Summary: Jesus preparies the disciples for his imminent departure. The final betrayal has begun and the Cross is inevitable. ll that remains is to prepare the disciples for what’s coming.
Sermon by Rev George Hemmings
Sarah & I have learnt that we need to give our boys Micah and Joshua plenty of warning before we leave somewhere, especially if they’re having a good time. If we try to just say, ‘OK, it’s time to go,’ without any warning, they’re usually not too happy. You might need to do the same with your family or friends, especially if you’ve driven somewhere together.
In these few chapters of John’s gospel, that’s exactly what Jesus is doing. He’s preparing the disciples for his imminent departure. Now that Judas has gone out, now that the final betrayal has begun, Jesus knows that the Cross is inevitable. Jesus might’ve hoped that as he offered Judas the choice morsel back in verse 26, that Judas would see the light, that he would repent, that he would turn back. But instead Judas rejected Jesus, he turned to darkness, and was sent off into the night. And so now Jesus’ betrayal, his arrest and trial, his suffering and death are inevitable. The wheel’s been set in motion, as we say in English. So Jesus can say that the ‘Son of Man has been glorified,’ as though it’s already happened. All that remains is to prepare the disciples for what’s coming.
Did you see how Jesus speaks to them? It’s tender, and gentle. He calls them ‘little children.’ It’s not a patronising term, but a loving one. They’ve just shared the Passover together, something that was normally done in families, so it’s a fitting term. ‘Dear little children,’ Jesus says, ‘I am with you only a little longer.’ He doesn’t try to sugar coat it, or downplay what’s about to happened, but tells them plainly that he’s leaving. And so they don’t think that he’s just popping around to a friend’s for a cup of tea, or heading out for a holiday by the sea, Jesus says, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ He’s breaking the bad news that he’s about to go away, and that at least for the time being, they can’t come with him.
If you’ve ever gone away for a while you might leave instructions for those staying home. You might tell your children to behave themselves while you’re gone. You might ask your neighbours or friends to check your mail and put the bins out for you. You could ask your co-workers to look after some of your jobs. While he’s gone Jesus has just one job for his disciples, one new commandment. It’s a pretty simple one isn’t it? Simple enough a child could understand it. ‘Love one another, just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.’ You might think Jesus doesn’t know his Old Testament very well, because he calls this a new commandment. The covenant with Moses contained two very important instructions about love:
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and with all your strength.’ (Deut. 6:5) and;
‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Lev. 19:18)
So how can Jesus call this new? It’s new because it’s part of the new covenant. It’s new because there’s a new standard applied. We’re to no longer love others the way we love ourselves, but the way that Jesus loves us. How does Jesus love? As we saw last week from John 13:1, Jesus loved his own to the very end, he loved them completely and fully. He demonstrated that when he got down and washed the disciples feet. When he humbled himself to serve them. And Jesus is about to demonstrate just how far his love goes on the Cross. For ‘no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (John 15:13), and ‘9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ (1 John 4:9-10) How does Jesus love us? With love so amazing, so divine, it demands our life, our soul our all. He loves is inclusive, indiscriminate, universal. And he calls us to love each other in the same way. If we do, Jesus says, the whole world will know that we are his disciples. In his book ‘The Rise of Christianity’ the sociologist Rodney Stark explored how and why Christianity spread so far, so fast and had such an impact on the world in the centuries following Jesus death and resurrection. His conclusion was that Christianity did not grow because of miracles, or because of the Roman emperor Constantine, but because of the intense community. The news that God loved the world was revolutionary, and the call for us to not only love God but also to love each other shook the world. It was as Christians loved those who had been abandoned by the Roman world, loved those who were struck down with the plague, loved those who were mistreated, even loved those who persecuted them, that the world not only recognized that they were disciples of Jesus, but through them, and through their love, came to know Jesus.