How can we recover from rejection? Part 6

“Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night.” John 13:30

In our study of John 13:18-30, we are learning that we can recover from rejection when we…

– Look to the Bible for God’s purpose (John 13:18).

– Let Christ deepen our faith in His Person (John 13:19).

– Learn not to take rejection personally (John 13:20).

– Lay aside our denial of pain (John 13:21).

– Lean on Jesus for His power to forgive (John 13:22-26).

The sixth and final we can recover from rejection is to LINGER IN JESUS’ PRESENCE (John 13:27-30). “Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What you do, do quickly.’ ” (John 13:27). While Judas took the piece of bread from Jesus, we are not told that he ate it as a sign of receiving the Messiah’s offer of salvation. In fact, John 17:12 would indicate that Judas did not believe in Christ for salvation as Christ refers to him as the “son of perdition” who is “lost.”  Also, it appears that “Satan entered” Judas after he took“the piece of bread” (John 13:27) which suggests Judas did not eat it. Judas’ persistent unbelief toward Christ allowed Satan to enter his body and take control of him so he could do his evil work “quickly.”

John informs us, “But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him.” (John 13:28). When Jesus told Judas to do his work quickly (John 13:27), the disciples did not know the meaning of Jesus’ words. Even John must have missed the meaning of Christ’s words until later. “For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, ‘Buy those things we need for the feast,’ or that he should give something to the poor.” (John 13:29). Since Judas was the treasurer, some of the disciples thought Jesus was telling Judas to go “buy those things… for the feast” of Unleavened Bread which would start on Friday at 6 pm. The disciples did not suspect Judas’ act of treachery. They did not know Judas’ heart like the Lord Jesus did. Judas deceived his fellow disciples, but he could not deceive the Lord.

“Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night.” (John 13:30). The phrase “having received the piece of bread” along with verse 27 indicates that Satan’s control of Judas and Judas’ departure from Jesus must have been simultaneous. Judas would miss out on the Lord’s Supper and Jesus’ deeper teaching on discipleship (John 13:31-17:26).

John’s mention of it being “night”is not just a time reference, especially when we consider John’s contrast of light and darkness in his gospel (John 1:4-5; 3:19-21; 8:12; 12:35-36) and other writings (I John 1:5-7; 2:8-11). Judas was leaving the Light of the world (Jesus) and going out into the darkness of sin, devoid of God and without direction. Judas chose the darkness of sin and death instead of choosing the Light. Wilkin writes, “How fitting that Judas would betray Jesus during the time of darkness. An unbeliever reading these words would easily be highly disturbed. Going away from Jesus in unbelief leads one into the darkness. To avoid an eternal darkness, forever separated from Jesus and His kingdom of light, one must believe in Him.” 1

In order for believers to recover from rejection, they must remain close to the Light of the world, Jesus Christ, and not withdraw from His presence into the spiritual darkness of sin. John alludes to this in his first epistle. 9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (I John 2:9-11). AChristian cannot remain close to Christ if he hates his Christian “brother” who may have rejected him. If we continue to hate those who have hurt us, we will walk in darkness out of fellowship with God. The longer we walk in darkness, the more difficult it is to come back into the light of God’s will and love.

Several years ago, my wife and I went to the Alabaster Caverns State Park in northern Oklahoma which has a three-quarter mile alabaster cave. We took a guided tour into the cave and when we were about half a mile inside the cave, they turned all the lights off, leaving us in total darkness for a few minutes. Our tour guide told us that the longer a person lives in total darkness, the more difficult it is to adjust to living in the light again. Just being in a dark movie theatre a couple of hours makes it difficult to go back outside on a bright sunny day.

Likewise, the longer we live in the darkness of sin, the more difficult it is to come back into the presence of the Light of the world. However, when we choose to forgive those who reject us, it enables us to walk in the light of fellowship with Christ and remain close to Him.

