lewis put it. “…the one vice of which no man in the world is free, which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else, and of which hardly any people (except Christians) ever imagine that they are guilty of themselves…There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. It is the complete anti-God state of mind.”Pride is what turned Lucifer into the Devil. Pride threw our first parents into sin and death, and ever since man has been repeating the same mistake, so pervasively that we could rightfully say pride lies beneath every other sin.
So we have a need to gain humility if we’re to truly love one another and the first step towards humility is a bit surprising, we must realize how prideful we are. If you think, as Peter does here, that you’re not prideful, that you can and do already love others in a truly cross centered manner, or that you’ll never fall away from Christ or deny Christ, I’m pretty sure you’re already on your way down. A newspaper once asked G.K. Chesterton, an English theologian of the early 20th century, what was wrong with the world. He could have given any number of responses with what was going on in the world at that time. The industrial revolution was in full swing which caused pollution, disease, sickness, and ghetto’s of all kinds to grow faster than doctors or humanitarians could help. World War I had ended and World War II was about to begin. Chesterton though, answered in a highly unexpected manner. The question was, “What’s wrong with the world.” His reply was short, “I am.”
Lesson? All those who are spiritually healthy will honestly admit their own lack and fallenness. Would you answer similarly if someone asked, ‘What’s wrong with your church?’ Would say ‘That man who’s sinning, or that woman who’s gossiping’? Or would you say, ‘I am’?
Well, Jesus rebukes Peter in v38, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied Me three times.” From all we can tell this rebuke sank into Peter deeply. We know this because Peter has so far had no issue interrupting Jesus and blurting out what he thought…yet we don’t hear from him or hear of him again until John 18:10. Therefore, Jesus’ rebuke most likely shocked him, which is why he remained silent throughout the remainder of the Upper Room discourse.I pray it similarly shocks you.
Today we’ve seen the new commandment of love from Christ, rooted in the glory of both the Father and the Son, and the old problem of pride that challenges this command. Ask a question here: how can we overcome to our pride and display the love we’re called to? Answer: by remembering the cross. v34-35 made it clear that our community will not be a good gospel witness if we only love those who share similar life experience to us, who share a similar ethnicity to us, who share similar needs as us, and who have similar social positions as us. No. We will only be a compelling gospel community to our city if, despite all our differences and despite all the ways we sin against one another, we who are in Christ love one another as Christ loved us, for the sake of Christ.
May your love abound more and more for one another, and may our church grow more compelling to this city from seeing such a cross centered love.