How can we recover from rejection? Part 5

“Jesus answered, ‘It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.’ And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.” John 13:26

Before we address the next way to overcome rejection, it is important to understand the cultural situation. “In first-century Palestine the triclinium was coming into use. A triclinium was a low, rectangular dining table around which couches were arranged on three of the four sides. The fourth side, the ‘foot’ of the table, was left open so that food could be served. Guests would eat in a reclining position around the table. A cushion would be provided for the left arm. The right arm would then be free to reach for food on the low table. Of the three positions around the table, the middle position (opposite the ‘foot’ of the table) was regarded as the most honorable. It was here at the ‘head’ of the table that the principal guests would recline.” 1  Laney writes, “It is safe to assume that Jesus would be situated at the head of the table as the principal guest. To His right and left were the principal places of honor (cf. Mark 10:35-37). To His right, in the place of special honor reclined the apostle John (John 13:23) On His left, in the next highest place, was Judas, the betrayer (13:26).” 2

With this in mind, we are prepared to look at the fifth way to recover from rejection: LEAN ON JESUS FOR HIS POWER TO FORGIVE (John 13:22-26). After Jesus announced to His disciples that one of them would betray Him (John 13:21), we read, “Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke.” (John 13:22). Jesus’ announcement about His betrayer took the disciples by surprise. They could not imagine any of them betraying the Lord. No one suspected Judas. He had covered his tracks very well.

“Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.” (John 13:23). John informs us that “one of His disciples whom Jesus loved” is described as “leaning on Jesus bosom.” This disciple “whom Jesus loved,” is identified in John 21:20, 24, as the author of the gospel of John, the apostle John.

John experienced an intimacy with Christ that arose through his obedience to Christ. He writes later that those who are closer to the Lord through obedience, receive a special intimate love from Him: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” (John 14:21). There is a sense in which John is closer to Jesus through obedience and this can be seen in his writings. When we obey the Lord Jesus, He discloses more of Himself to us, including His love.

“Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke.” (John 13:24). Peter was overcome with curiosity to know the identity of Jesus’ betrayer. Maybe Peter’s loyalty to Christ was coming out now and he wanted to take preventive measures. Luke 22:38 says Peter had access to two swords. John and Judas were reclining next to Jesus, but Peter’s position at the table was not close enough to Jesus to ask Him privately, so he asked John to ask Jesus to identify the traitor.

“Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ ” (John 13:25). John was relining next to Jesus on His right so all he had to do was lean back on Jesus’ chest and ask Him, “Lord, who is it?” By leaning back in this way, he could speak very quietly and still be heard by Jesus. Both Peter and John are concerned for Jesus’ well-being.

“Jesus answered, ‘It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.’ And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.” (John 13:26). Christ tells John that He will identify His betrayer by giving him “a piece of bread”that He has “dipped.” “The dipping of a piece of bread was a significant part of the Passover ritual. In the course of the paschal meal, the master of the feast would pick up some unleavened bread, which was a flat cake. He would put bits of lamb on the piece of bread, sprinkle some bitter herbs on it, and then roll it. Then he would dip the bread containing the meat and herbs into a bitter sauce. This bread would then be handed to a guest. The ritual would be repeated until a piece of bread had been provided for each guest…

“The lamb anticipated God’s Lamb, who would provide God’s salvation for sinners. In preparing the bread with the meat and herbs dipped in sauce, the master of the feast was reminding the participants of God’s promise to provide salvation. In receiving the piece of bread, each participant acknowledged his sin. Each also reaffirmed his faith in God’s promises that He would send a Messiah to take away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and each professed his willingness to receive salvation which Messiah would offer…

“It is significant that Christ gave the first piece of bread to Judas Iscariot (John 13:26). It was customary to offer the first piece to the most honored guest at the feast… This was an evidence of the love and the grace of the Lord, who knew what was in Judas’ heart before the seats were assigned around the table. Further it is to be noted that since the giving of the bread was in effect an offer of salvation, Christ was offering forgiveness to Judas if he would accept the offered salvation and put his faith in Him. This was grace exemplified. Perhaps no greater demonstration of the love and the grace of Christ can be found anywhere in Scripture than in this scene, for the One who would be betrayed was offering the betrayer forgiveness of sin if he would accept it.” 3

Even though Jesus had been deeply hurt knowing that Judas would betray Him, He still lovingly offered Judas His forgiveness. Similarly, if we are to recover from rejection by others, we too must offer forgiveness to those who have rejected us. Refusal to forgive others hurts us more than those who reject us. Refusal to forgive our offenders leads to bitterness. And bitterness builds a wall around our lives because no one likes to be around a cynic – someone who is always resentful and complaining.