We need to face our hurts from rejection, but we do not need to do it alone. Jesus is there to guide us through this process of recovering from rejection. He understands how we feel and He guarantees that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 4:15; 13:5). Knowing this, provides the security and strength we need to release our hurt to Him and rely on His power to forgive our betrayers and stay close to our understanding Savior and Lord.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I praise You because even though the world around me is growing very dark, You remain the Light of the world shining brightly as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As the Way, You provide direction for me to recover from rejection. As the Truth, You expose the lies that keep me from forgiving those who have rejected me. And as the Life, You teach me how to experience Your life abundantly by staying close to You. Thank You, my Lord and my God! In Your holy and loving name I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTE:

1. Robert N. Wilkin, “The Gospel According to John,” The Grace New Testament Commentary, Vol. 1: Matthew – Acts (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2010), pg. 441.

How can we respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ? Part 1

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.’” John 12:35

Travelers tell us that there is near the Jaffa gate at Jerusalem, a small terrace on the top of a hill, called the “Terrace of Indecision.” The ground is so level that when the rain falls upon it, it seems at a loss as to which way to go. When a soft, gentle breeze sweeps across the terrace, however, it causes part of the water to fall off the West side of the terrace and it flows into a place known as “The Valley of Roses” and then down to the Plain of Sharon and gives life, beauty, and fragrance to the Sharon lilies and roses. But the rest of the water falls off the other side of the terrace toward the east, into the dark valley of Tophet and is lost forever in the bitter waters of the Dead Sea where it sits with no production.1

Every human life has its terrace of indecision. This was especially true of the crowd who had gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover feast in John 12. In our study of the gospel of John we come to Jesus’ final words to the public before His death on the cross. The people to whom He spoke had important decisions to make before Christ left them. In John 12:20-33, Jesus used an analogy of a grain of wheat to teach that death must precede life. In verses 23, 32-33, Christ said that the “Son of Man” was to be lifted up on the cross rather than be lifted up as a Ruler over the nations. This confused many of the people of Israel. We will look at how Jesus responds to them to learn how we can respond to those who refuse to believe in Christ.

The first way is to CHALLENGE THEM TO SEEK GOD WHILE THERE IS TIME (John 12:34-35). “The people answered Him, ‘We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever; and how can You say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’? Who is this Son of Man?’ ” (John 12:34). “The people” included the Jews and Greeks, both believers and unbelievers who had gathered for the Feast of Passover (John 12:1, 12, 20). This group was confused by Jesus’ words in verse 32 when He said He would be “lifted up from the earth” on the cross. They understood the Old Testament to teach that the Christ, their Messiah-God, also referred to as “the Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13-14), would not die, but “remains forever” since Daniel’s prophecy says He will have an“everlasting dominion”(Daniel 7:14). The crowd was expecting the Messiah to bring in a material triumph which included subjecting His enemies to His rule. Since Jesus referred to Himself as “the Son of Man”(cf. John 12:23) who would be “lifted up from the earth” on the cross to die (John 12:32-33), they are wondering how Jesus could be the Messiah-God who was to remain forever. They are thinking that Jesus is not the Messiah since He must die. So, they ask Christ to resolve this dilemma for them.

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.’ ” (John 12:35). Christ does not answer their question directly because He had already said He was the Son of Man (John 8:28; 12:23) Who was equal with God the Father (John 5:17-18; 10:30). He informs them that the Light (Jesus – John 8:12) will only be among them for a short time (“a little while longer”) and they are to walk in that Light. In other words, they are to seek Jesus, Who is God, and come to faith in Him. Otherwise when the Light of Jesus’ presence departs, the “darkness” can “overtake” them.

It helps to know that in ancient cities the streets were dark and dangerous at night without any lights. This represents what can happen to anyone at any time. Those who reject what light God has given them may discover that life becomes even darker. Christ is warning against the uncertainties and dangers of unbelief. When the unbeliever is overtaken by the darkness, he will “not know where he is going.” The longer an unbeliever waits to decide to believe in Christ, the more difficult it will be to come to faith. Their life will be without direction and purpose like someone walking in total darkness. They will be in danger of stumbling over obstacles that could lead to further harm or even death.

COVID-19 has made people more aware of the fragility of life. None of us are promised tomorrow here on earth. Have you made the decision to believe or trust in Jesus Christ alone for His gift of everlasting life while you still can? Are you taking time to seek God and discover more of what He says about beginning a relationship with Him? Listen to the Word of God: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2b).

