“What Jesus Told His Disciples”
Welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. On several different social media outlets, when people want to see what is taking place in a person's life, they follow that individual. That person is able to see what their person of interest is posting, where they might be at a specific time, or even send a personal message to them. Well, the same can be said about someone who follows another person in their car, while shopping at a store, or keeping up with them in some other way. As Jesus carried out His public ministry, many people followed Him. They went where He was teaching, or heard from others what He was saying. They followed Him from a distance and never really got close to Him. They were Jesus followers. He also had a group of people who did more than just follow Him, and they became His disciples. These individuals studied what He taught and they tried to commit their lives to that teaching. In other words, there was and still is a difference between being a follower of Jesus and being one of His disciples. In our lesson today on “Key to the Kingdom,” Jesus gives some direct teaching to His disciples. As He was about to leave their physical presence, He offered words for them to seriously consider and to practice; and those same words deserve our full attention. As we read and study them, the challenge will be for us to not only hear what Jesus had to say, but to put it into practice, we will consider how we can move from being a Jesus follower, to being one of His disciples. Hopefully you will stay with us for the next few minutes, as we think about these important words from Jesus. I encourage you now to open up your heart and your Bible, as we study together.
The Bible records many statements Jesus made throughout His public ministry; many of which we have committed to memory. A few of them challenge us while a few of them confuse us. Some require us to do or to avoid certain things, but all of Jesus’ statements are important. For the next few minutes I want us to look at another of His statements that grabs our attention. Toward the end of His ministry, Jesus shared a meal with His disciples; and that was not unusual. The disciples traveled with Jesus most everywhere He went throughout Galilee. They shared many meals together, and no doubt had some good conversations. This meal, however, was different. Jesus shared something very specific with them. And what He said to His disciples then is still important for His disciples today. Yes, Jesus called for obedience. He has just identified Judas as the one who would betray Him. And those things quickly began to be set in motion, as Judas went out and put things together; and that would eventually lead to Jesus’ death upon the cross. Well, we next read these words, recorded in John chapter 13, beginning with verse 31: <When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will glorify the Son in Himself, and will glorify Him at once. “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. “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”> You know, some people spend a great deal of time discussing and arguing and debating who is and who is not a true disciple or follower of Jesus Christ. Some even go so far as to say, “Well, if you do not believe and practice exactly the way we believe and practice, then you are not a disciple of Jesus.” Well, Jesus has something to say that puts to an end all of that argument and discussion. According to John chapter 13, the passage we just read, Jesus said the determining factor for those who are His disciples is the impression they make up on other people, and that impression revolves around love. Yes, those who are His true disciples love one another. And as we notice, He stated that in several different ways. Jesus’ words here bring to mind what He also stated in the gospel of Mark chapter 12. One day He was asked, what is the greatest or most important commandment; and He told them. He said, “You are to love the Lord God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself.” Now, we looked at that particular statement in a previous lesson, but we think about those words when we think about what He stated here in John chapter 13. These are, however, just a little bit different. These were specifically directed to His disciples, to those who were closest to Him and who had followed Him throughout much of His ministry. Jesus makes the point, there, He would not be with them much longer; and no doubt, that was true. There was coming a time very soon when He would ascend back to His Father and there He would reign with Him throughout all eternity, and Jesus would no longer be physically present with His disciples on earth. But Jesus wanted them to know something before He left. He wanted them to know that their relationships with one another were to be based upon love for one another. This was not a sexual or a casual type of love He was referring to, but rather it was a commitment of deep concern for one another. It was to be based upon the very same kind of love Jesus demonstrated toward them. And when others genuinely saw them loving each other, they would recognize that, indeed, these people are the disciples of Jesus Christ. We might even say it like this: When other people saw the disciples loving one another, they would think and say to themselves, perhaps, “Well, I want that in my life. I want to be a part of a group that loves and respects me, and I want that kind of relationship and fellowship with other people.” Obviously the opposite is true as well. If other people in the world saw these disciples not loving each other, then they would say, “Well, I don't want to be a part of a group like that.” In other places, Jesus taught His followers to love their enemies. As we notice, He taught them to love their neighbor as they love themselves. But here Jesus specifically tells His disciples to love one another. Now the new commandment Jesus referred to there, in verse 34, reminds us of the new commandment, or the new covenant, that Jeremiah had in mind back in Jeremiah chapter 31. Let's read part of his prophecy, which begins in verse 33: <“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”> The Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah, looked to a time when things would be different. He foresaw a time when God's people would take care of each other and they would