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John 13:21-30 The tragedy of rejecting Jesus

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

The tragedy of rejecting Jesus

John 13:21-30

21 After He had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray Me.”

John 13:21 NIV


Today I speak to you about the tragedy of rejecting Jesus. Our text tells us part of the story of Judas Iscariot and how he allowed himself to be taken captive by the devil and then turned on the One who loved him the most and betrayed Him to His executioners.

But within the story of Judas is another story. It’s the story of the other eleven disciples and their vulnerability to reject their Lord, to turn away from Him when the pressure became too great. As we observe the possibility that the eleven could give in to the temptation to deny Jesus His rightful place as Lord of their lives, we must assess the strength of our armor of protection from the attacks of our enemy.

Are we, today, positioned to take our stand alongside of Jesus no matter the circumstance facing us? From the deceitfully clever schemes of Satan to the weakness of our human nature, are we garrisoned about with adequate protection so that we will walk in victory over temptation? This morning I hope to identify those resources we have available from God that will keep us strong as we represent Jesus in a good manner here in this community.

The context of our story is very important. I would, therefore, like us to read the entire chapter of John 13. As we do, let’s look for clues as to why Judas betrayed our Lord and why the vulnerability of the other eleven points to the resources that will make us strong and victorious.

Now, let’s have the women read the first 11 verses of John 13. Again, be looking for clues as to why Judas betrayed our Lord and why the vulnerability of the other eleven points to the resources that will make us strong and victorious.

Please open your Bibles to John, chapter 13. I would like for the ladies to read the first 11 verses, for the men to read verses 12-20, then all of us read verses 21-30 and then I will conclude by reading verses 31-38. Shall we stand as we read. This is the word of God.

John 13:1-11 (NIV) (women)

John 13:12-20 (NIV) (men)

John 13:21-30 (NIV) (everyone)

John 13:31-38 (NIV) (pastor)

So ends the reading of God’s word. May both this word and the hearers of it be blessed. You may be seated.

John, the writer of this Gospel, sets the story of Christ’s betrayal within the context of God’s ever-pursuing love for sinful men. The story of Christ is a passionate love story, one that is filled with the drama of servanthood, sacrifice, betrayal and denial. Yet, it is one of triumph and victory, of hope and love, of resurrection and ascension.

Notice the words at the end of verse 1 in chapter 13: 1  . . . Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.

We see our Lord’s love as He washed His disciples’ feet. We see His love as He pursued His betrayer one last time, offering him the opportunity to repent. We see His love as He laid a foundation of teaching and experience that would bring rich dividends as those teachings and experiences would return to their memory after the resurrection.

Certainly not to be overlooked is the ultimate demonstration of the full extent of His love that He showed them when He voluntarily gave His life as a sacrifice for our sins.

John opens chapter 13 with the affirmation that Jesus was about to show them the full extent of His love, His complete love. Then, he closes the chapter with the command of Jesus to His disciples that they were to love each other with the same love He had shown them.

Now, to watch someone who loved another so deeply, so completely, have His love spurned and to be handed over to vicious enemies who didn’t just want to take Him captive, but were so hateful they had determined to mock Him, to brutalize Him and kill Him as the worst of all criminals. It is unimaginable that someone who had lived with and rubbed shoulders with the supreme model of love would reject that One who could pull him out of his slimy pit and set him on a rock of rejoicing. Incredible indeed.

So within this setting of this cushion or pillow of divine love is a story of betrayal that reveals our own suseptibility to the temptation to deny our Lord. John immediately let’s us know in chapter 13 what is going to happen on that significant evening.

John 13:2 (NIV) 2 The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.

