John 14 is a powerful chapter. It begins with a directive and contains many more that are central to our walk with Jesus. “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me”. Jesus is giving the disciples some last minute coaching during the next few chapters in the book of John. He is preparing them to take over the ministry they have been doing together the last three years, and is passing the baton to the guys who will lead the charge after His death. These are important chapters. His first instruction is not to allow the circumstances of the day drive them off course. When things go differently than we expect, often we drive into the weeds and lose the basic foundation we have been connected to. The chaos of the day causes us to take a turn away from God. But Jesus is telling them to stay the course. When things are difficult – that is when faith has to kick into another gear and take over. We need to believe. We need to hang on to the Lord. He assures us that He has not forgotten us – “I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also”. There is a promise we need to cling to. Jesus never takes His eye off us as His followers. He has executed God’s plan and prepared a place for us. He will come again to bring us to that place so we can be with Him. That is a promise. Jesus is always thinking of us. Are you troubled? Or worried? Or living in fear? Jesus is the answer. Faith is how we overcome those things. We need to believe and trust Him. He is in control.
Verse six contains the words that are some of the most important in all of scripture. Many people believe that all roads lead to God. After all, following Jesus is just one path to heaven isn’t it? Absolutely not. Jesus is extremely clear in what He tells us: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”. There are lots of folks saying things that are absolutely not in line with scripture about how we get to God. Jesus is clear – He is the only path that leads there. Period, end of discussion. There are not multiple paths. All religions don’t end up the same place. Only being a Christ Follower and being obedient to His direction and believing in Him will take us to the Father. We can wish for lots of other options, but there are none. Jesus is the way – the only way. Now many say that just isn’t fair, it can’t be right, it is too limiting or a host of other reasons why they want it different. But it isn’t different. It never has been, nor never will be. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He is our only path to God. Is it too harsh? Not really. God has made the path pretty simple actually. It takes a simple act of faith to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord by repentance and taking that gift of grace. It actually is about as easy as it could possibly be. Becoming a Christ Follower is not a long list of things we must accomplish. Jesus already did all those things. What is left for us is to accept God’s offer and gift. But it does mean we give over control of our life to the Savior. It means we put Him on the throne and spend the rest of our days walking with Him to become like Him. Wonder if this is all true. Jesus tells us this is not just His idea: “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works”. This is God’s plan. It is the way it is because God put this in place as His plan to save us – a bunch of sinners bound for destruction. Are you on the path to God through faith in Jesus? If not, it is time to get on that path. He is the way, the only way. Don’t miss the road!
John 13 gives us a few more details about the last supper. Jesus is getting ready to depart the 12 and this earth. Scripture tells us that He “loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end”. What an example of how we are to love. So often we treat love as one of the conditional things in life. In God’s world – love is not conditional. It is complete and total and given without regard to the receiver. Love is forever in God’s economy. It isn’t turned off and on based on what people do or say. Unfortunately that is how a lot of us treat love. We will shower others with love when we are happy with them, or we are getting our way, but if they don’t do the things we want to turn off the spigot. That is not the kind of love Jesus models for us. He shows us God’s love – unconditional and never ending. He goes on to put that love into action as he washes the feet of the 12. Jesus is serving and loving his followers. Isn’t that backward? Why is the leader washing the feet of the led? Peter says wait a minute Jesus, you can’t wash my feet. “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head”. But Peter misses the point here – it is about servant leadership. It is about setting an example for us to follow. It is setting the standard for love. Jesus explains it this way: “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”. Jesus is showing the disciples, and us, how we should lead and love those in our patch. Have you ever had your feet washed? It is a truly humbling experience. And washing the feet of another is equally so. If you have never done it, I suggest you give it a try starting at home with your family. There is no more powerful way to show yourself a servant leader than kneeling before your spouse and kids and washing their feet as you bless them before God.
Jesus goes on to give us the truth that is beneath His act of servant hood: “a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him”. Servant leadership is God’s plan – Jesus came to model it – and it is our job to live that way as we touch others. So many leaders have the wrong impression that the people are there to serve them. That is what is wrong with politics today. It is all about the few who are elected rather than those they serve. Jesus turns all this stuff upside down. He gives us new marching orders. “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”. It isn’t about me – it is about loving others. It is about living like Jesus lived. The focus is not on self, but on those in our patch. Is that how you are living – focused on loving those around you? It should begin at home and spill to all we touch. Why? Because it shows who we belong to. It shows that someone other than self is in charge. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”. It is the sign that we are walking with Jesus. We need to really ponder how we live. Are we people of love – where others are put first? Or do we spend our days focused on self and what we can do for me, myself and I? Jesus way is very different than that. It isn’t just a suggestion either – it is our commandment!
