To follow Jesus is to have a brand new way of life. When these twelve men sitting around the dinner table started hanging around Jesus, they had no idea just how new and different their lives would become. At this final meal on that last night, they were still learning just how new their lives should be. (Jesus can still teach old dogs new tricks!) As present-day followers of Christ, let’s consider three aspects of life that become new once we become His disciples.
"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" John 20:31.
Believe:879 is an epic journey through the book of John led by Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary of Albuquerque. As we explore each of the 879 verses of this gospel, we'll grow in grace and in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. From His pre-incarnate existence, to His public ministry, through His death and His resurrection we'll traverse familiar territory and embark on new adventures of faith.
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Pondering the Principles
Greek Terms: καινός – Kainos –new (not by age), fresh
Figures Referenced: Calvin Miller; Marcel de Leclure
Cross References: Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 18:20; Luke 23:34; Luke 23:46; John 3:3; John 15:13; John 16:7; John 17:4-5; Romans 5:5; Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 5:7; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 12:2
Topic: The Upper Room Discourse
Keywords: new life, love, perspective, upper room, glory
Let's pray together. Father, we give you our bodies as living sacrifices. It's what we ought to do. We have come from our homes, we have driven to this place and we now submit ourselves before you to the principles of the word that we're about to read and apply. We thank you for your patience with us, just like you were patient with the disciples around the table that evening. And you were committed to their growth. How thankful we are that you are committed to ours. I pray that this service, this time, this moment in our lives would be another installment in our growth, in our development. We might be those people that are pleasing to you as we're conformed more and more into the image of Christ. It's in his name we pray, Amen.
You may have heard about the two New Yorkers. These guys have lived in New York City their whole life. They have never really gone out of Manhattan. All they knew is the big city. But one day with all the traffic in town they just said, "We've had enough," and they decided to buy a ranch in Texas and become ranchers. They knew nothing about ranching except what they've seen on television. So they sold everything, moved out to Texas, were on this land and they decided the first thing they needed to do is buy a mule. They thought, "We have to plow the ground," and they must have seen old movies but they thought, "We got to get a mule."
So they went to a neighboring rancher and asked if he had a mule for sale and he just said, "I recon not." So they were disappointed and about to leave, but then one of them spotted a stack of honeydew melons leaning against the barn. And again, they didn't really know what they were so they just said "What are those things?" And by this time, the rancher, the neighbor saw these two guys are just hopeless city slickers. So he said, "Those are mule eggs. You buy one of those, take it home, it hatches, you'll have your mule."
So they said, "Okay." And they bought one, they put it in the back of their truck, they're driving down that bumpy country road. It bounces out, it hits the pavement, it opens up, bursts open. They see it in the rearview mirror and they started turning around. In the meantime, a Texas jack rabbit hops up starts eating the honeydew melon. By the time those two New Yorkers come up and see this long-eared creature, one of them said, "Look, our mule egg is opened up. There's our mule, let's get him."
So they started running after this jack rabbit. To no avail they couldn't catch it, it's hopping everywhere. Finally these two city slickers plop on the ground, and one of them says, "We lost our mule." The other guy says, "Yeah, but I don't think I wanted to plow that fast anyway." Hopeless, right?
The disciples that were gathered around the table with Jesus were as naive about their future in discipleship as those two New Yorkers were about ranching. I've discovered a lot of people are naive when it comes to defining following Christ being a disciple. A lot of people just think that when you follow Jesus you add him to your already complicated life, your structured life. "Oh yeah, I need to get religious so I'm going to add Jesus as a component to my life." Nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible says, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away. Behold, all things become new." A Christian is brand new person made new by Christ with a brand new way of life.
Now we're going to discover some of those truths that I mentioned in John Chapter 13 beginning in Verse 31 down to Verse 35. When I was a young believer, someone that I knew walked up to me and said, "Skip, you're brainwashed," and I said to him, "You're absolutely right. Jesus washed my brain," and then I said, "Hey, who washed yours? At least I know who washed my brain. Who is washing your brain?"