Jesus wants to teach us to be a better person, not a bitter person. Each of us has a choice as to how we respond to those who reject us. We can choose to focus on our feelings or we can choose to focus on the truth. The truth is we are to be “kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave” us (Ephesian 4:32). Forgiveness keeps our hearts tender and sensitive to the Lord and others. We cannot do this in our own strength. We must lean on Jesus’ power to enable us to forgive those who have deeply hurt us. The moment we choose to obey God and forgive our betrayers, God will supply us with the power to do exactly that. Remember, we also have caused hurt to others by rejecting them. We also have sinned against others, especially God. The more we realize our own need for forgiveness, the more forgiving of others we will become.

It is important to understand that forgiving someone does not mean you trust him or her. You can forgive someone in a moment based upon Christ’s positional forgiveness of you (Ephesians 1:7; 4:32), but trusting that person will take time. Trust must be earned from the person who betrayed or rejected you. For example, a Christian wife is commanded to respect her wayward husband, but she is not commanded to trust him (I Peter 3:1-6). He must earn her trust.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, my heart was deeply touched by Your final offer of grace and forgiveness to Judas the night before Your death on the cross! Even though You knew his actions in advance, You did not stop loving him. I am reminded that all of us are like Judas in that we have betrayed You with our thoughts, our words, and our actions. And all of us, like Judas, desperately need Your forgiveness for all the times we have betrayed you. Thank You for extending Your forgiving grace to me. Please help me to extend this forgiveness to others who have rejected me. I pray Your Spirit will also enable others to forgive me for the wounds I have caused them. In Your precious name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Ralph Gower, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times (Chicago: Moody, 1987), pg. 247; J. Robert Teringo, The Land and People Jesus Knew (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1985), pg. 53.

2.   J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 246.

3. J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words & Works of Jesus Christ, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981), pp. 430-431.

How can we experience the blessedness of clean feet? Part 4

“If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” John 13:14

As we continue to study John 13:1-17, we are learning how we can experience the blessedness of clean feet or intimacy with Christ. So far we have discovered that we must…

– Recognize Jesus’ loyal love for us (John 13:1-2).

– Reckon who we are in Christ (John 13:3-5).

– Receive Jesus’ cleansing grace (John 13:6-11).

The fourth way to experience the blessedness of intimacy with Christ is to RESOLVE TO APPLY JESUS’ CLEANSING GRACE TO OTHERS (John 13:12-15; cf. Ephes. 4:32). “So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you?’ ” (John 13:12). This was a searching question especially for Peter and Judas. Jesus had just demonstrated His love for them and the benefits of that love. Now Christ turns to deal with the attitude that had characterized them when they came to this meal. In view of their contention for a position in which they would be served by others, Jesus said: “You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.” (John 13:13). The implication of the title “Teacher” is expanded in verses 14-15 as is the implication for the title “Lord” in verses 16-17. These were titles of respect and honor. They were correct to perceive Him as their Teacher and Lord.

Christ then says,14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:14-15). As their Teacher, He has given them an example to follow. “Students,” Jesus says, “you ‘ought’ (to owe a debt or be obligated) to do this assignment for Me. If I can do it, then so can you.” As students of their Teacher, the disciples are to serve one another just as their Teacher served them. As students, they were not to sit around and be served, but rather they were to take the initiative in meeting the needs of others. In other words, they were to be teachable.

Foot washing was common in the first century culture. But not now. Is this meant to be a church ordinance? I do not believe so because the New Testament church did not practice foot washing as an ordinance. Nowhere in the New Testament do the writers treat foot washing as another ordinance in addition to Water Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The main idea from Christ here is that of humble service.

