John 13:31-35 ESV
In the Upper Room after Jesus washed their feet Jesus taught His disciples many difficult things for them to understand.
We read in John 13:31-35, “When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 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.’ 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.”
In hindsight we understand what Jesus was trying to tell the eleven disciples who were in the room. Jesus had just told them one of His own would betray Him and he gave the bread to Judas who left. Then Jesus taught about His coming glory in God.
He told them the Son of Man would be glorified.
At the time they didn’t have enough context to understand what that meant. I imagine they were listening and looking at each other to see if anyone understood what Jesus was saying.
I don’t think that really mattered at the time. Jesus knew they would need to know that later. He knew they would remember.
I know that first-hand because there were a lot of things my dad told me when I was twelve years old that I remembered later in life. At the time I had no idea what he was talking about.
See, when I was twelve I ‘fell into’ loving Speech Class. I have no idea why I loved giving speeches but I thought it was fun and challenging. So my dad started helping me prepare speeches for class. Sometimes what he told me freaked me out but he got me past that.
He taught me how to give a great opening line.
He taught me about structure and logic. He gave me my first lesson in argumentation.
He taught me how to give a speech that had a conclusion that would leave ‘em’ wanting more.
I didn’t use most of what he taught me until I was a junior in college majoring in Speech at the University of Missouri, Columbia. Speech Communication was a small department at MU and I had to apply and be accepted. The catch is, not everyone who applied was accepted. Back then acceptance was based on GPA and Speech performance. Because only a portion of the people who applied were accepted into the program, I needed to use all the tools I had learned. When I applied I remembered everything my dad told me about giving a great speech.
I hadn’t used what he told me because I didn’t need it. I gave speeches in high school and I competed in Speech Contests in our Conference, but the competition wasn't so bad that I couldn’t do well. At the college level it was fierce.
In the Upper Room Jesus told the disciples everything they would need in the coming days, months, and years. Jesus knew the early church would have to fight to LIVE. He knew they would need all the tools in their toolboxes that were available.
The day Jesus gave them the tools they were wondering why He was telling them this stuff.
They had no idea what the future held for them.
They didn’t know even though Jesus would be betrayed, “God would be glorified in Him” (John 13:31).
They didn’t understand what Jesus meant when He said, “I will be with you only a little longer” (John 13:33a).
They thought Jesus would be with them until they were all old.
They couldn’t imagine why Jesus said, “Where I am going, you cannot come” (John 13:33b). I imagine they were looking at each other as if they were thinking they would be able to make any journey. They believed they would be able to follow Jesus even to the ends of the earth.
Some of them DID take the message of Jesus to the ends of the earth, but when they did that they went on alone.
I imagine they didn’t understand why Jesus made a deal about loving one another just like He had loved them (John 13:34). They had to be thinking of course we will love one another. Why wouldn’t we?
I mean, how hard can this be? Isn’t our world going to look the same way next week?
The disciples didn’t realize the time they spent with Jesus was actually the easy part. It never occurred to them that what Jesus was about to do would change how the Roman Government viewed them. I mean, they had faced Pharisees and Priests, and had seen Roman soldiers watching them but they pretty much left them alone when Jesus traveled and spoke to the crowds of Jews.
They weren’t really causing trouble.
When I was twelve and my dad was teaching me how to give a great speech, I didn’t need to know everything he taught me. When I was in Junior High I just needed to have a good opening line and be a little animated to keep the audiences’ attention. I thought it was crazy that a speech would need to have great structure, impeccable logic, and argumentation skills. In college Speech, Argumentation was a separate class and the Professor was freakishly smart. It was a very tough class.
When Jesus told them in John 13:35 that they would be known and remembered by how much they LOVED each other, Peter probably thought, well, yea Jesus I love John because he’s like a brother to me. Some of them might have remembered when Matthew joined them it was a little difficult because he had been a tax collector, but they worked through their differences. They were probably thinking they could love the other disciples and work through their problems. They weren’t thinking Jesus was referring to others who would come. Later, the disciples were faced with loving people in other countries, even Gentiles. They were challenged to love Roman soldiers! After Jesus was gone and the disciples scattered to other parts of the earth they remembered what Jesus said about loving each other. That meant loving people who weren’t Jewish.
As it turned out, the disciples were known by how they loved others. Rodney Stark, a Sociologist did a study and wrote a ground-breaking book entitled, The Rise of Christianity. Stark was not a believer but he was curious about how the message of Jesus spread and grew. From a Sociologist’s perspective he did deep dive research. One thing he discovered is that later in the 1st Century when the plagues came, the Roman Government would send soldiers in to board up homes where the plague had spread. They nailed the doors shut and left the sick people inside to starve to death.
When Jesus’ disciples learned about the practice they unsealed the doors and went into the homes to care for the sick. They brought in water and cleaned the homes. They fed them and gave them clean water. And…they prayed for them. They risked their lives to care for them and pray for them.
Word spread like wildfire that the followers of Jesus really loved them. They loved them so much that they risked their lives to save them.
The disciples remembered John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
The followers of Jesus became known as the people of the WAY, and the way was love.
Jesus knew all of that when He spoke to the disciples in the Upper Room. Jesus KNEW they would remember because the Spirit of the Living God would be by their side.
Today’s Spiritual Practice: Choose an Action
BE a people of the Way of Jesus in our world. If you are a pray-er, pray for the hurting people in the Ukraine. If God leads you to pray for the people of Russia, then pray. If You are an action oriented giver, then give. Do the research about who to give to and how to give.
However God leads you to respond, do it in love.
In God, Deborah
acrazyjourney.com for God