Sermons

Summary: God delivers his people from the failure of self-sufficiency by the work of Messiah.

Scripture Introduction

We enter an “inner sanctuary” when we open our Bibles to John 13.

J. C. Ryle: “In every age the contents of these chapters have been justly regarded as one of the most precious parts of the Bible. They have been the meat and drink, the strength and comfort of all true-hearted Christians…. ‘The place whereon we stand is holy ground’” (Ryle, Expository Thoughts, 1).

James Boice: Chapters 13-17 “contain probably the best-known and most-loved words of religious instruction ever uttered by any religious teacher” (Commentary on John, volume 4, ix).

Charles Ross: “…a unique and most precious portion of the Word of God…. ” (Ross, The Inner Sanctuary, 13).

Dr. Alexander Maclaren: “…the Holy of Holies of the New Testament. Nowhere else do the blended lights of our Lord’s superhuman dignity and human tenderness shine with such lambent brightness. Nowhere else is his speech at once so simple and so deep. Nowhere else have we the heart of God so unveiled to us. On no other page, even of the Bible, have so many eyes, glistening with tears, looked and had the tears dried. The immortal words which Christ spoke in that upper chamber are his highest self-revelation in speech, even as the Cross to which they led up is His most perfect self-revelation in act” (Expositions, 284).

Which such praise, the believer who desires to walk closely with the Lord must be thrilled by the anticipation of our study in these chapters over the next months. We begin with John 13.1-11. [Read John 13.1-11. Pray.]

Introduction

I have on my computer the recording by Sixpence None The Richer of the deeply moving, Beautiful, Scandalous Night:

Go on up to the mountain of mercy / To the crimson perpetual tide / Kneel down on the shore / Be thirsty no more / Go under and be purified. / Follow Christ to the holy mountain / Sinner sorry and wrecked by the fall / Cleanse your heart and your soul / In the fountain that flowed / For you and for me and for all.

Chorus: At the wonderful, tragic, mysterious tree / On that beautiful, scandalous night you and me / Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white / On that beautiful, scandalous night.

On the hillside, you will be delivered / At the foot of the cross justified / And your spirit restored / By the river that poured / From our blessed Savior’s side.

Chorus: At the wonderful, tragic, mysterious tree / On that beautiful, scandalous night you and me / Were atoned by His blood and forever washed white / On that beautiful, scandalous night.

The juxtaposition of “beautiful” and “scandalous” helps us feel the strange confluence of attraction and repulsion contained in the gospel. Through the prophet Isaiah, God foretold that his Son would be, “a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling” (Isaiah 8.14). The Greek word is [skandalon], “a stumbling stone, a cause of offense or revulsion.” The word, “scandalous,” comes into English directly from the Greek. People harbor vivid expectations of God and Messiah, and Jesus offends those human sensibilities.

Michael Card sings about this in, “Scandalon”:

The seers and the prophets had foretold it long ago, That the long awaited one would make men stumble. But they were looking for a king to conquer and to kill, Who’d have ever thought He’d be so meek and humble?

Chorus: He will be the truth that will offend them one and all. A stone that makes men stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And many will be broken so that He can make them whole, and many will be crushed and lose their own soul.

Along the path of life there lies a stubborn Scandalon, And all who come this way must be offended. To some He is a barrier, To others He’s the way, For all should know the scandal of believing.

It seems today the Scandalon offends no one at all, The image we present can be stepped over. Could it be that we are like the others long ago? Will we ever learn that all who come must stumble?

Chorus: He will be the truth that will offend them one and all. A stone that makes men stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And many will be broken so that He can make them whole, and many will be crushed and lose their own soul.

In addition to Isaiah 8, Card reflects on Jesus’ own claim about himself in Matthew 21.44: “And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” There are only two responses when encountering the true Christ. One is to stumble and fall—to be broken of our self so that God can make us whole, since he only works through brokenness. The alternative is to stumble, but catch yourself before you fall, and so save yourself from being broken. But those who are not broken by his salvation will eventually be crushed in judgment.

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