Sermon title:  OUR LORD’S CLOSING REMARKS

John 13:33-36; Luke 22:31-38

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, February 16, 2020

 

 

 

Our Lord’s Last Supper with his apostles

ended with Jesus instituting

the ongoing celebration of Communion

to remember him.

 

He said,

 

“Take, eat;

this is My body which is broken for you;

do this in remembrance of Me.”

...

He also took the cup after supper, saying,

“This cup is the new covenant in My blood.

This do, as often as you drink it,

in remembrance of Me.”

 

He let the disciples know

they needed to remember him

because he would soon be leaving them

and returning to heavenly glory.

 

After sharing that Passover meal

Jesus and his apostles sang a hymn

and then moved on to the Mount of Olives.

 

Christ explained, over and over again,

that he would soon be leaving them,

he gave them instructions

that would help them carry on as Christians

in his absence.

 

Those final instructions are the closing remarks

of Jesus’ ministry on earth.

 

And they begin where we left off

at John 13:33,

 and continue through John Chapter 17.

 

They include some of my favorite passages of the Bible.

 

They are the most beautiful,

faith-strengthening messages ever spoken.

 

And so, they empower us in our Christian walk.

 

At John 13:33, Jesus began,

 

33 “My children, I will be with you

only a little longer.

 

You will look for me,

and just as I told the Jews,

so I tell you now:

 

Where I am going, you cannot come.

 

34 “A new command I give you:

 

Love one another.

 

As I have loved you,

so you must love one another.

 

So, Jesus gave his apostles with a new command:

 

Love one another.

 

As I have loved you,

so you must love one another.

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Love is a word with many meanings—

especially the English-language word “love.”

 

But the Greek language

that John wrote his Gospel in

has a number of different words for love—

each with a different meaning.

 

The Greek “storgē” refers to family love,

especially the feeling parents have for their children.

 

But that isn’t the word found here,

because that isn’t what Jesus meant.

 

The Greek “eros is where we get our word “erotic”

and means a sexual love,

but that obviously isn’t what Jesus was talking about here.

 

The word “philia” is where the city of Philadelphia gets its name:

the city of brotherly love.

 

“Philia” refers to close, affectionate friendship.

 

But that wasn’t the word used for Jesus’ new command

to “love one another.”

 

Christ’s command uses the Greek word “agape.”

It’s also the word describing God’s love for man.

 

It is an unconditional love—

a love that doesn’t depend on the recipient deserving it.

 

It carries the meaning of wishing the best for someone,

wishing them well,

wishing them to be blessed.

 

It is the kind of love you can have even for strangers—

even for people you don’t know.

 

Jesus said,

 

34 “A new command I give you:

 

Love one another.

 

As I have loved you,

so you must love one another.

 

So, that is the kind of love Jesus has for us,

and he wants us to have that kind of love for one another.

 

So, how do we love one another?      As Jesus loves us.

 

And how does he love us?

 

He gave himself for us.    He died for us.

 

He serves us.   He washed the apostles’ feet.

 

He patiently teaches us.

 

He corrects us.

 

He lifts us up when we fall.

 

Love one another.

 

As I have loved you,

so you must love one another.

 

This is one of the most beautiful things

our Lord Jesus ever said.

 

It’s also one of the most misunderstood doctrines of the church.

 

I know of another church

where the pastor was hesitant to preach

what the Bible says about sin,

because some homosexuals

loosely connected with the church

were telling him,

You’re supposed to love us. Jesus told you to love us.

 

Is it loving not to warn people

that their sinful conduct

will doom them to hellfire and damnation?

 

If it’s a dark and stormy night

and you see someone driving down the road

toward a blind curve where the bridge is out,

and if no one warns them,

they will drive off the edge

and plunge into the river,

is it the loving thing

to say,

“God bless you!   Have a nice ride!”

 

Or, would it be more loving to say,

“You’d better turn around,

because danger lies ahead,

if you keep on the way you’re going!”

