Text: John 13-17
I don’t know if any of you have ever had anyone housesit for you. Before you leave you often give them a list of things that are important for them to know about caring for the house. Most importantly you leave them directions of how to reach them while they are gone. This saved Jean and I while we were on our honeymoon. We stayed at my Aunt’s house in Washington and drove into the mountains and the tire started on fire. It was such a comfort to know that we had their number and could get a hold of them. I knew exactly how to get a hold of them if I needed to because they had given me exact instructions.
The Gospel of John was written to persuade people to believe in Jesus as their Lord and God, and thereby receive eternal life. Yet as we have gone through John’s gospel, I intentionally skipped over a major section. I did so, because this section is not directly connected to the theme of bringing the reader to faith in Christ, but stands out as Jesus’ last words to the group of people who did believe in Him, his disciples. As a Christian, as someone who has already come to faith in Christ, these chapters should stand out to us apart from the rest of the book. In these chapters, Jesus is getting ready to leave, to return to the Father, and he is giving us instructions of how to reach him while he’s gone. These chapters speak of a surprising intimacy that Jesus expects us to share with him, even while he’s away. I say surprising, because it is a problem each of us has probably wrestled with at some time – how do I have an intimate relationship with a guy who lived 2000 years ago and is invisible now? Yet in these chapters Jesus assumes that it is not only possible, but something we are to foster if we are to live vibrant, fruitful and joyful Christian lives.
Look at how this section starts in Chapter 13:1: “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” Jesus knew he was going to be leaving soon, and the passage reiterates his love for us. He loved them and he loved them to the end and the things he told them that night spoke to how he would continue to love them even after he left them. You would never forget the last words of your loved one. What does Jesus have to say about intimacy in these chapters?
1. Intimacy With God Breeds Intimacy With Others (John 13:1-17)
At some point during his last meal with his disciples, Jesus did an unthinkable thing. He rose from the table, took off his outer robe, tied a towel around his waist and began to wash his disciples’ feet.Imagine, Jesus – the Lord of all, King of Israel, Master Teacher, doing something so disgusting and low as to serve his disciples in that way. The radical nature of this action really hit home for me when I once spent a week in the Chinese countryside with one of the university students whom I taught. In this area of rural China they still get a basin and wash their feet before coming into the home. As I sat next to my student I imagined what his response would be if I took the basin and towel and washed his feet. I remember one night I tried to sneak into the kitchen to do dishes after supper and I was very dramatically shooed out of the kitchen by his mom and aunties. If they wouldn’t let me help serve by washing dishes, there is no way he would have let me any where near his feet – I was the honored guest, his teacher. There is no way he’d allow me to disgrace myself in such a way. When the Lord knelt down at Simon Peter’s feet, he had a similar reaction – “Lord, are you going to wash my feet? No way, Lord. You will never wash my feet.” But Jesus told him that if they wouldn’t let him wash their feet, they would have no part in what he would do. Imagine you were there. Imagine Jesus humiliating himself in such a way, kneeling in front of you, scrubbing the dirt off of your smelly feet. What would you be thinking? How would you feel? Later, Jesus explained, in verses 12-17:
Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
Jesus willingly humiliated himself before his disciples so that we would understand how we are to serve and love one another. No one who has had his feet washed by Jesus can ever demand that anyone else wash his feet. Instead, in the church we are to radically serve one another, to radically demonstrate our love for one another through doing the dirty work for each other. Not only did he model that love and service to us, he commanded us to do the same:
John 13:34-35 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."
This is to be the primary identifying mark of a disciple of Jesus. We have received Jesus’ love and been so humbled by his sacrificial service to us, that we in turn love and sacrificially serve others. In this commandment, Jesus summarized the entire Christian ethic: love one another. This is not some mushy type of love – it’s a love that gets your hands dirty. But notice that this is not a commandment that you can merely go through the external motions to fulfill. Love must be internal and genuine. This is the goal of our entire Christian life: to be so filled with God’s love that we radiate his love outward by serving others. Not because they deserve it, but because God has demonstrated it.
2. Intimacy is Developed Through Prayer (John 14:12, 16:24)
This seems hard, doesn’t it? What if we don’t find the resources in ourselves to be loving? What if we run into people we don’t want to love? What if we are unable to meet someone’s need, because we don’t have the physical resources to do it? What if we’re too tired, too discouraged, or too weak to love?Jesus – you’re God! You’re always loving! But what about us? Here, Jesus teaches us about an amazing resource he has given us:
John 14:12-14 "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
Jesus says that we will do even greater works of love than even he did and that He will always be available to empower us from His Father’s side. This is what bring power and accomplishment to our prayer, not that we ask for things using a special formula, “in the name of Jesus”, but that we pray in tune with his heart, and understand that his heart is love! If we pray in accordance with his love, we have full assurance that he will answer our prayers positively. That’s why our first prayer is always, “Lord, teach me to pray. Give me your heart. Show me how to love.” Then as you receive his heart of love, you can know how to pray for the situations and people whom you encounter.
