Scripture Reading: John 13 - 15 …
What must it be like to KNOW that you are about to leave this world and go to heaven? For Jesus it was returning to where He had been before! "Jesus knew that the time had come for Him to leave this world and go to the Father. … Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God" (13:1,3). Jesus came from heaven to earth for a specific purpose, and now the time had come to complete all that He had come to do. Always the Teacher, He wanted His disciples to operate from the same motivation … so He washed their feet.
It must have seemed like a simple thing, but there was a lesson to be learned. Jesus made sure they learned it: "You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet" (13:13-14). The lesson was that "no servant is greater than his master" (13:16). Jesus was saying that there was no task that they should think they were too good or too important to do for one another and for others.
After exposing Judas Iscariot, Jesus told the rest of the disciples, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (13:34-35). Jesus was about to ascend into heaven and pour out His Spirit and this command would now take on new meaning for His followers. They would understand that this command meant that they must follow Jesus' example in being willing to serve and, if necessary, to literally lay down their lives for one another, as He was about to do for them.
Jesus repeatedly told them not to be troubled or afraid, but rather, to trust in Him. He was going, but He would come back to take them to be with Him. When Thomas declared that they didn't know the way, Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (14:6). Jesus said, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching" (14:23), and in John 6:29, "The work of God is this: to believe in the One He has sent." Those who do not confess Jesus as Savior and Lord cannot and will not obey Him.
Jesus told the disciples, "anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father" (14:12). Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, preached the good news of the kingdom, calmed the storms, made the blind to see, forgave sinners and died and rose again!!! What "greater" thing could any of us possibly do? Yet, Jesus said anyone who has faith will do greater things!!
It all has to do with the message … it was only AFTER His death and resurrection that the mission Jesus gave the disciples could be accomplished: "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things" (Luke 24:45-48). It was not until Jesus went to the cross and rose from the dead that His work was finished and the resurrection could be preached!! JESUS came to give spiritual life - eternal life, to all who would believe, but that would ONLY happen through the preaching of the Gospel to all nations.
Jesus handed over that mission to the disciples and to US! That's why He poured out His Spirit to empower them and why the same Spirit empowers true believers today. To prepare them for what lay ahead Jesus gave them another picture: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the Gardener” (15:1). The Father trims and prunes the branches so they will bear fruit. "I am the vine, you are the branches," Jesus said, " … apart from ME you can do nothing" (15:5). "This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples" (15:8). "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit …" (15:16).
Bearing fruit will require fulfilling Jesus' command to love one another because we need each other and because it is in displaying Christ's love that others are drawn to hear the message of forgiveness and life through faith in Jesus. None of this is easy. In fact, it is impossible unless the Spirit of God lives within you. The world will hate you … BECAUSE you love Jesus. Why? Because of His Name! (15:21).
People may receive our good deeds, but they will oppose the proclaiming of the Gospel of Jesus Christ because it demands repentance and faith in Him alone. Proclaiming the name of Jesus will cost us our-SELF! That's why Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (15:13). THIS is the love to which Jesus calls His disciples.
"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' … They will treat you this way because of my name" (15:18-21). As the Holy Spirit testifies about Jesus, so those who are His true disciples do the same.
Do you know where you are going? Do you know the way? Only we who are united to Jesus by faith will enter into His presence. Our home is with our Father and our Savior and we long for that day when we shall see Him face-to-face. Knowing that He has prepared a place for us, we endure persecution for His Name's sake and we watch … and we wait … knowing that soon we will be in His presence and will be with Him - forever! O glorious day!!
"My Father in heaven, I confess Jesus as my Lord and I desire to follow Him, to serve Him, to obey His command to love as He has loved me. Empower me with Your Spirit, that I may be found faithful in serving others, proclaiming that in Jesus they, too, can find eternal life. Take away any pride or fear or anything else that may prevent me from following Jesus. Make me willing to lay down my life, in Jesus' name, Amen"