Now let me give you a little background so we can hop right in. This is the Last Supper. This is the upper room discourse. Beginning in Verse 31, now that Judas has left the room, Jesus concentrates on the remaining authentic disciples and tells them what is going to be new about their future. There are three things that are new. They're going to have a new perspective, they're going to have a new relationship with him and they were given a new commandment.
I'm going to unpack these verses but let's read them beginning in Verse 31. So when he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God has glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and glorify him immediately. Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek me and as I said to the Jews, where I am going you cannot come so now I say to you. A new commandment I give to you that you love one another as I have loved you that you also loved one another. By this all will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another."
The first thing that a new believer recognizes when he or she comes to Christ is a new way of looking at life. I will never forget hearing a phrase for the first time. I had asked Christ to come in my life. It had been several weeks. I had never read the New Testament before. I just prayed a prayer and I knew I felt different. I knew life was different, but I didn't know how to describe it. And I'll never forget when a friend of mine came up to me not knowing what had happened to me and he wanted to witness to me. He goes, "Skip, have you been born again?" And I said, "Where did you get that phrase?" He said, "Excuse me?" "Where did you get that phrase, born again? Where has that come from? I've never heard that before, that's perfect. It's exactly what happened to me." He said, "That's what Jesus said in John Chapter 3, a man must be born again." I said, "Well he couldn't have come up with a better description, because everything new, the way I look at life, the way I looked at friends, the way I looked at plans, it's all different, it's all new."
Verse 31 marks a change in the tone of the room that evening as well as what he is about to tell them. He has been talking about being betrayed by Judas Iscariot and about the betrayer himself. In Verse 31, the betrayer leaves the room and the dynamic changes. So when he, Judas, had gone out Jesus said, "Now the son of man is glorified and God is glorified in him."
What is he talking about? When Jesus speaks about being glorified or his glory, what is he speaking about? Well he is speaking about a couple of things. First of all, he is looking after the cross when he will be received up in the heavenly glory. He is thinking about what is going to happen after the cross. Soon Jesus will be arrested later on that night, and he'll be brought before trial. He'll be beaten, mocked, they'll drive spikes through his hands, he'll be crucified on a cross but after that it will be over.
All of the pain that mankind could give to him, all of the horrible ways they could treat him, it will be over and he'll be home. And so the last thing Jesus on the cross says is, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." And all of that suffering was passed hence and he was in glory.
So Jesus looks beyond the suffering that he is entering into in the future glory. He is going home. The writer of Hebrews in Chapter 12 of that book, Verse 2 said, "Jesus, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross despising the shame and now has sat down at the right hand of the thrown of God." I want to make a point with that. Following Christ should give us this kind of a perspective. You see, all too often we are looking at the immediate in our lives and not the ultimate. We're looking at how hard the road is right now instead of considering where that road is ultimately leading, Heaven. I can get through this. There is glory beyond this. Have you ever heard somebody say, "Oh, you Christians, you're so heavenly minded. You're no earthly good." Well, the reverse can also be true. You can be so earthly minded you're not doing anybody any good.
And the key is to walk through this world responsibly but get the view ultimately, the glory that will be revealed afterwards. I'll tell you about a person that you know of whose whole life has been changed by this kind of a gaze, a heavenly gaze. Her name was Joni Eareckson it is now Joni Eareckson Tada. She lived most of her life as a quadriplegic. She was in a diving accident as a young swimmer. Paralyzed, quadriplegic, she is able to look past the wheelchair with joy because of this truth and she will often quote Romans 8 where Paul said, "For the suffering of this present time is not worthy to be compared to the glory that will be revealed in us." She is waiting for that and marching through this line.
