I want to back up just a bit to the night before these trials in chapter 27, back to the upper room. Let's look at what John can tell us about that night. It is thought that John wrote his gospel well after the other three gospels were written. John and Matthew were the only two gospel writers who actually spent a lot of time with Jesus. Having been one of the three closest friends of Jesus and writing much later than Matthew, it is interesting to see the different perspective in John's account. In the upper room that night John doesn't concentrate on the institution of the Lord's Supper, but on Jesus' last teachings to His disciples. Turn to John 13. Let's see what jewels we can gather from there.
He begins in chapter 13 with the account of Jesus' washing the disciples' feet - an act of love for these men and an avenue of teaching by doing - teaching them to LOVE one another, SERVE one another - that the greatest in the kingdom is the one who puts self last.... And Jesus also washed the feet of Judas. Serving, washing and wiping the feet of the one He knew would betray Him.
Judas leaves after that. Then begins some of the most loving and comforting words in all the Bible that are expressed to His disciples. Beginning in verse 34, He gives them a new commandment, "That you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." This is a love that serves another above oneself, exalts others above oneself and forbears one another.
READ John 14:1-7. (Did you catch those jewels?) In my house there are many mansions...I go to prepare a place for you. I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
READ John 14:12-14. He who believes in me will also do the works that I do. Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it.
READ John 14:15-21. Those that love Him keep His commandments. The promise of a Counselor to be with us forever is given. Keep in mind verse 18 that says, "I will not leave you DESOLATE." 14:25-31 tells us more about that Counselor:
READ John 14:25-31. "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you, not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid." My favorite verse. I hope the disciples remembered this in the next few days. Note in verse 30--a verse easily overlooked, but look at the magnitude in the last of the verse..."for the ruler of this world is coming. HE HAS NO POWER OVER ME." Satan is gonna lose this all important battle that is about to be waged.
Jesus goes on in chapter 15 with "...I am the Vine and you are the branches." Branches that do not bear fruit are taken away. The fruitful are tended and pruned so they will bear more fruit. Verse 5, "I am the vine and ye are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me ye can do nothing...by this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit." Verse 9, "As the Father loves me, so I have loved you; abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full."
At the end of chapter 15 Jesus tells His disciples that the world is going to hate them because they are not of this world. The world will persecute them. He tells them these negative things in the midst of these words of love and comfort to keep them from falling away.
In John 16:22 He tells them that sorrow lies ahead (speaking of His death), but that sorrow will turn to JOY that will never be taken away.
Then Jesus prays with His disciples in chapter 17. He prays for Himself and the Father to be glorified. He prays for the disciples that they may have His Joy fulfilled in them. Then He prays for the Church that they may become perfectly one so that the world may know that the Father has sent the Son and that the Father loves them even as He loves His Son.
Only after Jesus has spent much time expressing His love and comfort to His disciples does Jesus go off to Gethsemane to seek His Father's comfort for Himself. He served others first.
After the Upper Room scene, after the agony in the Garden, after the trials before the Sanhedrin and the Roman Prefect comes . . . VICTORY.
Hebrews 2:14,15 tells us WHY our Savior had to become human and die upon the cross. READ: "Since therefore the children share in the flesh and the blood, He himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death He might DESTROY HIM who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and DELIVER ALL those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage."
So He came to DESTROY the wicked--to deliver what had been made pure . . . those who were subject to lifelong bondage.
"Who thru fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage..." Living in America we seldom consider the possibility of lifelong bondage--we live in "the land of the free." But I think the Hebrew writer is not talking about a physical bondage here, but a mental bondage. Max Lucado in his book, Six Hours One Friday, discusses three areas of mental bondage that we can find ourselves in or perhaps you know of a neighbor or friend who may be suffering from these mental bondages.
The first is FUTILITY. We all have a house, car, money to survive - even for some luxuries, but we ask, "What is it for? Who cares what I am, that I am?" I get up, do basically the same things day after day, week after week. My children are following. They'll do basically the same thing day after day, week after week. I'll die; they'll die. For what? What is the PURPOSE of it all? Cockroaches do the same thing. Exist for what purpose? Why put up with the burdens of day-to-day living? It all seems so FUTILE. Insignificance. We find ourselves in the bondage of futility. [Put paper with "Futility" into Ziplock bag.]
The second bondage is FAILURE. I blew it. I am wrong. I can't stand tall, I fall short! Forget about getting ahead, it's more like I'm dog-paddling to stay alive! No, forget that, I'm definitely losing ground. I fail. And the very thing I said I'd never do is exactly what I just did. Sin. I am worthless. I am a FAILURE. [Put paper with "Failure" into Ziplock bag.]
The third mental bondage is FINALITY. Grandpa died. Mom died. Now that one you love so dear. Death is uninvited, unexpected, but it hits like a tidal force, overwhelming, devouring your youth and innocence. As you view another body in another casket, you're wondering, who's next? Is it me? What is the meaning of life just being snipped off like a rosebud? Why do we have to go thru such pain in life? Death is so FINAL. [Put paper with "Finality" into Ziplock bag.]
Futility, Failure, Finality. Lucado calls them the three "F's" on the human report card. These mental bondages can just rip the meaning of life right out of us mortal humans. [Tear and put paper with "Meaning of Life" into Ziplock bag and seal.] But this last night of Jesus in the upper room giving comfort and love to His disciples, the hours of agony in the garden, the six different trials He must endure, the six hours of pain and humility on the cross and the three days and three nights in the tomb and the resurrection give us ANCHOR POINTS that can keep life from mentally being ripped out from under us and keep us from drowning in the sea of despair.
To the FUTILE minded, Christ's death gives PURPOSE. Someone greater than me is in control and I have a purpose. The anchor of purpose will grip and hold when facing the surging tides of futility and relativism. Christ's purpose - to die for our sins, to redeem mankind to their Creator, to overcome the evil one - gives us a reason to live - to love and serve the Master. We have a goal to accomplish, something to live for.
To the FAILED mind, Christ's death gives FORGIVENESS. It is not that God loves what you did, but He loves who you are. YOU ARE HIS. Christ's death gave us back to our rightful owner - God. The One who has the right to condemn us for our failures/sins, provided the way to acquit us. We make mistakes, but God doesn't. And He made US.
To those with the FINALITY mentality, Christ's death gives DELIVERANCE. This deliverance is personified in that big, round, heavy stone that sealed the door to Christ's tomb. But it wasn't big enough. Christ went in to prove that He could come out. And to provide us a way out of the finality of death. Christ made that seal of a big heavy stone as easy to open as a ZIP-LOCK BAG, thus freeing us from these bondages. [Open and remove contents of Ziplock bag; restore "Meaning of Life."]
This is the peace that Christ gave to the disciples in John 14:27ff. "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled. Neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, 'I go away, and I will come to you.' If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, FOR THE RULER OF THE WORLD IS COMING. HE HAS NO POWER OVER ME."
What power it must take to overcome the ruler of this world. Christ shares that power with all mortal man who would love and serve Him. Turn to one final scripture with me. READ 1 Corinthians 15:51-58.
When the hurricane of futility, failure and finality seem to overwhelm us in the sea of despair, Christ's death provides us with three anchors with which to hold us firm. He anchors our FUTILITY WITH PURPOSE, our FAILURES WITH FORGIVENESS, and our FINALITY WITH DELIVERANCE from the sting of death.
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR