This morning I thought I might share a few thoughts from the last meeting that Jesus had with His disciples as recorded in John 13 to John 18.
It seems there were a lot of things that Jesus was concerned about in that meeting, things that He wanted to share with His disciples, things that would be a strength and a help and an encouragement to them after He left them. I think that the things that He was concerned about are the same things that concern us here today.
I am very grateful that whenever Jesus gathered His disciples together it was to teach them, to encourage them, and to strengthen them. He never brought them together to criticize them or to discourage them. He never brought them together for a negative reason. The Lord doesn’t gather us here for a negative reason either; it is always for a positive reason.
I even think of the time when the Lord moved John to write to the seven churches in Revelation. He wrote to those churches and he mentioned different things but first of all, He mentioned to them the positive things. He mentioned the things that He saw they were doing and brought joy to His heart. He did also mention a few things where there was a need and a lack. The reason He wrote to them wasn’t to put out the little candle, put out the light, but it was so that they could trim the wick and trim the lamp so that the little light could shine a little brighter where they were. That is why God speaks to us, it is never to put out the light, never to put out our little candle but it is that we could, in a sense, trim the wick so that our light would be a little brighter where we are. I am glad for the things that are shared with us even in the convention meetings that help us on that way.
I think about the letters that Paul wrote to the different ones. It meant a lot to him when he could see a work of God being accomplished in their lives. He wrote to those folk at Corinth. They had their struggles and there were things that they didn’t see very clearly and there were things that he had to deal with in that letter. One of the very first things that he mentioned to them and I think it was the thing that gave him the courage to write that letter. He said, “I see that the testimony of Christ has been confirmed in your lives.” That is a wonderful thing and it would be wonderful if God could say that concerning us, that He would see that the testimony of Christ has been confirmed in our lives, or that He could see that there is a work there and that He could see that we are bearing in our bodies the marks of the Lord Jesus. I think that is what gave him courage to write to them and to deal with some of the things that he did, because he realized there was life there and that was the root of the matter. Because he could see that there was a work done in their lives and because of that, they would receive the instruction that he was wanting to send them and it would be a help to them and a strength to them. We find that that was true because in the second letter we see that there was a favourable response to the first letter. Then thinking about when he wrote to the folks at Thessalonica and others and he could just tell them, “What you are doing, you just keep doing that. Just increase in it, abound in it.” It would be wonderful if when we come to convention and looking over the past year, that the Lord could tell us that. What you have been doing this past year, that is good. Just increase in that, keep at it and abound in that.
I might just mention what he told them there in Thessalonica. In the 4th chapter, he told them, “As touching brotherly love you need not that I write unto you for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.” Then he mentioned to them in the 10th verse, “Indeed you do it toward all the brethren in all Macedonia and we beseech you that you increase more and more.” Then in the 11th verse, he says, “Comfort yourselves together and edify one another, even as you are doing.” So he could write to them and encourage them to love one another, to edify one another and he could tell them to just continue in that, abound in that and keep on doing it. Those are some of the things that we appreciate amongst our brethren. We benefit from that but we don’t want to stop doing that but we want to keep doing that, abound in it more and more. Paul was writing too, especially to the folks at Corinth, and he said about the power that God had given him. He said, “He gave it to me for your edification, not for destruction.” So Paul, even though he had to say a few things in correction, it really wasn’t the purpose for which God had called him. It is good for me to remember that too, that the power that God has given us, the grace, the knowledge, the understanding that God has given us, it is for the edification of the brethren, for the edification of one another.
He mentioned that also in the 1st Corinthians about living for the edification of others. Jesus did that. He lived for the edification of others. Paul himself said that he didn’t live to his own profit but for the profit of others. That is a wonderful way to go through life. Not speaking of our own but living for the edification of others. That is what made Jesus’ life what it was and also Paul, those men weren’t living for themselves. Living for others and to the edification and profit of others.
I was just thinking of a few things that were in Jesus’ mind when He met with His disciples. It is not often that we see into the heart of someone else and it is not often that someone opens their heart to you. But in that little meeting, we do see what was in the heart of Jesus and Jesus was opening His heart to them, revealing some of His innermost feelings, innermost thoughts, and innermost concerns and maybe, even His worries. I don’t know if Jesus ever worried or fretted but I do think there were some things He was preoccupied with and some things He was concerned about.