love each other, as they reminded themselves of God's love and care for them. It was part of that new covenant or that new teaching which Jesus would bring, and, in fact, did bring into His public ministry. Yes, the Old Testament prophet envisioned a time of deep connection between the Lord and those who followed Him. And it would focus not only on knowing about Jesus, but truly knowing Him as God's one and only Son, and truly knowing and experiencing the love that He had with them and they were to have for Him. You know, some people might ask, “Well, what level or what kind of commitment does Jesus really have in mind here? How much love is one supposed to have for another disciple or believer?” Such questions suggest one is looking for an easy way out. Or, perhaps they want to know the minimum amount that is required and they are hesitant about making that kind of full commitment to someone. Jesus had no such thing in mind. Demonstration of love for one another has no limits. Whatever was required, that was what these disciples needed to do. And still today, there is no end to this commandment. There is always a need to show more love for one another, to demonstrate the kind of love and care that Jeremiah prophesied about and that Jesus, in fact, showed to them. Two chapters later, in John chapter 15, Jesus restated that in another way. Listen to His words in verses 12 through 14: <”My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.”> Once again, we see Jesus giving that very same command, and He asked His disciples to be obedient. And He goes to the point of saying you are to even lay down your life for someone else, if that is what is required; to be willing to give your life for another person. And when you do that, I will recognize you as My friends. When you follow My command to love one another to that degree, then indeed you are My friends. Many of you know that our ministry, “Key to the Kingdom,” has a Facebook® page. Some of you follow that. You look at the things we post on a regular basis, and like and even share it with others; and, I'm grateful for that. I also have a personal Facebook® page; and according to that social media network, I have many friends. Some of them I have known for a long time, others I see on a regular basis, and there are some that I have never met. And if you have a Facebook® page, or know something about that, you know how that system works. But we recognize the importance of having friends, don't we? We recognize the importance of being a friend to someone else. Well, there is no friend who compares with Jesus. And when we follow that command to love one another, He calls us His friend. And that’s special. That's important. Jesus is the very best friend any of us could ever have, or experience, in our life. Yes, to be called a friend of Jesus is one of the greatest compliments a person could ever receive. In fact, there is no one else with whom I would rather be a friend than the Son of God. And yet it comes, as we notice here, when we obey His command to love one another. You know, there are perhaps some fellow disciples or Christians whom you like more than others. And I suppose that is only natural for all of us. There are some people we like to be with more than we like being with others. We enjoy spending time with certain individuals more than other people. And Jesus probably understood all of that when He made the statement here in John chapter 13, and also in chapter 15. But let us understand, there is a difference between liking and loving someone. Liking someone revolves around our interest or our feelings or our emotions, but loving someone is deeper. Loving someone revolves around a commitment that we make to a person, no matter what kind of issues or problems that might arise or might even tend to divide us. Whether we like someone or not, Jesus tells us to love them; love them to the point we are willing to lay down our life for them. We love them so that the whole world will know we are the devoted disciples of the One who loved us enough to give His life for us. If we understand, or want to understand, what that love for one another really looks like, we don't have to look any further than the story that we find here in the gospel of John chapter 13. Jesus told His disciples He wanted to share the Passover meal, or supper, with them; and this would be the last time He would do so. He asked them to go into the city of Jerusalem and find a place where they could do that. And so they found a place, which we have called the upper room. Jesus and the disciples entered that room and they were about to partake of that meal. Before they did, however, there was probably a servant there at the door whose job it was to wash, or to clean off, the feet of those who entered. And we can just imagine how dirty those feet might have been. To walk the dusty roads and the dirty streets of the city of Jerusalem, no doubt, walking in those sandals, the feet became dirty. And so, oftentimes the person would remove those shoes and a cleaning or a wiping off of the dirt would take place. And then as the disciples and Jesus gathered around the table, they did not sit in chairs; rather, they reclined at the table. And that meant they would recline on one elbow and then eat with the free hand, and their feet would extend out toward the next person around the table. And just imagine that scene, the feet extending to the face of the person next to you. And if those feet were not clean, or wiped off, then it might be just a little bit smelly or unpleasant or uncomfortable. It was in that kind of situation where Jesus got up from the table, took off His outer garment and He wrapped a towel around His waist. He then secured a basin of water and He went from one disciple to the next washing and cleaning the feet of that individual. There was one man who said, “Oh Jesus, don't, don't wash my feet.” And Jesus said to him, “If I don't do that, then we are not connected.” And the man said, “Well, don't only wash my feet, but wash my entire body.” Well, Jesus was making the point, I want to serve you: I want to be connected to you and show you what true service looks like. And He said these words in verse 15, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you;” not only regarding foot washing, but simply the whole aspect of being a minister or a servant of loving other people. Jesus truly was a servant. He