So Jesus is looking beyond the cross. That's his perspective. But something else, he is not just looking after the cross, he is looking at the cross as being glorified. So often when he spoke about being glorified, the bible says he is speaking about his death on the cross. Now why would that be a picture of glory? It's simple, as horrible as that is going to feel and be in his life and the separation from the father and the physical pain, by that event he'll open a door of salvation, and as it says also in Romans 12, "Bringing many sons to glory."
So that was the glory. It will bring glory to the Father because that was the plan of the Father in sending the Son. So now a door is open for salvation. So Jesus, looking all the way through history, 2,000 years seeing you and you and you and you and all of us who believe come to Him and enjoy heaven with Him, that was glory to Him.
I want you turn two chapters, a few chapters ahead. Turn over to John Chapter 17. Look just a couple of verses with me put all of these truths together as He is praying to the Father. This is after the upper room. This is right before His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, John Chapter 17 Verse 4, look at what He says, "I have glorified you on the earth. I have finished the work which you given me to do. And now, O Father, glorify me together with yourself with the glory that I had with you before the world was."
Now skip down to Verse 24 and notice this, "Father, I desire that they also whom you gave me," who is that? That's us. Well, that's the disciples and everyone through history including us who are his disciples, his followers. "I desire that they also whom you have given me may be with me where I am that they may behold my glory which you have given me for you loved them before the foundation of the world."
Part of the joy that was set before Jesus was being able to look down through history and see all those who would believe him. He first tasted that when he was even on the cross and said to one being crucified next to him, "Today, you'll be with me in paradise." So here is the principle, as followers of Christ, we need a new perspective, a new gaze thinking all the way down to the future, to our glory and a new goal and while we're living on this earth we don't make it about us, but about Him and His glory. It's not about my happiness, it's about His glory. It's not about how this makes me feel, it's about does this magnify Him. That's the new perspective.
I'm going to read something to you that I read this week. It's quite convicting, written a few years ago by Calvin Miller. He writes this, "Many Christians are only 'Christaholics' and not disciples. Disciples are cross-bearers. They seek Christ. Christaholics seek happiness. Disciples dare to discipline themselves and the demands they place on themselves leave them enjoying the happiness of their growth. Christaholics are escapists looking for a shortcut to nirvana. Like drug addicts, they are trying to drop out of their depressing world. There is no automatic joy," writes Calvin. Christ is not a happiness capsule; he is the way to the Father. But the way to the Father is not a carnival ride, in which all we do is sit and do nothing until we're whisked through a variety of spiritual sensations. We need a new perspective, to gaze future, the goal to glorify God here and now. That's number one, a new perspective.
Number two, a new relationship. Now before I read the verse, do you notice how often we as evangelicals speak about having a relationship with God? We do that a lot, don't we? We tell people, "It's not religion. It's a relationship, a personal relationship with the living God." Now as true as that is and I still believe that. You got to admit, it's a very different kind of a relationship than we have with anybody else. When you have a relationship with a person, you sit across the table from them and have a conversation with them and eat lunch with them, you're hearing their voice audibly. You're seeing their body languages they communicate, their facial expressions. That's the kind of relationship that disciples in that upper room have had with Jesus for three and a half years. All of that is about to change. And they're not quite ready for it.
Verse 33, "Little children," -- pause right there. How cool is that? The only time recorded in the gospel where Jesus said that is here, "Little children." He is the host of the Passover meal. He is acting as a Father who would act toward the children in His family, but this reveals the tender care and compassion of Jesus. He calls his followers, "Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek me and as I said to the Jews where I'm going you cannot come and so now I say to you."
What does he mean by a little while? Well, in about two hours he is going to be arrested. The next day he is going to be crucified. Three days later he is going to rise from the dead. Forty days after that he is going to ascend into heaven and they're going to see him no more.