The practice of humility often means doing what others refuse to do. This is a timely word for the church today. Just as a spirit of entitlement and competition had overtaken the disciples at the Last Supper when they were arguing about who was the greatest (Luke 22:24), so too, it can overtake believers in the church today. “The world asks, ‘How many people work for you?’ but the Lord asks, ‘For how many people do you work?’” 1

Believers may be growing in their knowledge of the Bible, but are they growing in humility? Are they willing to do what no one else will do? Christ washed the feet of His disciples after giving them an opportunity to do so. They did not want to perform a lowly servant’s task. They were too proud to perform such a lowly service.

The Lord wants us to take off our garments of pride and selfishness and put on His love and serve others especially when things get dirty. Humble service is most needed when people are hurting and suffering. This may mean dealing with the dirty feet of other believers just as Jesus dealt with the dirty feet of His disciples. Ephesians 4:32 instructs us, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” The way to keep our hearts tender is to be forgiving of one another as God forgave us in Christ Jesus. We cannot have an intimate relationship with one another if we are unforgiving. Why? Because all people have dirty feet or sin in their lives and they will offend us. But let’s not forget that we also have dirty feet or sin which offends others. The key is to share the same forgiveness with one another that Christ has freely given to us. None of us deserve this, but all of us desperately need it.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, as my Teacher, You have given me an example to follow when You knelt down and washed the dirty feet of Your disciples. I am realizing that You want me to humbly serve others especially when things get dirty. When people are hurting or suffering, they do not need a lot of Bible knowledge. They need to know they are loved and cared for, especially if they have experienced spiritual failure in their lives. Thank You for reminding me of the importance of passing on the same kindness and forgiveness to others that You freely gave to me. None of us deserve these things, but oh how greatly we need them. In Your gracious name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Vol. I (Wheaton: Scripture Press, Victor Books, 1989), pg. 347.

Who is Jesus Christ? Part 4

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

In the first five verses of John we saw that the Word, Jesus Christ, is eternal, relational, and our Creator God (John 1:1-3). Jesus is the only source of eternal life and hope (John 1:4-5). So when we look at Jesus, we are looking at our Creator God in human flesh. Jesus Christ made you and me to have a relationship with Him. So what is God like?

In John 1:14, we are going to see that God became a man in order to show us what He is like (John 1:18). The apostle John writes, “And the Word became flesh…” (John 1:14a). The most amazing fact of history is that the Word, God Himself, became a human being without ceasing to be God. Religions seek to know how we as humans can get to God. Yet the Bible tells us that God came to us. The Word, Jesus Christ, became a human being.

The word “dwelt” (skēnóō) means “to tabernacle” (John 1:14). Just as God’s presence dwelt among the Israelites in the tabernacle (cf. Exodus 25:8-9; 33:7, 11), so He lived among people in the Person of Jesus Christ. King Solomon thought it incredible that God would dwell on the earth (1 Kings 8:27), but that is precisely what He did in Jesus.

Why did God become a man? So, we could approach Him and trust Him. For example, a construction company was once building a road through some mountainous country, using dynamite to build a roadbed. Steve, who worked for the company, was placing the dynamite charges. One day as he was getting ready to detonate a charge, he noticed that several little chipmunks had come out of the underbrush, playing around the hole where he had installed the explosives. Steve, being a tenderhearted guy, didn’t want to see those little chipmunks blown to bits, so he began trying to drive the chipmunks away. Each time however, they just came right back to the location. His supervisor, Charlie, came out to see what was holding up the blasting. Steve, exasperated, explained that those chipmunks would not get out of the danger area. Charlie chuckled, and then used the incident to talk about Jesus Christ.

He explained to Steve that the only way one of them could communicate with those chipmunks, was if one of them became a chipmunk, and yet at the same time, kept all the characteristics of a man. Chipmunks are afraid of humans because we are twenty times their size. But if you become a chipmunk, they would be able to trust you and relate to you, because you would be able communicate the great danger caused by the dynamite (from Eight Vital Relationships for the Growing Christian (Dallas: EvanTell, Inc., 1982), Chapter 2, p. 6). 

