First Mennonite Church
April 9, 2017
Love Not Weakened Even by Betrayal
Text John 13:1-35
Today we are having the Lord’s Supper or Communion of the Lord’s Table. It is interesting that the Last Supper account is not found in the Gospel according to John. Although he makes a slight reference to the Last Supper, when he says Jesus gave Judas a piece of bread, it seems John stays focused on the general theme of his gospel. Love is John’s central theme in his Gospel and in his letters. We should remember that John portrays Jesus as the fullest expression of God’s love for the world. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son (3:16). No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God and God abides in them (1John 4:16b). Therefore, instead of writing about the institution of the Last Supper, John focuses on the words and deeds of Jesus, which leads to his issuing of the “new commandment.” John portrays Jesus modeling love in concrete ways by washing the feet of his disciples and by treating Judas with love the same way he does the other disciples. Jesus loved Judas even when he—Judas, betrayed his Lord. My title for today, Love Not Weakened by Betrayal is intended to help us see how loving our neighbor and even our enemies reveals the presence of Jesus in our daily lives.
How often we admire the beautiful description of love according to 1Corintians 13.
Love is patient;
Love is kind;
Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.
[Love] does not insist on its own way;
[Love] is not irritable or resentful;
[Love] does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.
[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. (v.4-8)
But also, how often we disembody the virtues of love? You see, we often think of love described in 1Corinthians as a piece of beautiful literary art, only to be admired, or as a lofty and idealistic virtue but not as something to be embodied. But let us make a simple change to these statements about love and give it a body. Instead of: Love is patient and so on, let us replace the word “love” with our name and read the statement again. Pastor is patient. Pastor is kind. Or, Elaine is not envious, boastful or arrogant, or rude. Or, Lilian does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. By doing so we begin to feel how challenging love really is. But it also makes us wonder what a difference love would make in our lives, in our relationships, in our interactions with our children, spouse, and friends, and with strangers. Paul says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never ends.” Again if we insert our name, it will read: “Karen bears all things, believes all things, and endures all things . . . .”
But how often our love is conditional; we respond according to stimulus. That is, if someone is kind to me, I too respond with kindness. But if someone is aggressive or indifferent to me, I also respond with indifference, if not with aggression as well. Children are prime examples of how responding to stimulus looks. When little Bobby smiles at Jenna, Jenna smiles back at Bobby. But when Bobby pinches Jenna, Jenna pinches Bobby too. When the teacher catches Jenna pinching Bobby and tells her not to do it, guess how Jenna will respond. “It’s because he pinched me. He did it to me, first.” Jenna’s response to her teacher in other words is, “I had no other choice than to pinch back.”
After Paul describes the virtues of love, he writes something very interesting: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.” (1Corinthians 13:11). In other words, Paul is telling us: “Grow up, people! If you want to love, stop being like children! You must leave behind the childish way of reacting.”
Let us go back to our scene in John.
After Jesus had washed the feet of his disciples, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you . . . . 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
Jesus, the Lord and Teacher, wanted his disciples to do as he had done to them. The disciples would be blessed only if they followed the example of their Teacher and Lord. We too will be blessed only if we follow in the steps of our Lord and Teacher.
Following this charge to his disciples Jesus was “troubled in his spirit,” John says, and made a shocking announcement. Jesus had just shared the bread and the cup of the solemn Passover meal with all his disciples and he had finished washing the feet of Peter, John, and James, etc. and even Judas’. He had loved them all equally to the very end. It was no wonder why Jesus was so troubled in his spirit before he made the announcement of the betrayal. His heart broke; he was greatly grieved in his spirit out of love for Judas, who seemed unmoved and untouched by such pure love. After Judas leaves to negotiate payment of his betrayal, Jesus never gets to talk with Judas anymore according to the gospel of John. I wonder what Jesus would have said to Judas had he met him face to face. Would he have told Judas he still loved him. I’d guess so. Would Jesus have told Judas he forgave him? I guess he would. So after Judas left, Jesus said to his disciples, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Therefore, when Jesus says, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another,” he is asking us to love with the love described in 1Corinthians 13. Loving as Jesus loved means loving with the kind of love that is not weakened even by betrayal of death. That is how Jesus loves and that is how he asks us to love others. We are to love people, not as they deserve or according to how we feel about them, but as Jesus has loved us. That kind of love is indeed patient, kind, not envious, arrogant or rude. Loving in the way Jesus loved Judas does not rejoice in evil but rejoices in the truth. Love in the way Jesus loved Judas and us, bears all things, believes all things, hope all things, and endures all things.
My dear brothers and sisters, it is easy to love those who love us; those who are like us. But that is the way Jesus says the Pharisees love. That is how the pagans love. But we are called to love as Jesus has loved us. That kind of love does not keep count of the wrongdoing endured. Loving in the way Jesus loved us expels fear, absorbs the pain, covers a multitude of sins, and bears the shame. It is only by loving in the way Jesus loves that the world will know that we are disciples of Jesus. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” Jesus says.
Let us ask God to help us truly experience the depth of his love. We can only love the way Jesus loves if we have experienced his love first. Anyone who has not experienced love simply cannot love. And everyone who has experience love and remains untouched and unmoved resembles the spirit of Judas. Nonetheless, Jesus loves us in spite of our failures. However, let us hear Jesus once again:
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Amen!