Just Don’t Go There…

“When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John‬ ‭13:31-35‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

Last week we took a look at how Judas’ betrayal deeply troubled Jesus. I concluded that Jesus was deeply troubled but not because the betrayal would lead to the cross, but because Judas’ betrayal would lead to his eternal separation and condemnation from God. The passage we will consider this morning supports and expands on that idea. 
When Judas had gone out from the upper room, Jesus demeanor and tone takes a dramatic turn. He says, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” Jesus moves from being deeply troubled by Judas’ act of betrayal to reveling in the fact that he is NOW glorified and God is glorified in and through him. The betrayal is now in motion and there’s no turning back. The cross is coming with the rising of the sun, yet “NOW is the Son of Man glorified, and God IS glorified in him.”

Judas’ actions are setting into motion a series of events that Jesus knows will fulfill God’s eternal purpose. The song the angels began singing at Jesus’ birth is now reaching a crescendo: “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth among men…” Think about that for just a moment. All of history has been building up to this event and all of creation is anticipating its fulfillment, its completion. 

But I suspect most of us would question that promise of “peace on earth among men.” We would probably echo the sentiments of Longfellow’s poem (first published in February 1865):

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old, familiar carols play,

and wild and sweet

The words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,

The belfries of all Christendom

Had rolled along

The unbroken song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,

The world revolved from night to day,

A voice, a chime,

A chant sublime

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth

The cannon thundered in the South,

And with the sound

The carols drowned

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent

The hearth-stones of a continent,

And made forlorn

The households born

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;

“There is no peace on earth,” I said;

“For hate is strong,

And mocks the song

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

As you can tell, Longfellow’s poem voices his and our nation’s deep, deep agony over the Civil War. It expresses his fears and frustrations and casts doubts on God’s sovereignty and goodness at a time when hope seemed lost. But, fortunately for us, neither Longfellow’s poem nor the Jesus’ betrayal story ends there. The poem ends with these words:

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;

The Wrong shall fail,

The Right prevail,

With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

And the story of Jesus’ betrayal doesn’t end in despair and failure. Listen to Paul’s words of hope to the church in Rome…

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans‬ ‭8:18-23‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

God is at work in the midst of man’s betrayal to accomplish His goal of redeeming us, and all of creation, from the corruption and destruction of sin. Paul’s point in this passage is one we should note; sin isn’t just personal or spiritual and something that affects only our personal or private lives. Because sin impacts our relationship with God then it also impacts our relationships with others and even our relationship with all of creation. In fact, sin impacts EVERYTHING. 

But, the glory that Jesus says he and the father are receiving is coming in the most unexpected way. Many today think it sufficient to simply highlight or emphasize the moral/ethical teachings and love of Jesus. Or, as The Beatles said, “all you need is love, love, love is all you need.” But, when we talk about love we generally have a very one sided view of what it means and that one side is our side. But, “love is when what you want is never important. But what the other person needs and wants is always paramount.” (Wintley Phipps)

Now, most of us recognize that selfless love expressed to those we love is a high calling. But, we aren’t called to simply love those who love us and those who are lovely. If that’s all we were called to do we wouldn’t need God’s help and Jesus’ sacrifice would have been unnecessary. 

“”You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust… You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew‬ ‭5:43-45‬, 48 ESV‬‬)

But, how can you love someone who hates you, someone who despises, ridicules and even persecutes you? Ah, there’s the rub. You can’t! But Jesus says you must. In fact, he says you must be perfect just as God, your Heavenly Father, is perfect. How is that even possible? 

The secret is found in Jesus’ words, “where I’m going you cannot come.” There are basically two reasons the disciples (and by extension, you and I) cannot go where Jesus is going. First, they cannot go because, in their current condition (without the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit), they are simply morally incapable of giving themselves sacrificially to God for His redemptive purposes. Judas has already failed this test, but the others will soon follow. Peter is well known for denying Jesus as he stands near the fire in the High Priest’s courtyard during Jesus’ trial. But in reality, ALL of the disciples fled. They all forsook him. Given the circumstances, I’m absolutely certain we would have done the same. Finally, they can’t follow where he’s going because he’s not going as an example to them but as a substitute FOR them…

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in (or through) Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans‬ ‭6:23‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption… Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” (Hebrews‬ ‭9:11-12, 22‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

John tells us that when Judas slipped out, it was night. I don’t believe John tells us that just so we have a time reference. As Judas slips away from the table that night, he is consumed by the darkness and he won’t emerge from it. But, when Jesus descended into the darkness of death the LIGHT of the world was not, could not be, consumed by the darkness. The darkness was consumed by the LIGHT.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John‬ ‭1:5‬ ‭ESV‬‬)

When you descend into the darkness of death, will you go alone and depend on your own ability to emerge victorious? Don’t go there, just don’t… 

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