The God Who made the universe loves you and wants a relationship with you. He sees and hears all that you think, say, and do. He knows everything about you and He still wants a relationship with you. Will you come to Him now, recognizing that you are a sinner who deserves everlasting punishment? God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, took your punishment when He died in your place on the cross and rose from the dead. Jesus now offers you complete forgiveness and everlasting life if you will simply believe or trust in Him alone. Christ said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

Jesus is not asking you if you pray every day because He did not say,“Whoever prays every day should not perish but have everlasting life.” He is not asking you if you believe in God because He did not say, “Whoever believes in God should not perish but have everlasting life.” Christ is not asking you if you have lived a good life because He did not say, “Whoever lives a good life should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus is simply asking you, “Do you believe in Me?” because He said, “Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” If you have never understood this before, Christ is inviting you right now to believe or trust in Him alone to save you from perishing in hell forever and to give you everlasting life. If you now understand and believe His promise, you can tell God this through prayer.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I have been living in darkness all of my life. I have believed lies about You which said You were only a good teacher or merely a prophet. But now I understand that You are so much more. You are the eternal God Who created me and wants a relationship with me. Right now Lord, I come to You as a sinner who deserves to be separated from You forever. I understand that You love me infinitely despite my sinfulness. You demonstrated this when You died in my place on a cross for all my sins and rose from the dead. I am now believing or trusting in You alone, Jesus (not my good life, my prayers, or my religion), to forgive all my sins and give me everlasting life. Thank You for the forgiveness and everlasting life I now have. Thank You that I belong to You now as Your beloved child. Please help me to grow to know You more intimately so I may tell my family and friends about You and what You have done for me. In Your loving name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. http://sermonsillustration.blogspot.com/2010/02/terrace-of-indecision.html.

2. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 231.

The darkness is gone because the Son is risen

“Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” John 20:1

The apostle John wrote the gospel of John to non-Christians so they “may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:31). In chapters 1-12, John records seven miraculous signs of Jesus to persuade non-Christians to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God so they may have eternal life in His name. Then in John 20 he records the eighth and greatest miraculous sign – the resurrection of Jesus! The entire book of John has been leading up to this exciting event! What makes it even more exciting is that John was there to watch it all happen as an eyewitness.

Some people think Jesus was in His resurrected body for a short time on earth and was seen by only a few people. But the truth is He was is in His resurrected body on earth for over a month and He was seen by over 500 people (Acts 1:1-3; I Corinthians 15:3-8). This is an incredible event and today we are going to see how Jesus’ resurrection can make a difference in our daily lives.

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to a lot of different people at different times. Today we are going to see that He first appeared to Mary Magdalene. The resurrected Jesus is alive. He makes Himself known in peoples’ lives. The exciting thing about each of these appearances is the difference it made in people’s lives when they saw Him alive after His death and burial.

As we take a look at how the empty tomb challenged the life of Mary Magdalene, we are going to see how He can make a difference in our daily lives. “Now the first day of the week Mary Magdalene went to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb” (20:1). Let’s look at three important details in this one verse.

The first detail is that it was “on the first day of the week.” What is the first day of the week? Sunday. In the Old Testament, believers worshiped God on the Sabbath which was Saturday. But in the New Testament believers got together on Sunday because that was the day of Jesus’ resurrection (cf. Acts 20:7). This is why believers around the world worship the Lord together on Sunday. It is resurrection day! Some believers insist that you must worship the Lord on Saturday to be a true believer. But the Bible tells us in Romans 14:5-6a that it doesn’t matter what day or night of the week you worship because we are no longer under the regulations of the Old Testament Law anymore (cf. Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:24; 4:5). So you could worship the Lord together on a Wednesday night if you wanted to. What matters is that your observance shows your commitment “to the Lord” (Romans 14:6).

The second detail is the word “early.” The Greek word [prōi, πρωί] refers to “the watch that is between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.” It is very early in the morning while it is still dark. The reason Mary and other women [note plural “we” in verse 2, cf. Luke 24:1,10) got up early to go to the tomb was because it was a tradition of the Jews to go to the tomb for at least three days after the person was buried to take care of the body and make sure all the spices were in the right places. They couldn’t go on the Sabbath day, so they had to wait until Sunday. So as early as she could get up on Sunday while it was still dark, she went down to the tomb.