In a Sunday morning meeting some months ago, one of our friends gave his testimony and he said, “I think of those I live with, those I work with, and those that live around me and it is interesting to me to see so many people that are so unconcerned about the things that really should concern them. I would like to know how to go through life with a real concern for the things that concern my soul.” It could be true that we could be unconcerned about the things that really concern us. One of our sisters told us of the things that really don’t concern us or things that are of no value and that rob us of the things that really do matter. That is easy, too, to do as we go through life. The cares of life and the things that in the long run don’t really matter can rob us of the things that really do matter. So we would like to keep the things that really do matter before us and focused on that.
One of the main things that Jesus was concerned about, but one can’t even say that because they were all main things. One thing that He stressed was their love for one another, their love for Him, and their love for the Father. That was one of the things that He was concerned about – their love for God and their love for Him and their love for the commandments, the will of God, and that would not grow cold. He told them once that because that iniquity will abound, the love of many will grow cold. Maybe that is something that destroys our love above anything else. The things that are going on around us, the things that others are doing, giving themselves to. We could get our eyes on that and in so doing, get our minds off the things that do really matter. It happened even in the Old Testament and it has been a struggle through the ages.
In the 73rd Psalm, that man said he was envious of the wicked and he just saw how things were going for them. They were prospering even though they were against God and against their fellow man and it seemed like they had nothing against them. Everything seemed to be going in their favour, for a while, until he went into the sanctuary. Then he saw the end of the matter and he also saw his foolishness. So it is good for us to come into the sanctuary, into the presence of God, just to see things as God sees them, see things from God’s standpoint. It just helps us to appreciate and to love what we have.
In the 13th chapter, it says that having loved His own He loved them to the end. Before Jesus encouraged them to love one another, He first loved them. One thing that I do appreciate about Jesus and that is that everything that He taught them, He first did that Himself. Luke wrote about that in the Acts when he said, “I am going to write to you about the things that Jesus did and taught.” It is interesting to look at that, that everything that Jesus taught, He first did that. When He told others to forgive, He had already forgiven. When He taught others to be merciful, He had already been merciful. When He taught others to be kind, He had already been kind and that applied to everything that He taught.
Sometimes people ask us what Jesus did between the age of twelve and thirty and I also used to wonder what He did between those ages. At the age of twelve, He said, “I must be about My Father’s business.” He made His choice known to others but we don’t know much about what He did between twelve and thirty but when you read Matthew 5, 6, and 7 you find that is what Jesus was doing. Before He began to teach, He first did it. When He encouraged them to be the salt of the earth, He had already done that. When He encouraged them to be the light of the world, He had already done that himself. He was teaching them things that would bring blessing to them and He had already proved that. He knew what it was to be at peace with God, to be a peacemaker. He knew what it was like to hunger and thirst after righteousness. So as you read through that it will give you just a little indication of what Jesus was doing between those years.
So He mentions here several times about their love and in the 13th chapter, He says, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another. Even as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” It says it was a new commandment but it was the old commandment in a sense. Jesus said that the whole Old Testament could be wrapped up in two verses. All that the Old Testament and the Prophets taught can be summed up in two verses. That is to love the Lord with our whole heart, mind, spirit, and strength and our neighbour as yourself. Yet He said, “I give to you a NEW commandment,” and that was that they would love one another even as He had loved them. He was willing to lay down His life for them so that they might have life. He gave His life for them, that is what He did. So that is the kind of love to lay down our lives, to be willing to die so that others may have life. That is not easy to do, to say, “Not my own will but Thine be done.” To allow the will of God to be accomplished in our lives so that our lives can be a light to others and a help to others. That is what Jesus did and that is the kind of life that He lived because of the love that was in His heart.
Then He said, “By this shall all men know that you are My disciples because you have one toward another.” I thought a little bit about that. We can’t say too much about a play on words but it says, “By the love that you have one TO another.” Not the love you have one FOR another. I think there is a difference in having love for someone and showing love toward someone. You could have a love for someone and they might never know it. A lot of people may have a love for someone and those people don’t know it but when you show that love then they will know that you love them. God had a love for all the world and He made that known and He came and gave His love, that we might have love. The disciples had a love for one another and that was made manifest in their care for one another. We read about those folks in Corinth that they were addicted to the ministry of the saints. They had a love for their brethren, and that was being manifested in their actions. Paul, when he was trying to be a help to those folks in Judea, he encouraged those in Asia to send a gift to them. Just to show to them that they appreciated what had been done for them and they did that to show it to them. We are glad for every evidence of the love of God working in them.
