My hope this morning is to be very pastoral this morning before we examine this text. What I mean by that is I have a serious concern I see arising in our historical, cultural context—both outside the church and inside the church. That concern is how we treat our enemies. Merriam-Webster defines an enemy as, “one that is seeking injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent.” We could also say, “someone or something that is harmful or deadly, or is seeking to be harmful or deadly.” Having a working definition of an enemy is important because some people are categorically seen that way when they are not, while others are categorically seen that way when they should be. We need to define an enemy so we know who are our enemies and who are not. My fear is many of us grew up being taught having enemies is fundamentally wrong, especially if you grew up in a Christian context. We equate enemies with hated, and we know we are not supposed to hate people. Therefore, as we grow up and learn they are very real enemies and we have no clue how to love them.
So, friends, my hope is today as we examine how Jesus loved one of his enemies we will have the power through Jesus’ example, life, Word, and Spirit to love our enemies the way Jesus does. In our text today we will see the greatest betrayal in history take place, but the reason it was written for us was NOT to focus on the betrayal but on the LOVE, fulfillment and power of Jesus Christ.
Theme: Jesus demands we radically extend our enemies crucified love.
1. Demonstrating Crucified Love—John 13.18-30.
The last time we were all together Jesus had just finished washing the disciples feet as a demonstration of what a crucified life looks like. Jesus did this not merely as an example of servant leadership, but because it marked His life. Jesus said these crucified habits embody what it means to be His disciple. The church is meant to be a culture marked by the Cross of Christ.
As we approach our text today Jesus continues His discourse by helping His disciples further understand the power of what He is doing—READ John 13.18-22. Jesus understands that at some level all the disciples will betray Him, because none of them will stand up for Him when the authorities come. But one particular disciple, Judas, will betray Jesus in an exclusive way. The gravity of Judas’ betrayal was much more disturbing. When Jesus reveals this to His disciples they all at shocked—including Judas.
Peter nudges John to ask Jesus more details about what He means—READ John 13.23-26. Notice how Jesus is willing, but does not directly address the issue. Some might ask why Jesus did it this way? As far as I can tell is Jesus wants to give Judas every opportunity to repent without publicly shaming him. I don’t know about you, but many times reading this growing up I would focus on the betrayal instead on the love Jesus is offering Judas all the way to the end. Remember last week John prefaced this section with the statement, “he LOVED them to the end” (John 13.1). This is an example Jesus loving Judas with a crucified love until the end. Jesus was willing to give every opportunity for Judas to repent, but he chose a different way—READ John 13.26-30. The disciples did not fully understand what was happening. Even though John heard these exclusive statements from Jesus it seems like he may not have either. At the bare minimum he may have been in shock.
As we consider all this we need to think through, “How are we supposed to treat our enemies?” I want to pastorally give you some things I think will help deal with our enemies. First, “Do we acknowledge we have them?” When we don’t acknowledge we have enemies then it is hard to learn how to love and treat them. There are REAL enemies who are REAL threats. Second, we love our enemies with a crucified love. If they are a real enemy you will have to DIE to love them. Many of our enemies will think they are doing the right thing. Friends, we must never forget that was all of us when God lovingly pursued us through the Cross of Christ. We have been confused by the steps so we don’t know how to love or treat them. Third, there will be times when our enemies do not turn from their harmful ways and we have to lovingly let them go. There will be many times when this could even be a direct betrayal of you on a personal level. I am sure there are other helpful aspects here in this story, but these are at least 3 I see here and have seen in my experience.
2. Demanding Crucified Love—John 13.31-35.
After Judas fleas the last supper Jesus takes his intimate instructions with his disciples further—READ John 13.34. Jesus demands that we love one another. Jesus said people will know we are His disciples by the love we have for one another. But in order to understand this demand we need to understand what Jesus is NOT saying.
We know from the OT that God demanded His people to be marked by love. The 2 greatest commandments were to love God and love our neighbors. Therefore, we have to ask, “What is new about this command?” It is my understanding that it is the CROSS. All throughout the Gospel we have seen Jesus love God and others in many ways. We have seen Jesus love for the outcast. Jesus invested in those who were not seen as that talented. Jesus was consistent in His involved with others. In last weeks text Jesus was willing to do the unimaginable by washing His disciples feet. And this week Jesus was willing to even show love to His worst enemy. He was making one final attempt to give Judas a chance to repent and reconcile with Jesus.
Now let me circle back and ask, why would I say the CROSS is what difference in all these habits in Jesus’ life? The Cross tells us all of these things Jesus was doing were for enemies. When we remove a robust theology of the Cross from Jesus’ lifestyle choices we remove the power from them. The consistent investment in the outcast, washing the disciples, or attempting to reconcile with Judas were all loving acts toward Jesus’ enemies. The Cross was necessary because we were all God’s enemies. The Cross is God extending to us the same extravagant, loving grace Jesus was extending to Judas at that last supper.
When we consider that we can now go back and the statements carry more weight. First, lets look at verses 31-33. Jesus says God the Father is going to glorify Him, and the means by which He will do that is through the Cross. Think about that for a moment, glory will come through the death, public embarrassment, shaming, and jealous innocent prosecution of Jesus. God will make Jesus the treasure of our lives through all of that. Second, as we think through that it tells us what Jesus is demanding from us. Jesus is not merely, generically demanding we “love one another,” but He is commanding us to love people the same way He did. Jesus is demanding we radically extend His love to even our worst enemies.
And I love what Jesus tells us about this—READ John 13.35. When we love the worst of the worst, when we love the unlovable, we demonstrate Jesus crucified love to the world. Now catch what Jesus is saying here friends, you cannot be associated with Jesus unless this is a mark of your life. Crucified love is not simply loving those we feel comfortable with, but it is about extending love to those are our real enemies. All throughout the Gospels Jesus gives instructions on how anyone can love the lovable, but what sets followers of Christ apart is the love they also have for their enemies. Listen to how Jesus expresses this in the Gospel of Luke:
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you?...But love your enemies, and do good…expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”—Luke 6.32-35
This is not some mere free choice we have but a demand from our LORD. We are commanded to love others the way Jesus does. In this context what they means we are commanded to love our enemies like Jesus does at the Cross.