 

At John 5:14, after he healed a paralyzed man,

Jesus warned him,

‘Stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you.’

 

Jesus loves us and wants the best for us,

and his example

is what should guide us,

as we follow his new command to

 

Love one another.

 

As I have loved you,

so you must love one another.

 

In the same way Jesus loved us

we should love one another.

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Christ went on to say,

 

35 By this everyone will know

that you are my disciples,

if you love one another.”

 

It’s the identifying mark of true Christians: 

Christ-like love for one another in the church.

 

And it’s a joy to see how that love is expressed

here in this church,

as we lovingly greet one another

and pray for one another

and truly care for one another.

 

People who visit here

see that love, and remark about what a loving church this is.

 

35 By this everyone will know

that you are my disciples,

if you love one another.”

 

People see the love that is shown here,

and they know that Jesus is here.

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But Jesus prefaced those remarks about love by saying,

 

33 “My children, I will be with you

only a little longer.

 

You will look for me,

and just as I told the Jews,

so I tell you now:

 

Where I am going, you cannot come.

That prompted the apostle Peter

to ask the obvious question—

since he still didn’t understand what Jesus meant.

 

Verse 36:

 

36 Simon Peter asked him,

“Lord, where are you going?”

 

Jesus replied,

 

“Where I am going, you cannot follow now,

but you will follow later.”

 

It took the apostles a while to grasp

that Jesus was talking about going to heaven.

 

That’s why he keeps talking

throughout the next few chapters of John’s Gospel

about where he is going,

and what will happen to the apostles

after he is gone.

 

But, I’m going to turn next to Luke Chapter 22,

which we read from in our Responsive Reading.

 

All 4 Gospels give different glimpses

of this exchange

between Christ and his disciples.

 

I’m going to look first at Luke 22,

and then at Matthew Chapter 26.

 

In Luke 22:31, we read that Jesus said this to Peter:

 

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked     

to sift all of you as wheat.

 

Some translations say “Satan has DEMANDED

to sift all of you as wheat.”

 

The Greek word translated “asked” or “demanded”

carries the sense

of being handed over,

so that Satan can do this sifting.

 

Most of what goes on in heaven

and in the invisible realm of the spirits

is unknown to us.

 

But Satan made similar demands in the Old Testament book of Job.

The devil challenged God

and wanted to prove that Job would become unfaithful

if put under pressure—

first losing his possessions and his children,

and then losing his good health.

 

Now Satan demands

to put the apostles to the test,

sifting them like wheat.

 

Where does Satan get the right

to make demands like that?

 

John 16:11 tells us that Satan,

“the ruler of this world has been judged.”

 

It seems that, the devil has been on trial

in God’s heavenly court.

 

Maybe he has certain legal rights

in that heavenly court?

 

We don’t know.

 

So, we can’t really answer for sure,

why God permitted Satan to test Job,

or why he permitted the devil

to sift the apostles like wheat—

or why he is allowed

to persecute and tempt Christians today.

 

We just have to trust God.

 

At Genesis 18:25 Abraham asked,

“Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

 

And the answer must be, ‘Of course, he will.’

 

We have the promise at 1 Corinthians 10:13, that

 

“God is faithful;

He will not let you be tempted

beyond what you can bear.

 

But when you are tempted,

He will also provide an escape,

so that you can stand up under it.”

 

Jesus assured Peter at Luke 22:32,

 

32 But I have prayed for you, Simon,

that your faith may not fail.

 

And when you have turned back,

strengthen your brothers.”

 

If we turn to Matthew 26:31

where the account of Christ’s last night on earth continues,

we see that all of the apostles

had human weaknesses, as we do.

 

31 Then Jesus told them,

 

“This very night

you will all fall away on account of me,

for it is written:

 

I will strike the shepherd,

and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

 

32 But after I have risen,

I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

 

And that’s exactly what was about to happen.

 

Jesus would be arrested and taken into custody.

 

All of the apostles would be overcome by fear.