We read a little later about the church at Ephesus, in the Revelation and that was one concern for them that they had left their first love. Jesus realized that that was something that can come to pass and that will come to pass. So that is a concern and we just want to be careful that there would not come something between us and our first love. They hadn’t lost it yet but they had just left it but if you leave something then pretty soon you will probably lose it. If you leave your watch somewhere and you go back in a few hours, it may still be there but if you leave it long enough, it will probably disappear. That goes for a lot of things: if you leave it long enough, you will probably lose it. So we want to be careful that it would not happen to us. They let something come between them and their first love. I don’t know what it was but I liked a thought that one of our brothers was sharing with us. Even in a family, between a husband and wife and when they first get married, then nothing can come between them and their love. They show that, express that and manifest that but then as the years go by, one can be taken up with work or taking care of the children, taking care of the house. Then there are little things that can come between you and you don’t express that love like you did in the beginning. Not that you have left them but there is a possibility of losing the fire that was there in the beginning. So we can let little things come between us and rob us of the place that our first love should have, for God and for one another.
Another thing that He talked to them about was their peace. He wanted to share with them His peace. He said, “My peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth.” More than once in that meeting, He talked to them about peace. That was one of the things that Jesus came to share. Even when He was born, that was mentioned Peace and goodwill towards men. As He walked through life and met with men and women, talked with men and women and He said, “Your sins are forgiven, go in peace.” That was something that was a lasting peace, it wasn’t here today and gone tomorrow. So in this meeting, He wanted to leave His peace with them, a peace that will remain, an eternal peace. Then when He came back, after He rose from the dead, that was one of the first things that He told them, “Peace be unto you.” He didn’t tell them of the things in life that they were going to face but He just knew that if they can realize, “I am with you and I am thinking about you and My thoughts are towards you,” then that would keep them in the experiences that would come.
One thing that brings peace and maybe we don’t think about it but that is correction. In the letter to the Hebrews, we read that those that are exercised about correction. It brings about the peaceable fruit of righteousness. I thought about Saul and I thought about David. Saul erred and the Lord sent a message to him and correction was given but he wasn’t exercised by it. It didn’t bring the peaceable fruit of righteousness and he died without it. He died without the peace of God simply because he didn’t accept correction. David also erred and correction was sent and he accepted it and he knew of peace, so the peaceable fruit of righteousness – the peace that comes when things are made right with God, so that is part of what belongs to peace. Jesus mentioned to those people in His day that because they didn’t receive Him, they didn’t receive the things that belonged to their peace. So there is a lot that comes to us that enables us to understand what we can do to be right with God and make things right with God. Those are things that make for our peace. There is a lot that if we give ourselves to it and are exercised by it, then it can bring about the peaceable fruit of righteousness, things that would prove in our own lives what it is to be right with God and keep us right with God.
Another thing that He talked to them about was their joy and He mentioned that more than once, too. He mentioned in the 15th chapter, He said, “These things have I spoken unto you that My joy might remain in you and that your joy might be full.” In the 28th verse of the 14th chapter, He said, “If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I go to My Father and My Father is greater than I.” There are different things that bring joy. He said, “There is rejoicing in heaven when one repents or when one returns.” Like when the sheep was found or the coin was found. So we find joy and we rejoice when we see men and women who hear the voice of God, yield their life to God and turn to Him. We give thanks for that and we rejoice for that. Wonderful when we know that type of joy and that is a joy to God. There is rejoicing in heaven, rejoicing with the angels, and joy to God. So He said, “You would rejoice, too, when I go to My Father.”
Sometimes we don’t see a joy when some are taken into eternity but Jesus said that if they could see where He was going to, they would be happy. It tells us that it is a joy to God with the death of His saints, it is a pleasure to Him and if that is a joy to Him, it should be a joy to us, also. Anyway, He wanted them to have their faith in Him, their hope in Him, and their confidence in Him and that this could mean a joy to them. He said, “You are going to sorrow now because I am going to be taken from you. I am going to be killed and you are going to sorrow but I am going to come back to you and you will rejoice.” So there was that joy because of the victory that they saw in His life, the power that they saw in His life. So there are a lot of things we can rejoice in and there are a lot of things we see around us that can rob us of the joy and that could bring sadness or sorrow. When Jesus came back and He found the two walking and they were sorrowful and He saw the women and they were sorrowful and He found the disciples and they were sorrowful and they had allowed that to rob them of the joy. Then when He came and made Himself known to them in a fuller, realer measure, they had a joy that was never taken away from them. Maybe our eyes have become a little dim and we have lost our joy but even here, if we could have a little clearer vision of Christ then that joy could be renewed and strengthened.