truly did love other people. He said this about Himself in Mark chapter 10 verse 45: “For the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Yes, Jesus truly was a servant who loved people. In several places in the book of Acts, we read how the early church grew. And part of the reason was because these early disciples took care of one another. They shared what they had with those who were in need. They made great sacrifices to make sure that the poor and the less fortunate had something, and enough to get by. They met on a regular basis for worship and for fellowship and for meals, and various other things. Why was that; because they loved each other, they wanted to be together and they were following the example that Jesus had set for them. Jesus’ church, in those early years, stood out among other groups of people for that simple fact, that they loved one another. And the same thing is true, or at least it should be true, of Jesus’ church still today, that we love each other because Jesus first loved us. We spend time serving and ministering and loving one another because Jesus has provided the example for us to follow. When those who do not know Jesus see our love for one another, they will recognize that we are the disciples of Jesus Christ. And according to Him, that is the greatest demonstration of God's love. Well, questions naturally come: How do we do that? How do we demonstrate our love for one another? Well, several things, we accept each other as a part of the same family; we overlook those things that offend or bother us; we practice patience with one another; we forgive someone who has wronged us or has made mistakes. In other words, we love, just as Jesus has loved us. Perhaps you have heard the statement, “The sign that you follow Moses is that you obey the commands. The sign you follow John is that you are baptized. But the sign that you follow Jesus is that you love one another.” You know, we learn from other passages in the Bible that several things need to be done in order to be a part of God's family. We believe in Jesus Christ as God's one and only Son, we turn away from sin and evil in our life and we devote ourselves to following Jesus. We are baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of that sin, as we become united with Him. But even when all of those things are done, to love one another is still at the heart of those who are the true disciples of Jesus Christ. Jesus showed us what that looked like when He washed the feet of His disciples. And that was only a prelude to the greatest demonstration of love that has ever been made, when Jesus went to the cross and died on our behalf so that we could be a part of His family. Well, Jesus’ followers no doubt did some of those very same things after He ascended into heaven. They washed each other's feet. They were willing to die for someone else. They served each other in various ways. And as a result, indeed, other people knew they were Jesus’ disciples. Well, that was very important, and it's important for us. If Jesus were present today, I believe that His words would be the same; that nothing is greater than living a life of love, for it is to be at the center of a disciple's life. As we mentioned at the beginning, it is good to know, to memorize and to practice the Bible's teaching. And when it comes to being a of God's family, and one of His disciples, the bottom line, however, is to love one another. What Jesus told His disciples, then, is still important for His disciples today: We love one another as He has loved us. And that's my encouragement for us today, to find ways to allow the love that He has for us to be demonstrated in our life, as we love one another.
There is a great deal of discussion in regards to who is a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Churches and individuals and even institutions seem to spend a great deal of time debating and discussing, and even arguing over, who is right and who is wrong, who is in and who is out. Well, it is important to be a disciple of Jesus Christ; and so, what does He say about that? In Scripture, He puts it this way: “Those who are truly My disciples have love for one another.” Well, we love not only our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, but we love other people also. And that's important, isn't it; to display the love that God has given to us to those around us. And every day we have opportunities to do just that. In fact, somebody might be put into our life, today, and we have the opportunity to either withhold or to show God's love to such people. I would encourage us to do that, to think about how we can represent God's love to the people in this world. And that's important because other people may look at us and they may be considering whether or not they want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. If they see us loving one another then they might make the decision to be a disciple, themselves, and to follow our example. I encourage us, today, to not get wrapped up in all the controversies and the debates and the discussions about that, but simply to go out and to represent God's love to the people He puts before us.
Thank you for joining us today on “Key to the Kingdom.” I trust this message, on disciples of Christ loving one another, gave you something to carefully consider. If you would like to hear this lesson again, entitled “What Jesus Told His Disciples”, you can find it on our website. Go to keytothekingdom.com, and there you'll be able to download it in a variety of formats. It does not cost anything to do so, and there is no commitment required. While you are visiting the site, I hope you will take a few minutes to look at some of the other things we offer. Past lessons, short devotional thoughts and two minute messages are available. All of them are designed to offer spiritual encouragement, as you daily walk with the Lord. I also invite you to find and like us on Facebook®. Weekly posts are made every Sunday night, and I hope you will share them with others. By calling the phone number on the screen you can leave a message, which will be returned very soon. And finally, Roku® television and a free phone app are two other ways to keep up with this mass media ministry. Again, I want to thank you for tuning in to our program today. Please consider joining us next time, as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.“