This is exactly what God had to do – He became a man in order to communicate with the human race what God is really like and to warn them of the incredible danger facing them if they rejected Christ (Matthew 23:14; 25:41, 46a; Mark 9:42-47; 12:40; Luke 20:47; John 1:1, 14-18; 3:18, 36; Revelation 20:15). If God came to us in the fullness of His glory, we would be too frightened of Him to trust Him (cf. Exodus 33:20; Ezekiel 1:28; Revelation 1:17) just like a chipmunk would be too scared to trust us.

The reason John could say he and the other disciples “beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14b) without overwhelming fear was because Jesus’ humanity veiled (Philippians 2:5-8; Hebrews 10:20) the fullness of the glory He possesses in heaven (cf. Revelation 1:12-18).

Jesus became a human being so that you and I could relate to Him and Him to us. Therefore, we are to trust Him at all times because He understands us. Hebrews 4:15-16 says of Jesus, “Since we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin; Therefore, let us boldly come to the throne of grace.” He voluntarily became one of us so that you and I would believe that our Savior knows how we feel.

Perhaps you have viewed God as some distant impersonal force who does not care about you or your circumstances. You may say to yourself, “How could God let COVID-19 happen? I have lost my income, my health, and my friends! What kind of God is this?” Please understand that the God of the Bible is not some distant dictator who delights in punishing people.

Listen to what Christian author Max Lucado says, “From the funeral to the factory to the frustration of a demanding schedule, Jesus Christ understands [bold lettering is mine]. When you tell God that you’ve reached your limit, He knows what you mean. When you shake your head at impossible deadlines, He shakes his, too. When your plans are interrupted by people who have other plans, He nods in empathy. He has been there. He knows how you feel. … Rejection? He felt it. Temptation? He knew it. Loneliness? He experienced it. Death? He tasted it. And stress? He could write a best-selling book about it. Why did He do it? One reason. So that when you hurt, you will go to Him… and let Him heal you” (Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm: A Day in the Life of Jesus, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1991), pp. 16-18).

The glory of Jesus that the disciples beheld was “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14c). Christ maintained a perfect balance between these two attributes. Of all the phrases that God could have used to describe Jesus Christ, He chose “grace and truth.” “Grace” refers to the unmerited kindness of God or getting what we do not deserve. We do not deserve eternal life, forgiveness, or salvation from hell, but Jesus Christ can freely offer this to us apart from any of our works because of His “grace” (John 4:10-14; Romans 3:24; 4:4-5; 6:23b; 11:6; Ephesians 2:8-9).

“Truth” refers to the perfect standard of God’s holiness. Truth says there is a right way, a best way. In life, some things are true which makes other things false. We do reap what we sow. There are consequences to our actions. Truth is true. It is unbendable and unbreakable and unyielding. Jesus came full of truth. Every word that He spoke was truth. Christ never told a lie. Every action and every thought were true. When Satan came against Jesus tempting Him by perverting the Word of God just a little (Matthew 4:1-11), how did Jesus respond? “It is written in God’s Word. Here’s the truth.” He always countered falsehood with truth. Near the end of His life before Pilate, Jesus said, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). Pilate said to Him, “What is truth” (John 18:37-38)? Then Pilate walked away. That was a big mistake, because the One who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) was right in front of him. The One who is and knows all truth is there. So, truth must be included in grace or grace is merely tolerance.

Truth without grace is just as destructive as grace without truth. Truth without grace is unbearable. Only the arrogant, proud hypocrite thinks all he needs is truth, because he thinks he has it all together. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus outlines the perfect life. In the middle of that sermon Jesus says, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).  Jesus means what He says here. When I read the expectations of God on my life and I hear His call to be perfect, I say, “Lord I can’t do it. Have mercy on me a sinner, because I fall way too short. The bar is too high.” That’s the demand of truth all by itself and it overwhelms us. God says, “I didn’t just come in truth, I came in grace.”