They would all “fall away”

as “it is written” in the Old Testament prophecy

of Zechariah 13:7,

 

I will strike the shepherd,

and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

 

But we read that

 

33 Peter replied,

“Even if all fall away on account of you,

I never will.”

 

Luke 22:33 adds that “he replied,

‘Lord, I am ready to go with you

to prison and to death.’”

 

But Jesus knew better.

 

He knew Peter’s weakness.     At Matthew 22:34, we read,

 

34 “Truly I tell you,”

Jesus answered,

“this very night, before the rooster crows,

you will disown me three times.”

 

In Luke’s account, Jesus says,

 

“I tell you, Peter,

before the rooster crows today,

you will deny three times

that you know me.”

 

But, continuing at Matthew 22:35,

 

... Peter declared,

Even if I have to die with you,

I will never disown you.”

 

And all the other disciples said the same.

 

But Christ knew that they would all

run away and abandon him,

under fear of arrest.

 

He also knew they would recover,

and would come together again

to form the nucleus of the new Christian church.

 

Jesus assured Peter at Luke 22:32,

 

32 But I have prayed for you, Simon,

that your faith may not fail.

 

And when you have turned back,

strengthen your brothers.”

So, despite denying Jesus three times

the night of his arrest,

Peter’s faith would not fail.

 

He would come back,

and so would the rest of the eleven faithful apostles.

 

And Peter would take the lead

in strengthening his brothers in the faith.

 

As we continue the account at Luke 22:35,

we see that Jesus

goes on to prepare them

for the events that lay ahead.

 

First, he reminds them

of an earlier occasion

when he sent them out preaching on their own.

 

35 Then Jesus asked them,

 

“When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals,

did you lack anything?”

 

“Nothing,” they answered.

 

36 He said to them,

 

“But now if you have a purse, take it,

and also a bag;

and if you don’t have a sword,

sell your cloak and buy one.

 

37 It is written:

 

‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’;

and I tell you

that this must be fulfilled in me.

 

Yes, what is written about me

is reaching its fulfillment.”

 

38 The disciples said,

“See, Lord, here are two swords.”

 

“That’s enough!” he replied.

 

Their circumstances were about to change.

 

Jesus would go to the cross the next day,

and his followers would all be persecuted.

 

A year or two earlier in their ministry

he had sent them out preaching

in the towns and villages of Israel

without purse, bag or sandals

because so many people would welcome them,

receive them into their homes,

and provide food and shelter.

 

But now Jesus was going to be executed

as a common criminal.

 

He would be “numbered with the transgressors.

 

And his disciples would be viewed

as criminal conspirators.

 

The world around them

would become hostile to them.

 

They would no longer be welcomed into homes

wherever they went.

 

“...now if you have a purse, take it,

and also a bag;

and if you don’t have a sword,

sell your cloak and buy one.

 

Jesus knew they would face

an increasingly hostile world—

a world hostile to the disciples

and hostile to their Gospel message.

 

We, today, learn an important lesson from this,

because the world around us

is becoming hostile to the Christian message.

 

Between 1954 and 1989 the British Isles welcomed Billy Graham

on numerous occasions

when he preached to stadiums full of people.

 

His son, Franklin Graham,

who preaches the same Gospel

of repentance from sin and salvation in Christ

has now been officially banned

from all of the stadiums

where he was scheduled to preach this year

in England and Scotland.

 

They don’t want to hear that call to repentance any longer.

 

The world is changing.

People have always been sinning.

 

But they haven’t always been parading through the streets

proclaiming how proud they are of their sins.

 

Many people in past decades

ignored Billy Graham and his Gospel message.

 

But now they are actively blocking Billy Graham’s son

and silencing the same Gospel message.

 

And we all know of many other indications

that the public’s attitude toward Christians

has changed from support to hostility.

 

So, Christ’s final words to his apostles—

to prepare them for life in hostile world—

These are words that we need to hear.

 

His concluding remarks are foundin John chapters 14 through 17.

 

And we’ll be considering them over the next few weeks.