Somewhere, somehow, Judas allowed himself to be blinded by the deceitfulness of sin. Now, please keep this in mind. All of us are born into this world blind; spiritually blind, dead in the sin of our father Adam. Only the work of the Holy Spirit can open those blind eyes so we can see the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Surely, Judas saw something of the glory of God while in the presence of Christ. But, instead of welcoming the opening of his eyes, he allowed Satan to deceive him and return him to his state of blindness, most certainly to a worse case of blindness. It appears that his hardness of heart came through the deceitfulness of riches.

Likely you recall, back in chapter 12, at the banquet in Bethany that was held in honor of Jesus for having raised Lazarus from the dead, Mary expressed her love and appreciation by taking her most prized and valuable possession and gave it up as an offering of thanksgiving. Judas Iscariot observed this action and his response gives us an insightful view into his character.

John 12:3-6 (NIV)

3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

4 But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray Him, objected, 5 “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” 6 He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

I personally cannot tell you when Judas became a thief or when the devil took control of him. One could say he was always a thief simply because he was born a sinner. But, what is the point of the devil prompting Judas to betray Jesus if he was already a traitor from birth?

The natural reading of Scripture repeatedly declares that I am responsible for my sin, even for the sin I inherited from Adam, and that I must repent of it. The Scriptures repeatedly place before me resources that are given by God that give me the ability to respond to the free gift of salvation. Thus, I have no excuse for not repenting and not receiving new life in Christ. The Scriptures tell me that I will suffer the consequences for refusing these gifts.

Luke records . . .

Luke 22:1-6 (NIV) 1 Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. 5 They were delighted and agreed to give him money. 6 He consented, and watched for an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present.

Depending on how you view the chronology of the story of Jesus, it is very possible that Satan entered Judas more than once. Satan is not like the Holy Spirit in nature. Satan is not able to be in more than one place at a time. So, it is possible for Satan to enter a person more than once and not reside in him forever. Furthermore, knowingly or unknowingly, Judas had put out the welcome mat for Satan by his hardened heart to the gracious overtures of love by Jesus.

In the interaction that Jesus had with Peter just before He washed his feet, implied is that Jesus was giving Peter the opportunity to refuse to have his feet washed. Jesus responded to Peter’s refusal by saying, 8 . . . “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.”

In that same dialog, Jesus makes it clear that Judas had refused to be spiritually washed by Jesus. 10 Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For He knew who was going to betray Him, and that was why He said not every one was clean.

After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He exhorted them and then spoke more about Judas. Jesus knew that they wouldn’t understand what is going on at the moment, but wanted them to have this in their memory banks so when they review all that had happened they would see how it all fulfilled the Scriptures.

18 “I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: ‘He who shares My bread has lifted up his heel against Me.’

19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He. 20 I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts Me; and whoever accepts Me accepts the One who sent Me.”

Judas willingly welcomes Satan to make him his slave and to be the betrayer of the Savior of the world. What a sad story. What a tragedy for Judas and all the others who are in the grip of the devil.

Now, within this story of Judas is another story. It’s the story of the vulnerability of the other eleven disciples to reject their Lord, to turn away from Him when the pressure became too great.

Think of yourself as one of the eleven. You are reclining at the table with Jesus. As He begins to speak; you can see His countenance change, much like you observed when He was told that Lazarus was already dead.

21 After He had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray Me.”

Jesus had already been saying as much. But now He speaks even more plainly. “One of you is going to betray Me.” The next verse carries with it a powerful blow.

22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them He meant.

I’ve tried to imagine what was going on in their minds as they looked around at each other, occasionally locking eyes with another of the disciples. “Could it be you?” “No, I couldn’t believe that.” Then, moving on to the next, each time saying the same thing. “No, it couldn’t be you.”

But, what is the conclusion after you have made the rounds and you’re left asking, “Could it be me?” “O, no, it couldn’t be me.” But the Lord has said, “One of you will betray Me.”

One thing that becomes very obvious from this group assessment of each other is that Judas has done a very good job of disguising his sinful heart, of keeping his heart of betrayal hidden from view.