In fact, when they're on the Mount of Olives and Jesus ascends into heaven, you know what the disciples are doing? Well you know what they're doing, they're doing this. They're just gazing up. So an angel comes by and goes, "Hey you men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus whom you saw going to heaven will come back in like manner." Okay, hold that thought. If the disciples in the upper room would have really known what Jesus was saying, they would have blown a circuit. If they would have understood that Jesus will die, that's not what they expect, they expect a kingdom that's why they're arguing who is going to be the greatest in the kingdom, we told you that before. If they knew that Jesus was going to die and ascend into heaven and for the next 2,000 years they and everyone else is going to be waiting for him to return, they would have just gone --. That's so not what they wanted to hear. That's what Jesus is telling them. "I'm only with you a little while longer and you'll see me no more. And where I'm going you cannot come." And I'll explain a little more of that. We'll pick that up next week, but that's what he is saying to them.
Here is the point. They're entering into a new relationship with Christ, yes? So far it's been in the flesh. Now it's going to be by faith. Now he reinforces this thought throughout the evening's meal and throughout this upper room discourse. In Chapter 16 for example, Jesus says to these same men, "It is to your advantage that I go away." Can I just say if I was in that room I would have said, "Pardon me. Excuse me. That's not true. It is not for my advantage that you go away. It's for my advantage that you stay with me always. Just like this where you can work miracles and I can hear your voice and see your face and eat meals with you." But he said, "It's to your advantage that I go away," and he continued and he said, "Unless I go away the Counselor, the Holy Spirit cannot come, but if I go I will send Him to you." Now think what that means.
Up to this point the presence of Jesus was localized. Wherever Jesus was, that's where He was. Isn't that profound? In other words, if He was in Jerusalem He wasn't in Galilee. If He was in Galilee He wasn't in Jerusalem. But by him going back to the Father, He can send the Holy Spirit to live inside every believer. In fact, he promises the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit will take residence within every believer. So that where two or three are gathered in His name, He is there in the midst. He is universal rather than localized. It is to your advantage that I go away. My point is simple. The relationship of a disciple is one not of sight, but of faith.
Second Corinthians 5, "For we walk by faith and not by sight." Now admittedly, we long for what the disciples had, we long for sitting around a table with Jesus and being able to hug Him and see His expression and hear what He is saying, and one day we'll have that. But until then He is going to wean us off of sight, off of what we're leaning on and onto a life of faith.
I read an article this week about lobsters. He said, "Why were you doing that?" Lobsters don't keep one shell. They molt about every year. They discard their old shell and they grow a new shell. Now, if they were to stay in their old shell and not abandon it, it's protective, it protects them, but it would become a prison and in fact it would become a casket. They have to get rid of the old and they grow a new one. But in that in between vulnerable period of time when they get rid of the old shell and they're growing the new shell they are very vulnerable. They are tossed by the currents of the sea, cartwheeled through the ocean. There are things like coral that are very sharp that could cut them to pieces. There are schools of fish that would love to make them part of the food chain. But they won't grow unless they get rid of the old shell and grow a new one. I bet the first time a lobster loses its shell if it could speak, it would say something like, "I miss that old shell. Things look pretty good in that old shell. I want my old shell back." But they'll never grow unless they discard it, though unprotected for a period of time and grow something new.
We're a lot like that. We get tossed and tumbled through life and it could be very scary and we want the protection and we want to depend on someone or something to hold us up, to prop us up. And God is all about weaning us off of those props and onto just trusting Him by faith. That's the new relationship, new perspective. New relationship, the third is a new commandment he gives, marching orders you might say.
Verse 34, "A new commandment I give to you," Judas has just left the room. The betrayer is gone. He is turning to the authentic disciples and giving them their future marching orders. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another as I have loved you so that you also love one another. By this all will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another."
Now if you're like a Bible geek, if you're really a Bible student, you're thinking about now, "Wait a minute, this isn't a new commandment." In Leviticus 19, that's an Old Testament book, God says, "You will not bear a grudge against any of the sons or daughters of your people, but you will love your neighbor as yourself." That's an old commandment. The word for 'New' in this verse that we just read is the word 'Kainos' in Greek. It doesn't mean new in terms of chronology or age. If that were the case Jesus would have said the word 'Neos,' not Kainos. Kainos means -- here is a better translation, 'A Fresh Commandment,' or 'A renewed commandment,' I give to you. Love one another. They've just seen a display of love. He washed their feet. And He said, "You've seen my love. You've been with me for three and a half years. I want you to love like that."