The third detail to observe is that “it was still dark.” This reference to it being “dark” may refer to both the physical darkness of the morning and the emotional and spiritual darkness that Mary was probably experiencing. Mary no doubt was stricken with grief by Jesus’ sufferings and death. After all, this was the Messiah-God who had healed her from demon possession (cf. Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). He wasn’t supposed to die like this! Mary had no idea what had already happened that Sunday morning. So this was a very dark morning for her emotionally and spiritually.

What about you? Is this a dark day for you? Is your life filled with doubt and uncertainty in light of the coronavirus? Are you struggling with negative attitudes this week? You may not admit it to anyone else, but you may be thinking, “I wouldn’t be around me this week if I were honest about it.” Some of you may be struggling with your faith. You think, “I hear other people talk about faith and how great faith can be and how it makes a difference in their lives but if I was really being honest, I’d have a lot of question marks about it. I’m not a very trusting person.”  

The fourth detail to notice is that John says, “the stone had been taken away from the tomb.” The word for “taken away” [ērmenon, ἠρμένον] means “to lift up and carry away.” It conveys the idea of being “tossed aside.” It was not slowly rolled away. It was thrown aside by the angel of God when he arrived (cf. Matthew 28:2). The power of God tossed this stone aside! This is probably why Matthew tells us the Roman guards shook with fear and became like dead men (cf. Matthew 28:4). I would have done the same!

When the stone was thrown aside, it was not so Jesus could come out of the tomb. Jesus in His resurrected body went through the grave clothes that surrounded Him. Jesus in His resurrected body had the power to go through doors and into the rooms without the doors being opened. So I’m suggesting that Jesus had already come out of the tomb before the stone was thrown aside. The stone was removed so the disciples could come into the tomb and see that it was empty. This is what makes Christianity distinct from all other religions. The founders of all other religions are still dead in their graves, but Christians worship a Jesus Christ that left an empty tomb behind Him! We worship a Jesus Christ who rose from the dead and remains alive today! Hallelujah!

If you are struggling in the dark with bad attitudes, doubts, or your faith, the resurrection power of Jesus Christ can change all of that. The same power that brought Jesus back to life can also resurrect a joyful attitude in you and replace your doubts with an unwavering confidence in Jesus and His promises. His resurrection power can revitalize your faith so that all fear is gone and His joy can overflow in your life.

If part of your struggle in the dark is with sin and shame, please know that Jesus’ resurrection power guarantees unlimited forgiveness in Christ to all who believe in Him. You may think your sin is too great for God to forgive. You may believe shame-based lies that say no one could accept or love you as you are. This is not true. Listen to God’s voice of truth: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God loved you so much He sent His Son to die in your place when you were still an ungodly sinner. God loved you at your worst. He did not wait for you to clean up your life. He loved you just as you are. God loves you regardless of what you have done or what others say or think of you.

The risen Lord Jesus now invites you to come to Him just as you are to receive His forgiveness. The Bible says, “Everyone who puts his trust in Christ will have his sins forgiven through His name” (Acts 10:43). The word “everyone” includes the worst and the best of people. It includes people of all faiths. It does not matter if you are a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Protestant, Catholic, Jew, or Universalist, Jesus invites you to believe or trust in Him alone to receive His unlimited forgiveness.

The Bible says the moment we believed in Jesus alone, “He forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14). No one can successfully condemn you now because Christ was condemned to death for your sins, removing your guilt ( Romans 8:34b). Jesus was raised to life, satisfying God’s demand to punish your sins (Romans 8:34c). Jesus is now at the right hand of God the Father defending you against all accusations (Romans 8:34d). And Jesus intercedes for you that your faith won’t fail, you won’t give up, so that you can encourage others (Romans 8:34e; cf. Luke 22:32).

Hallelujah! Jesus is alive, and we who believe in Him are forgiven of all our sins – past, present, and future! The darkness is gone because the Son is risen! Oh let us worship our risen Savior together!!!

Prayer: My risen Lord Jesus, I worship You this day because You have conquered sin, death, and the devil through Your death and resurrection. The darkness is gone because the Son is risen! You alone are my risen Savior, Lord Jesus! There is none like You. Even when I have dark days filled with doubt, fear, and shame, You are still alive and You are with me and love me more than I could ask or imagine. Thank You for dispelling the darkness on that first Sunday after Your death and burial. And thank You for continuing to dispel the darkness in this world through Your gospel of grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.