I think another thing that Jesus was concerned about was pride, humility, and the need of walking in humility of life. I think He saw that that was a pitfall and He saw that it was something that could destroy even what He had tried to share with them. They came to that meeting and they were wondering who would be the greatest. So there was just a little bit of contention there, a little bit of strife there. Jesus, because of the spirit of humility that He brought to that meeting, just took care of that strife. Pride is in all of us and there is no getting around that and it is only by the grace of God and the strength of God that a person can know a little victory over that. Pride is probably the thing that will keep people out of heaven more than anything else. Satan was one of the angels and was created perfect in wisdom and perfect in beauty and yet, it was pride that cost him his place. It was pride that almost kept Naaman back from getting helped. It was pride that got Haman into trouble. It was pride that kept most of the Pharisees and Sadducees out of the Kingdom in Jesus’ day. They came to Jesus and said, “We know who you are, You’re the carpenter’s son. Why should we even listen to you?” Because of pride, feeling that they knew more and understood more, they wouldn’t even give themselves a chance to hear. Even today, people feel that they know what is best for their life, simple pride. “I am as wise as you are,” and as a result, they don’t even give themselves a chance to listen to the Gospel and hear the voice of God. It was pride that caused Sodom and Gomorrah to be destroyed. When we think about Sodom and Gomorrah, we think about what sinners they were but it says that the iniquity of Sodom was pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness and because of that, she wouldn’t strengthen the hand of the needy. Pride manifests itself in so many ways and we like to think that we don’t have any of that. Yet often when here is a decision to be made, we think, “Well, my thought is better than yours.” That is pride. Somebody gives an answer and it doesn’t matter because we think our view is better. Proverbs tell us that contention does not come unless there is pride. So if there is contention, whether we admit it or not, somewhere deep down there is a bit of pride. We just kind of hold out for our will, for our pride. So that was one of the things that Jesus was concerned about, pride.
Another thing that He was concerned about was just their willingness to serve. That is what He did from the very beginning to the very end of His ministry. When He was there at the supper of the Lamb, He was there taking the lower place. And here, too, He laid aside His garments and He washed their feet. He served them. Then in the 3rd verse in the 15th chapter is says, “Knowing that He was come from God, He rose and girded Himself with a towel and washed their feet.” Jesus knew that He was come from His Father and that He was returning to His Father, what did He do? He laid aside His garments and served them. People have a lot of ideas of where they have come from and where they are going. Sometimes great vocations and destinations but to Jesus, it was a very simple thing. He had come from God and He was returning to God. If we understand that we have come from God and that we are going to return to God, what does that make us do? Does that move us to serve one another? Does that move us to love one another? Does that move us to live for one another? That is what it made Jesus do. To lay down His life so that His servants might have life. So we would like to do that. There is nothing lost in serving.
A couple of years ago, there was one of our visitors and she was talking about Rebecca. Talking about the time the servant came and asked Rebecca for a drink. She brought him water and then she brought water for the camels. She just mentioned this little thought about the spirit of service and little did Rebecca realize that day when she served that servant, that she was serving the one that would carry her back to her bridegroom. That has been a serious thought to me. That is really what we learned from what Jesus taught, that when we learn to serve one another, love one another, do for one another with no thought for reward and no thought of return, that is one of the things that will open the door on that day. There were those who when He was hungry, they fed Him, when He was naked, they clothed Him, and when He was in prison, they visited Him. There was just that spirit of willingness to serve without any thought of reward and the Lord took notice of that and He considered that. So that was one of the things that Jesus was concerned about and that He wanted them to be willing to serve one another.