Now you know what the word 'love' is, right? If you were to guess the Greek word for love here, what would you say it is? Agape, you got it right. Agape, Agapao, it's not the love of feeling, it's the love of the will. It's not the warm, fuzzy emotions that you have, it's I choose with a mature kind of an approach to show love to that person. That's Agape, Agape love. It doesn't mean liking by the way. Can I just be honest with you? I'll be very confessional, right from my heart. I don't like everybody I meet. You don't either. That's honesty. But I'm called to love, to demonstrate love. I don't even think God likes everybody. I know he loves the world but people that are God haters and slur the name of Christ and do evil. Do you think God goes, "I only have such a warm, fuzzy emotional feelings for --," not at all, but he loved the world that he gave his Son.
Agape, love is a mature kind of love. And it has a qualifier. He didn't just say, "I want you guys to love." Now he says, "I want you to love like this. Notice how we should love. Love one another as I have loved you." Now that's the benchmark. That's pretty high. How do you measure love? You measure it by flowers, gifts? How many times you can say, "I love you" in one day? Those are good reminders. I read about a man in 1875, Marcel de Leclure who wrote the words "I love you" 1,875,000 times or 1000 times the calendar year being 1875. You might hear that, especially some of the gals and go, "Oh, that's so romantic." Don't get your hopes up he hired somebody to do it.
So Jesus says, "I want you to love but not just love without a qualifier. I want you to love like this as I have loved you." Well that's a whole different ballgame, because number 1, Christ's love is sacrificial. John 15, "Greater love has no one than this, that He would lay down his life for His friends." That's sacrificial love. Number 2, its unconditional love. When Jesus was on the cross the first thing he said as the enemies were gloating over Him is, "Father, forgive them. They don't know what they're doing." So here is my point. When Jesus loves, He doesn't love lovely people, deserving people, wonderful people, He loves people who don't love Him back. He loves sacrificially, He loves unconditionally.
Okay, if you're honest you might be thinking about now, "This is impossible." For me to copy Jesus and love like He does, it's impossible. And I confess, I agree with you, it's impossible on your own but as a disciple following Christ He would never give you a command that's impossible. You think He's going to give you a command He is going to give you the ability to do it, right? Does that make sense? Do you know that as a disciple of Christ, do you know that you have an unlimited reservoir and capacity to love? Do you realize that? The Bible says, "That God had shed forth His love or poured out His love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit," that's Romans Chapter 5 Verse 5, "He has poured out His love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit." So here is the point, if God's love can flow into our hearts, God will make sure that His love can flow out of our hearts to other people, which means no one in our circle of relationships should ever be love starved. He has given us that capacity.
Now why should we do it? If there is the standard, there is the new commandment, "love like I love," why should we do it? Look at what he says, Verse 35, we close to this, "By this," now what's this? Love like Jesus. "By this, all will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another." Boy, that's a scary verse. Let me explain what I mean when I say it's a scary verse. In effect, Jesus is giving permission to the world to judge us. He is saying, "Listen, I'm letting the world look at your lives so that the world can say, "These people are real. They're authentic, they really follow me."" And the evidence is because of their love for one another. "By these shall all know that you are my disciples by the love." And how else are they going to tell? How else is the world going to know that we're the real deal? Is there a bumper sticker? "By this, shall all men know you're my disciples by the bumper stickers you put on your chariots or your cars."
Listen. By the way some us of drive, we should not have bumper stickers. Is it by our T-shirts? It is by the theology we can stuff in our brains? No, it's by love. I read a story about a ten year old boy in the city New York, Broadway. His nose was plastered up against the store window. He was gazing inside, it was cold outside. He had no shoes on. An old lady walked by and said, "What are you doing?" He said, "I'm asking God for shoes."
