Betrayal, denial and following Jesus – from John 13

God forbid any of us should betray Jesus as Judas did. Honestly I’m not very sure what that would even look like today. Possibly, it could be someone doing the opposite of the Apostle Paul. He was an early persecutor of the church who later was converted and became an ardent follower of Christ. Today I can imagine someone following Jesus, serving him in what appears to be sincere, outward devotion encouraging others in a position of ministry. What if this person turns, if Satan enters him as he entered Judas, and then this public Christian turns and becomes a persecutor of the church? It could happen. Maybe someone knows of a story just like this. (I do not.) This would be just Judas-like enough to qualify as a complete betrayal.

More common by far are those who deny Jesus like Peter. Simon Peter was overconfident. He would have gladly laid down his life for his Lord – or so he imagined. Jesus knew better and told Peter he would deny him three times before the night was over. Many of us fit into this category. We’ve blown it when we had the perfect chance to resist temptation or make Jesus look good. Let’s face it, we sometimes find it hard not to go along with the world.

The church is full of Peters and most of us can identify with his weakness. Thank God that he uses weak servants, empowers them with his Spirit, and builds his church through their feeble yet God-infused ministries.

By God’s grace, most of us who follow Jesus do so with a modicum of faithfulness. Our lives give evidence of a modest amount of the fruit of his work. We exercise our mustard seed of faith. We donate our few loaves and fishes to the cause of feeding the multitudes. Someone wishes to see Jesus and we are happy to lead the way to the Savior. We figuratively (or literally, if need be) wash the feet of the saints. These little actions are the big ways that God furthers the kingdom.

One thing that stands out to me in this chapter is how little the other ten disciples could do to prevent the betrayal by Judas or Peter’ denials. As far as I can tell, they could do nothing. There are times when we all have to stand or fall on our own. Even following the crowd, in the end, becomes an individual decision. When that time comes, may we all be found faithful. Let us each take a few more steps today as we follow our Lord.

On mission with Jesus – John 12:26

If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

The Gospel of John does not include a precise version of the Great Commission. There is no “Go into all the world” or “Go and make disciples,” but this verse offers and interesting take on the subject.

The section of John 12 starts with some Greeks wanting to see Jesus. In all likelihood these are Gentiles and not simply Greek-speaking Jews who happened to be in Jerusalem. They were probably “God-fearers” as believing Gentiles were sometimes called. The early church drew many from this number as the gospel began to go out among the nations.

The verse in question, however, does not so much tell us to go as to follow. If we want to serve Jesus we need to follow him. Moreover, we need to follow him wherever he goes.

I would contend that wherever we might sense that people need Jesus, he is present there already. Go where we might, we are not going to flee from his presence. If our mission takes us to a faraway land, across the country or across the street, when we get there, we will find that Jesus is there already.

Serving Jesus means to go in some sense of the word, but it is going with Jesus or going where he has gone before. The Father will honor those who serve Christ in this fashion, but for right now, Jesus is waiting for us to follow.

Luke 9 – Verse by Verse

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Up until now, Luke has shown us the ministry of Jesus in and around Galilee. This week will arrive at a turning point. Christ will allow his identity to sink in with his disciples and then turn toward Jerusalem.

Luke 09.pdf

Luke 09.mp3

Beyond our ability – Luke 9:10-17

10 On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. 11 When the crowds learned it, they followed him, and he welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing. 12 Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” 13 But he said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.” 14 For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 And they did so, and had them all sit down. 16 And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. 17 And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces.

The Gospels are wonderfully informative when it comes to understanding what it is really like to follow Jesus.  Here they were before a vast crowd of thousands and it was getting late.  The disciples were concerned.  “Hey boss, maybe it’s time we send them away.  We don’t want it to get dark before they can make it to a nearby village. What do you think?”  After a day full of Jesus teaching and healing, they understandably thought their day was done.  The big event was only just beginning.

“You give them something to eat,” is Christ’s response.  “Uh, we don’t really have that much food here, unless we go off and buy it.  But then again, we don’t have that much money either.”

Following Jesus means that he is going to give us work to do that is beyond our ability.  He does this mainly so that we can learn to trust in him, and then see him remarkably provide.  

Jesus had the disciples gather the people into groups of around fifty.  He then began to multiply the food.  I find it interesting that he worked with what they had.  There is a lesson in there someplace.  He fed the people with bread and fish, not with, say, vegetables and sacrificial lambs.  Somehow he used what the disciples could find and remarkably, miraculously provided for the multitude.  No doubt he does that kind of thing still, through people like us in our present circumstances.