But his success at hiding his sin from his fellow disciples adds to the realization that it was possible that everyone of these disciples could give in to the temptation to deny Jesus His rightful place as Lord of their lives. It had to have been a heart-searching moment. “Lord, am I capable of betraying You?”

22 His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them He meant. 23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to Him. 24 Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, “Ask Him which one He means.”

25 Leaning back against Jesus, he asked Him, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

“What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus told him, 28 but no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the Feast, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.

Again, the fact that some thought Judas’ leaving was in obedience to Jesus to go buy something or to give something to the poor is further evidence that Judas had hidden well his deceitfulness.

So, here we have a group of men who had been with Jesus about 3 years. On the last day of Jesus’ earthly life before His resurrection, He is gathered with a bunch of prideful men who were planning on which cabinet post they would have in the new administration of Jesus when He became king in His kingdom. I guess that helps explain how they missed the gross deceitfulness in Judas. They simply were too preoccupied with their own promotion. Positively speaking, however, we could say these disciples were pretty convinced Jesus would come to power soon and they wanted to also be in positions of power.

After receiving the gentle rebuke from Jesus that they needed to be servants and messengers with the same attitude as He had, these disciples found themselves doing some soul-searching about the possibility of denying they even knew Jesus or worse yet, betraying Him into the hands of the enemy. This had to be a stunning moment, a reality check to their own suseptibility to the temptation of vanity and pride.

So, in the midst of this reality check it’s important to ask ourselves, what resources has God provided to strengthen our armor of protection from the attacks of our enemy?

First, Jesus has given us His word to remind us of Himself, His purpose and His gospel. 19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He.

Remembering what Christ has done is a powerful resource for us to resist the temptations of sin. What has He done for us? Why has He done it? Do we really want to show disrespect for our Lord’s deep and pursuing love for us?

Second, Jesus has given us His example of being a servant and a messenger that we are to practice on each other. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.

Can you imagine the power that would be unleashed within our congregation if we washing each other’s feet as we identied last week?

1. Footwashing is a humble disposition that regularly places the needs of others ahead of our own needs.

2. Footwashing is the practice of prayer for believers and unbelievers that removes barriers to a relationship with Jesus Christ.

3. Footwashing is the second step in showing hospitality when we welcome a person with honor and respect.

4. Footwashing is an act of obedience to our Teacher and Lord to take the role of a servant and messenger.

5. Footwashing is a way to say, “I would like our relationship with each other and with Christ to go further and grow stronger.”

6. Footwashing is the thoughtful and gentle asking of questions that requires the humility of a listening ear that builds friendships.

Just think of what would happen among us if we regularly practiced servanthood as Jesus modeled it for us. We would be adding strength to each other’s armor of protection to bring victory over the temptation to sin.

Third, Jesus has given us His resurrection that makes sense of all the previous events that were confusing to the disciples. 7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He.

The resurrection is a gift from God to make sense of all the cruelty and betrayal and sacrifice in the Jesus story. Such knowledge changes our perspective toward temptation. We are victors, not victims. We have a victorious Savior. We don’t have to be victimized by Satan.

Fourth, Jesus has given us each other/His followers as fortifiers of our walls of defense against our enemy. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. Jesus has placed us within a body. He calls it church. We are brothers and sisters who, we will learn next week, are to love each other just as Jesus has loved us.

So, there you have it. Four reinforcements to our armor of protection against temptations to sin. These are not all the resources Christ gives us, but four very valuable ones. Before Jesus goes to the cross, He will remind us of the resource of the promise of our eternal home and of the resource of the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit.

So, the four resources we take note of today are not meant to be a complete list, but powerfully helpful to stand strong against temptation to sin, thus making us victors in partnership with Christ. Embrace these resources from God to be a winner over temptation to deny our Lord. His word; His example; His resurrection; His followers. These are gifts from God to fortify our garrison of protection and make us victorious in the face of temptation. Praise be to God!

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