3. Intimacy is Possible Because God Lives in Us (John 14:15-17)
Jesus promised to not leave us as orphans but to send the Holy Spirit to guide, comfort and teach us.One cannot truly hope to begin the Christian life without understanding the role that the Holy Spirit will play in it, yet so many Christians attempt to live their Christian life alienated from the Holy Spirit.
a. The Spirit will dwell in us John 14:15-17:
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
The Holy Spirit is called another Helper, or Comforter. The word is best understood as a "helper" in terms of whatever the disciples need in God's plan. In this sense He will do what Christ did for them, but He will also do it differently, that is, from within. In this way, the love of Christ can be multiplied many times over what Jesus was able to do in his earthly ministry, for we can all be filled his same Spirit and empowered by His same love. Because the Spirit dwells within us, Christianity is an internally-driven faith rather than an externally-governed religion.
b. The Spirit will teach us and remind us about Jesus John 14:26, 16:13-15:
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. . . When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
The Spirit will bring to our remembrance Jesus’ life and works. I believe this happens in two ways:
i. Historically: as the apostles were writing the New Testament, the Holy Spirit illumined them to remember the things Jesus said and did so that we have full and accurate presentations of his life and ministry.
ii. Personally: as we face our daily lives the Holy Spirit within us reminds us of our Lord and directs us to follow his ways. We must learn to listen and rely on his guidance.
4. Intimacy is the Key to a Productive Faith (John 15:1-17)
Just as the commandment Jesus gave is internal (love one another), the resources he has given us to fulfill his commandment are internal. That is, we carry out the commandment to love one another by praying for the heart and love of Jesus and being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is called abiding in Jesus, as taught in John 15:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my live
We bear fruit as we abide in Jesus, connected to him as a branch is to a vine. This speaks of intimacy with Him and it is the key to our fruitfulness and joy as Christians. Apart from Jesus, apart from abiding in him through prayer and the renewing presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can do nothing that will bear lasting fruit. You will find yourself exhausted, joyless, and fruitless. That’s why it is so important to renew yourself daily through having a personal time with God. Intimately connect with him. Abide in his love.
5. Intimacy Puts a Target on Our Back (John 15:18-25)
We must always remember that we follow an executed criminal. Jesus was the light that came into the world, but because the world loved darkness, it did all that it could to extinguish the light. We have to remember, especially in a country like Canada, that if the world hated Him, they will hate us as well, because we are intimately identified with him. Jesus prepared us for this in John 15:18-20:
"If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.
If we stay true to Jesus’ message, we are never going to be a popular voice in our society. You can only market repentance so far before people realize that you’re calling them sinners. You can only market faith so far before people realize that it requires obedience. You can only market righteousness so far before people realize that it requires them to make lifestyle changes. You can only market Jesus so far before people realize that to say yes to Jesus is to say no to all the other ways people have created to make themselves right with God. Yes to Jesus is no to Buddha, Muhammad, and Dawkins. Yes to holiness is no to adultery, homosexuality, pornography and lust.Yes to faith is no to materialism. Following Jesus is to reject the dominant values of the world and there will always be some who hate us for that. Be prepared. Do not be surprised.
6. Intimacy is a Taste of the Future (John 14:1-3)
John 14:1-3 "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
In his farewells to his friends, Jesus perfectly balances despair and hope. Yes, in the world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world. Yes, I’m going away, but I will come back again. Yes the world may hate you, but I have loved you and will not leave you as orphans. Jesus did not get into specific details and dates bout how or when he will return, but he told us what we need to hear. He loves us. He’s coming back for us. He’s bringing us with him next time. To use a babysitting analogy I started with, it doesn’t matter how crazy the kids start getting, I know the parents are coming home soon.
7. Intimacy is What Jesus Prays For (John 17:1-26)
After he spoke all these things, Jesus prayed for us. God himself prayed for us. How encouraging. I am not going to go into detail about this prayer because we recently studied it in detail with Bob Montgomery. The only thing I want to point out is that the main theme of his prayer summarized the main theme of his final words to his disciples. Intimacy. He prays that we might have an intimate relationship with Him and in having that intimacy with him we might have intimacy with each other.
John 17:20-26 "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
This was and is Jesus’ prayer for us as Christians. That we may know and live in his love and may reflect that love toward each other to his glory.