Probably the main thing that He was concerned about was that they would be sensitive to the Spirit of God and He talked to them quite a bit about that in those chapters. He told them that He was going to be taken from them but that He wouldn’t leave them orphans, that He would not leave them without a Comforter and that He would send them a Comforter. He told them a little about what that Comforter would do and bring to their minds and it wouldn’t speak of Himself but would point them to Him, that He would bring back to their minds the words that He had spoken to them, that He would convict them of wrong and convince them of right and give them the judgement to choose between right and wrong. So that is something that He was very concerned about and that was that they would be open to the leading of the Spirit of God and sensitive to the Spirit of God. That was something that they attended to and gave serious heed to and we can see that later in the book of Acts, we can see them attending to that. Even with Paul, it was something that was very real to Paul. When we think of those men and the different places where they tried to preach the Gospel, they had places where they thought to go to but the Spirit wouldn’t allow that. Then they were attentive to that and wherever the Spirit directed them then they went there. We see that there was profit to that in that the way was opened up to them and what they entered into because of that. So that was another thing that He was concerned about in those chapters and that is that they would be attentive to the Spirit of God.
Another thing, too, that He was concerned about was that they would not take offense, that they wouldn’t be offended. In the 16th chapter, He said, “These things have I spoken unto you that you should not be offended. The time is going to come when they will put you out of the synagogues and they would kill you in thinking that they are doing God a service. These things they will do unto you because they have not known the Father and they have not known Me.” The point is to lose out and to lose hold. It is more than just having our feelings hurt, there is a deeper meaning than that. Jesus said that it is impossible to go through life but that offenses will come. Things will come that could discourage us and to lose hold of what God has committed to our trust. He said to be careful through who they would come because it would have been better for them if they hadn’t been born. So that is why I believe that this word “offend” has a deeper meaning. If that was the case it would be better if they had not been born but all of us have done something that hurt somebody else but this is far deeper than that. I thought that maybe He thought of Eli’s sons, the priests. They were behaving in such a way that they discouraged the children of Israel to bring an offering. They were so discouraged that they lost heart. I think that is what it means that we could do something or say something that would cause others to lose heart and to become unwilling to continue to serve the Lord. The warning in it is this, that it is a serious thing to offend others but even more serious to take offense. Because if I take offense, what I am really saying is that I don’t love God or the word of God as I should.
The Psalmist said, “Great peace have they that love Thy law and nothing shall offend them.” It just tells me that if I have the right love that something is not going to keep me back from doing what I ought to do. I think Jesus proved that in His life. A lot of things came in Jesus’ life that could have discouraged Him from doing the will of God or not finishing what God sent Him to this earth to do. When He came to His own, they said they would not have this man to rule over them. They mocked Him and didn’t want to have anything to do with Him. The devil would have said, “Why live for these people? Why die for these people? They don’t appreciate you,” and He could have been discouraged or offended and in a sense, He could have even taken offense from His own disciples. When He told them what was going to befall Him and that He was going to be taken and put to death, when they said, “Be that far from Thee. You don’t deserve that.” He could have listened to them but He didn’t. Then He went onto the garden and even though His flesh was crying out, He still said “Not My will, but Thine be done.” So those were things that could have offended Him or kept Him back from accomplishing that for which He came to do. But His love, His love for the will of God and to accomplish that was greater than all of that and so He went through with all that God sent Him to accomplish. So we could have that right love, that true love that would keep us to not be offended. So that was another thing that He was concerned about when He talked to them that day.
There were other things we could think about. He wanted them to be a good example, He had been a good example to them. He wanted them to have pure motives and be pure of heart. He wanted them to be fruitful and He talked to them about that and about the true vine and that they would be branches abiding in that vine and that in bearing fruit, they would be glorifying God. Really when you think about wanting to sum it all up, what He really was concerned about was just that they would have the Spirit of God and that the Spirit of God would be ruling there and reigning there and if it was, then they would bring forth this fruit. The fruit of the Spirit, love, peace and joy, longsuffering, gentleness and goodness and so on and that is really what He was talking about. He talked to them about Love. He talked to them about peace. He talked to them about joy. He talked to them about being long-suffering. He talked to them about walking in meekness and gentleness, in goodness and their faith being strengthened. Those were some of the things that He was concerned about. I think that above all He wanted them just to appreciate the one that He was going to send to them, the Comforter, that they would be open to that voice, listen to that voice and to be attuned to that voice. We see that and that as life went on and as they walked and a little of what we read in Acts and the letters that were written, we see that these things were a reality in their own lives. So for myself, I have just appreciated the things that He was concerned with that day and the things that He tried to share with them. I would like the same things to be a concern to myself.
As the things that He shared with them was such a strength to them and an encouragement to them, that if I give myself to that and think about that and meditate on that that it will also be a strength and encouragement to me in my day.