Why is grace and truth so important? As humans, we tend to err on one side or the other of grace and truth. Grace without truth is wishy washy. It is a farce. It is called tolerance. There are no absolutes… no right or wrong… no consequences for our actions. Anything goes, resulting in lives without direction. There is nothing we can know for sure which is tolerance. For grace to be real, it must be based on truth.

For example, grace without truth is like taking your car to the body shop to get rid of the rust. You get the car back and it looks great. But a year later the rust appears again. The mechanic didn’t remove the rust, he just covered it up to make it look good. Eventually, the rust keeps coming back. That’s how it is when you try to ignore truth. You can ignore truth for a while, but it keeps coming back. I can ignore the law of gravity and step off a cliff – and the law of gravity still applies to me. It doesn’t matter what you believe in that case. If you ignore it, it bites you.

Do you remember the woman in John 8? The religious leaders were ready to stone her because the law (the truth) said you should (cf. Leviticus 20:10). She was caught in the act of adultery and they came to Jesus saying, “The law says she should die. What do you say, Jesus?” For a few moments, Jesus wrote on the ground, while they pestered Jesus. Then Jesus stood up and looked them in the eye and said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (John 8:7).One by one, starting with the oldest, they all walked away. Jesus kept writing on the ground.

After a while there was no one left except Jesus and the woman. Jesus looked up at her and said, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10). She said, “No one, Lord” (John 8:11a). Here’s the thing. On that day, there was somebody there who could condemn her…who could have thrown the first stone… there was someone who was sinless – Jesus (cf. John 18:38b; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). He could have done it. Instead Christ said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more” (John 8:11b). That is grace and truth.

Truth expresses God’s righteous character and demands punishment for all of our sins (Romans 3:9-23). Jesus Christ was a perfect display of God’s truth. He is “the truth” (John 14:6). He was perfect and sinless (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 3:18). Even the political leaders could “find no fault in Him at all” (John 18:38; cf. Luke 23:4, 14-15, 22; John 19:4, 6). God’s judgment of sin fell on Jesus instead of us when He died on the cross in our place  (Isaiah 53:5-6; Matthew 27:45-56; Romans 5:8; I Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18). That is truth.

But grace is seen while Jesus was hanging on the cross. After His enemies physically and verbally abused Him, and nailed Him to a cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Did they deserve Christ’s forgiveness. No, none of us do. But grace offers forgiveness freely. Jesus also said to the thief hanging next to Him, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Without grace, the thief on that cross dies in his sin and goes to hell.

Christ is full of grace and truth. He has the perfect ability to tell us the awful truth about ourselves, while holding us up by His grace. Because He is full of truth He was the perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; I Peter 3:18). Because He is full of grace, you can come to Him just as you are, without having to clean up your life first. And because He is full of truth, you can come in complete confidence knowing that He will keep His promise to forgive you and grant you eternal life the moment you believe in Him. Jesus promised, “He who believes in Me has everlasting life” (John 6:47).

That’s grace and that’s truth. Jesus was full of both. Therefore, we are to seek to be gracious and truthful with one another (Ephesians 4:15). We are called to forgive others as Christ has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). Is there someone in your life that needs not just truth, but grace? Something has come between you and your relationship? They need to hear from you that the past is gone. It’s been wiped out. That’s the power of grace.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You are totally amazing! You are the perfect balance of grace and truth. Thank You for telling me the truth about myself. I have sinned against You with my thoughts, words, and actions which makes me deserving of eternal separation from You in the lake of fire. But Your grace led You to take my punishment when You died in my place on the cross and rose from the dead. Because You are the truth without any sin, Your perfect sacrifice for my sins satisfied God’s holy demand to punish all my sins. Your grace invites me to come to You just as I am to freely receive Your forgiveness and everlasting life by believing in You. I can know with confidence that I have everlasting life the moment I believe in You because as the truth, You can never lie. You always keep Your promises. Please, my Lord and my God, change me so I can show grace and truth to others as You have shown to me. Lead me to those who not only need Your truth, but also need Your grace. They need to know that their past is gone. It has been erased because of Your grace. In Jesus’ name. Amen.