Well you know what she would do and she did it, she brought the young man inside. Asked for a basin of water, washed that little boy's dirty soiled feet, bought him a few pairs of socks, bought him a pair of shoes, and was about to walk out she felt a tug on her coat. She looked up and it was the little boy looking up and he said, "Excuse me, are you God's wife? You remind me so much of God by what you just did to me." Boy how wonderful it must be when people say, "You must be related to God. You got to one of His sons or daughters by the way that you love." That's a telltale sign.
There's something else I can't resist before we close. Notice what he says at that end of that verse, if you have love for what? Not for the whole world, but if you just start with one another, if you just begin loving other fellow disciples, fellow believers. If you just do that, they'll know you're the real deal. I don't know about you, but when I was kid I had some family issues, and lot of them were my attitude frankly. But whenever there was family dynamics that weren't really good and whether there was an argument or a fight or an imbalance in our home, I remember looking at other families and thinking, "I wish I was a part of that family. I want to be a part of that family. I want to be a son in that family. I love the way they love each other. I want to be part of that group." That's the idea here that the world with all of its dysfunction would look at people like us loving each other. And they would say, "I want to be a part of that family. I want to be a part of that group."
Well I've given you three new things that Jesus gives to His disciples that night. If you're going to be my followers you need a new perspective, a new gaze into the future, a new goal in this life living for the glory of God. You need a new relationship. You're going to have it. I'm going to wean you off of sight and onto faith. And finally a new commandment to love with that benchmark love, that is like mine.
Now let me give you three bullet points to walk away with since I've given you three points. Number one, asked God for a new set of eyes, not literally of course, but just a new way of looking at things. So that when you look at your treasures, what you own, the people in your life, in what you do, you would see it differently a new perspective. You'd learned to gaze at the end of the road and live in the interim part of the road for the glory of God. That's a new perspective. Ask God for new eyes.
Number two, embrace the weaning process as he is taking you and I to a place of just trusting in Him fully. Embrace that.
And number three, learn to measure your following of Christ, your discipleship, your Christianity by love. Not by how many people who love you, but how many people you love. And I find that they work in tandem. The more people you love, you're like a magnet. You're irresistible. You love more, they will love you.
Let me tell you as I close about a church tradition. We don't know this for sure but it's a long standing tradition that says when the author of this book of John, John the apostle himself was an old man, after he had left the aisle of Patmos he was taking back to Ephesus where he spent his final days. Run a hundred years of age. He couldn't walk. He had to be carried everywhere by his disciples. So they would pick him up and they would take him to church and everybody wanted to hear a word from the apostle John. And then his last days according to church tradition, he only said one thing, and he said it often. They would raise him up and they say, "John, tell us something." And he would say, "Little children, love one another." They bring him to church next week, "John, tell us something." "Little children, love one another." And the next week, and the next week, finally somebody said, "Why do you keep saying that?" And this is what he said, "Because it is the Lord's command. And if this alone be done, it is enough."
Isn't that great? If you just do that, if we would just love one another, imagine the power and impact we would have in this community and in this country.
Heavenly Father, that's a work of your spirit we're talking about. If something you can do, we're told you've given us the capacity, the reservoir, the shedding abroad of love in our hearts. That's a gift you have given to us, a capacity you have given to us. I pray we tap into that. As you give us Lord a new way of looking at life and as you wean us from things we lean upon, people we lean upon, structures we lean upon, systems of religion we lean upon and as you get us to lean totally on you in faith. I pray that the outward expression toward one another would be that kind of unconditional and sacrificial love. That would be so compelling. Lord I pray if anyone here doesn't know you or know that love, maybe they've come in to be a part of this family today and they say, "I want to be a part of that. I want that kind of love. I want to be a son of God, a daughter of God." Bring them Lord in faith to know you. Do that work as you do work in our hearts, in Jesus' name, Amen.