I will never forget being ushered to the bedside of my great-grandfather Alvin Feldbusch. He placed his large, worn, and calloused hand on top of my head and prayed for me with a gravitas that gripped my attention. Even though I was a rambunctious, skinny little runt of about 8 years old, I will always remember some of the final words he spoke to me and the prayer he lifted up to the Lord as I felt the weight of his hand on my tiny “patch of fur.”
The man who had always given me more ice cream than my mother allowed and eagerly shown me all his snow-blowing and gardening gadgets, was now just days away from leaving us. I will never forget that he prayed I would be “a farmer in God’s harvest,” on God’s farm field. I wasn’t fully sure what he meant back then, but now I’m beginning to know…
You may have a similar story of final moments with a parent, grand-parent, or sibling… We lean in to hear what our loved ones will say during their final days on earth. We don’t want to miss anything or hurry over any detail or forget their parting wishes…
Final Hours with Christ
In my current preaching series through the Gospel according to John, we’ve arrived at the final hours before Christ goes to the cross. His disciples – these Twelve men – aren’t exactly sure what is going to happen but they’re beginning to get a glimpse of understanding.
Death and darkness are approaching. Uncertainty is beginning to set-in.
In the Upper Room, they celebrate a Passover meal with Jesus, the Last Supper. Of course, you and I know this is not the end, yet this is the last major recorded teaching of Christ to His disciples. Short pieces of commission instruction will be recorded following the resurrection, but Christ’s teaching in John 13-16 are the final riveting words for the disciples and for us on how we are to live and love, and have comfort and hope without Jesus Christ physically present and leading us down the path of life.
The Setting: Christ’s final teaching started with a radical object lesson: laying aside the rabbinic robes of title, position, and cultural sensibilities, He takes the position of a non-Jewish slave – a household servant – and washes his disciples feet. But after explaining the shocking implication about the object lesson, Jesus turns to preparing them for His departure.
Everything is going to be thrown upside-down; the crowds have already reached mass defection (see John 12:37, 42-43). But now it’s even closer; defection – betrayal – will come from within their closest circle. So Jesus wants them to know two vital truths so that they will continue in faith and on mission after He’s gone, and when the storm of public opinion smacks them in the face.
And here’s the central issue for them and us: What do we need to believe and do when everything around us seems like it’s breaking loose? What we believe always impacts how we behave. So let’s lean into these riveting words of Jesus in the Upper Room, just hours away from the cross…where we will hear we must believe about Christ’s mission and how that links direct to our behavior as Christ followers. Let’s turn to John 13:18-35…
A Prayer for Today…
Lord of all of heaven and earth, God of all grace and mercy,
Help me to love as Christ loved His disciples, in serving, in taking the lowest rank, in laying down His life for their sake,
And as Christ still loves, in saving the lost, in cleansing me from daily sins, in interceding for me, in healing me deepest needs, in filling up my emptiness, in granting me joy in pain, in giving me hope in place of fear.
So, by the power of the Holy Spirit, work in and through my life to display Christ’s love,
…when I am tired and feel unable
…when I serve without the praise of others
…when I go unnoticed
…when I can’t expect anything in return
…when I’d rather serve myself
…when I think another is less-than-deserving
…when I face opposition or even hatred
…when my strength is gone may Christ’s strength be made perfect in my weakness, so that I may keep loving and serving and thereby displaying the grace of God I have received in Jesus Christ. So as I have received may I, therefore, be transformed within for the spread of your Gospel across the earth, through You, in me, to the praise of Your glory. To You, my Father, through Christ my Savior, and by the Holy Spirit my Comforter, I pray, Amen.
Listen to the full audio message below entitled “Mission: Love One Another” (John 13:18-35) by clicking on the play button below or by subscribing to our iTunes podcast. This message was originally delivered at North Park Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI, on Sunday morning, February 22, 2015.