Luke 22 gives us a few more details of the events leading up to the crucifixion. Dr. Luke is a bit more of a detail guy than the other gospel writers. He tells us that “Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot”. The enemy is out to kill, steal and destroy, and every one of us is his target. Remember that Judas Iscariot has spent the last three years literally in the company of Jesus. And yet, with all that first-hand experience and training, he still is a target. Satan comes after him and takes advantage of his weaknesses – greed and power being the key ones that appear to cause Judas to betray Jesus. At the Last Supper, Jesus lets the 12 know that one of them will betray Him. They immediately look around and ask who that might be. But very shortly the focus changed from identifying who the betrayer might be, to who is the greatest. Check out what Luke writes: “they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this. A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest”. Do you see the transition? From being concerned about who would be the one to betray Jesus to arguing about who would be the greatest. The focus changes to self and completely moves away from the issue at hand. Is Satan tempting them by working on their humanness? Sure, just like he caused them to fall asleep while they were to be praying as Jesus asked. Jesus doesn’t get wrapped up in their petty arguments but gives a very important statement: “I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom”. Jesus is telling the 12 that the time is near when they need to step up and continue the work that He had started. They definitely are not tuned in, but the words are important.
Jesus also makes it clear that Satan wants to come after Peter. He says Satan wants to get to Peter “that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers”. Jesus knows that Peter will fail and fall to temptation. He knows that Peter will deny Him. But as we often see in scripture, there is grace for those who fail. God can not only restore, but can then turn and use sinners to make significant impact after restoration. That is Peter’s fate. He completely falls off the bus – he denies ever knowing Jesus at all. But Jesus tells him that he will play a critical role in the early church – to be one who strengthens the brothers. Elsewhere we know Jesus said Peter will be the “rock” on which the church would be built. That doesn’t sound like a guy who would deny the Man he has followed for the last three years. But that is how God works. He takes us where we are and exercises grace as we repent and come back to Him. We know that Peter denies Jesus three times as different people accuse him of being one of the 12. Luke adds one critical fact: “And the Lord turned and looked at Peter”. Remember that Peter was not close – he was hiding in the shadows and staying away from the crowd. Jesus turns and looks at Peter. He makes eye contact. At that moment scripture tells us that “he went out and wept bitterly”. Peter knew he needed to repent. He had failed His Lord. He had turned his back on the One who He had been following and decided to give his life to. But when the chips are down, he turns his back and denies Jesus. Our relationship with Jesus is very personal. Jesus knows us deeply. Jesus knows our heart. He is the intimately knowledgeable of who we are and how we relate to Him. Do you deny Jesus? If you do, it is time to evaluate your relationship with the Savior. Are you in denial? Or do you just need to come to the Savior?
Mark 14 gives us another look at the events just prior to the crucifixion. Jesus has a couple of his disciples go to prepare a place for them to have their last supper together. He sends them off with some very specific instructions of what to do: “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us”. I can’t imagine being one of the guys sent ahead to prepare. Sure Jesus…..we are going to walk into a city and be able to spot this guy carrying a jar of water who will just happen to lead us to the place we are to go and when we tell the master of the house we want to use his place he will take us there. But guess what – it happened exactly as Jesus said. They went…they saw….they followed his direction…they prepared. The group met and ate and drank and shared together for the last time. Jesus tells them this night that “after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee”. I am not sure they were listening because they had just been told that one of them would betray Him. But it will be an important statement after the resurrection – another prophecy or foretelling of the truth that they will come to remember.
You’ll remember from our study of this section in Matthew that Jesus took the three disciples in His inner circle – Peter, James and John – with Him to pray. They didn’t – they fell asleep. But beyond praying for the events to come, Jesus gives us a deeper glimpse into why prayer is so important. Check out what He says: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”. Prayer is one of the ways we can deal with temptation. Scripture is clear that we will be tempted. The enemy is focused on tempting us to cause us to sin. But here Jesus tells us to watch and pray so we don’t fall to temptation. It is a key weapon in our walk toward holiness – along with the Scriptures – to doing battle with the enemy. Jesus asks these three to pray and prepare for what was to come. Unfortunately they fall asleep instead – but we see the principle here. Are you spending time in prayer? It is a spiritual discipline we all need if we intend to walk with Him. One last thing Mark captures here that is different: “And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked”. Could it be the first streaker? I had never caught this little sentence before, but it is certainly interesting. Pray much – it is key to our ability to deal with temptation and to experience the power of God in our lives!
Matthew 26:31-75 captures the story of Jesus betrayal. Jesus warns the twelve that they will “all fall away because of me this night”. Of course they all say they won’t ever do that, but Peter is the spokesman and really puts it on the line when he boasts “I will never fall away”. Jesus tells him exactly what is to come when He says “before the rooster crows you will deny me three times”. Jesus is troubled by the coming events and takes His three closest disciples with Him to go and pray. He asks them to stay and watch and pray, He goes a bit further and pours out His heart saying “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as you will”. Jesus is agonizing about what is to come. He seeks the Father to see if there might be another way. But His agenda is clear – He is totally committed to following and obeying God’s will and direction even unto death. Jesus is all in. His key disciples – the inner team if you will – are overcome. Three times He asks them to “watch and pray” and all three times He returns to find them sleeping again. They do not completely understand the gravity of the situation. The third time He awakens them is right before Judas Iscariot shows up with the mob to arrest Jesus. Judas had set forth a plan: “the one I kiss is the Man”. And that is exactly how it went down. Judas comes up to Jesus and “kissed Him” and betrays Him into the hands of the crowd to be dragged back to Caiaphas the high priest and the religious leaders. There was a momentary challenge put up by one of the disciples when he “drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear”. Momentary delay as there were four of them against a mob of angry people that had been assembled by the leaders to go get Jesus.
As Jesus had predicted, “all the disciples left Him and fled”. Peter “was following Him at a distance” but none of the ones who had spent the last three years living and walking with Jesus daily were with Him now as He is accused and facing death. Only hours earlier they had all said they would be with Him through it all, but now that they have seen what is happening they scatter like flies. Peter wants to be close enough to the situation to know what is going down. He stays in the shadows at a distance watching as Jesus is falsely accused and sentenced as a blasphemer. Then it began to happen. One by one people began looking at who was in the crowd watching. “A servant girl came to Peter and said “you also were with Jesus…..but he denied it”. A bit later another servant girl came and said “this man was with Jesus…..again he denied it”. Soon thereafter one of the bystanders came up to Peter and said “certainly you too are one of them….he began to invoke a curse on himself and swear ‘I do not know the man’”. Three times people recognize Peter as having been with Jesus and three times he denies it, each a little more strongly. He does exactly what he told Jesus he would not do – fall away and run from knowing him. Peter is focused on saving his skin and not being associated with the Man whom he had followed for the last three years to protect his own life. “Immediately the rooster crowed…..and he went out and wept bitterly”. Peter remembered what Jesus had told him – that before the night was over he would deny Jesus three times. He did, and the rooster was the reminder of that prophecy. Peter is devastated. He has done exactly what he said he would not. So how do you respond when your faith is challenged or someone asks you about Jesus? Do you run and deny that you know Him? Or are you completely sold out for Him, willing to stand firm and defend Him as your Savior and Lord? Is Jesus only there when you are alone and no one else knows? Or are you living life so that everyone sees and knows that He is King in your life and you are all in for Him? Do you deny Him? We will learn that Peter does not lose his place of importance in God’s plan with this denial. But it is a very hard time as God builds his character and grows him to become the “rock” of the church as Jesus told him earlier.
Matthew 26:1-30 gives us the details of the coming death of Jesus. He was with his disciples and tells them “the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified”. Can you imagine receiving that statement? They have walked with Him the last three years and then one day out of the blue He begins talking about His death. Of course it shouldn’t have been a surprise, after all there were many prophecies about it and Jesus has more than hinted previously, but this day would prove to be one where they really began to see the events that were coming. The religious leaders “plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill Him”. There was still fear of what the people would do if they messed with Jesus. But they were now committed to getting rid of Him. They decide not to do it during the Passover feast to avoid the wrath of the people. Meanwhile, Jesus and the disciples were going on with life. A woman comes to the place He was eating at a house in Bethany and pours a flask of very expensive oil on His head. “When the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘why this waste’”? They were definitely not seeing the big picture yet. Jesus tells them to leave her alone as “in pouring this ointment on my body, she has done it to prepare Me for burial”. The guys hadn’t quite put two and two together yet. They weren’t quite picking up what He had put down as the reality of the next days.
Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests to ask “what will you give me if I deliver Him over to you”. Talk about being an opportunist. Judas was driven by greed. He enjoyed the gig the 12 had going and wasn’t about to let Jesus derail his interpretation of building the Kingdom which was not even remotely close to what Jesus’ version of that was. Judas Iscariot was looking for an earthly kingdom where he could be one of the ruling team. Of course Jesus came to die for our sin and prepare the way for God’s Kingdom in heaven, but there was a complete disconnect between that and what Judas was expecting. So he went and put a price on Jesus’ head – “they paid him thirty pieces of silver”. Not really much but enough for Judas because “from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray Him”. Later that day they gathered and shared the first communion together by breaking bread and taking the cup from Jesus. It was at that meal that Jesus tells the 12 that someone would betray Him. And here is the response: “Is it I, Lord”? They all were asking. Even Judas Iscariot asked that question and Jesus identified him as the one but didn’t really call him out or make a big deal out of it. Why? Because Jesus was on the course of obedience to God’s will. He knew He had to die to fulfill God’s plan. So the time continued with the breaking of bread and the sharing of the cup. It had to be a powerful time for them then, just as it should be for us now when we partake of it in our worship time. “When they had sung a hymn, they went out”. This really sets the stage for the events that are to come. The group now has been told – they still don’t understand all that it means – but it will become very evident over the next hours and days as Jesus goes to the Cross and then rises from the grave. Have you experienced the power of His crucifixion and resurrection? Do you realize that your sin put Him on that Cross? We all need to ask “is it I” when it comes to Jesus. And the answer is – yes – He went to the Cross for your sin and mine!
Matthew 25 is a couple parables that Jesus uses to teach some powerful lessons. The first is about the 10 virgins. Five are called wise because they came prepared by bringing along extra oil for their lamp, the other five foolish because they made no preparation. We need to be ready. There couldn’t be a much clearer way to tell us to wake up and prepare for Christ coming again. As the bridegroom approached, the five foolish virgins had a problem their “lamps are going out” and they plead for oil from the five who were prepared. The prepared didn’t have enough extra so the fools went to buy oil. But the bridegroom came and “those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut”. Did you catch that? He went in with those who were ready and shut the door. As the other five return they say “Lord, Lord, open to us” but it is too late. The door has been closed and they are on the wrong side of it. The second parable is that of the talents. Jesus shares that one servant is given five, one two and the last a single talent. The Master is gone for a while and upon return asks to see what they had done with their gifts. Of course the first two had doubled their amount, the last just returned what he had been given. Jesus says these words to the first two: “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much”. Those are words we should all long to hear. We are in the same spot as these servants were. God has entrusted things to us to be stewards of during our life here on earth. We will give account one day for what we did with the things He entrusted to us. What will your story be? Have you taken the gifts, talents, money, time and every other thing God has given and used it well for Him? Will He say “well done” when you stand before Him on judgment day? Or will your story be like the last servant – who hid what he had been given in the ground and didn’t use it at all for his Master? The response to that poor guy was not positive: “cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness”. How we live matters my friends. We need to be prepared and we plan for how we will serve our Lord. And we need to use what He has given us wisely to make a difference for His Kingdom. It makes a big difference for what our eternity will look like.
Jesus clearly tells us what will happen at the end. “He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats”. That seems pretty harsh doesn’t it? Doesn’t really seem to be fair at all. But God is not about fairness, He is about justice and being true to His Word. And the time is coming when there will be a very distinct separation made. “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”. There will be one group that will inherit eternal life and spend eternity with God in heaven, and another that will be separated from God and spend eternity in hell. It doesn’t get much plainer than what Jesus tells us here. He goes on to drive home the point that how we live really matters. Check out what He says:
– “For I was hungry and you gave me food
– I was thirsty and you gave me drink
– I was a stranger and you welcomed me
– I was naked and you clothed me
– I was sick and you visited me
– I was in prison and you came to me”
Never believe that life doesn’t matter. How we live has a huge impact in our relationship with God. Jesus tells us that many will come to Him in those last days and say “Lord, when did we see you……” in one of these situations. Jesus is very clear when He responds: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me”. How we live makes a huge difference. We need to live and love like Jesus. To do that we need a personal relationship with Him. The judgment won’t be about life being fair. It will absolutely be about what we did with Jesus. Are you ready?