A Life of Loyalty
John 13:21-27, 31-35
Look for betrayal in your own life. (21–27)
This passage is one of the most puzzling from the life of Jesus. His disciples are gathered to celebrate Passover. Jesus knows He has given them His last words, but then He drops an unexpected bit of news: One of the disciples will betray Him.
They are bewildered. John records that they are uncertain. Luke says they debate it among themselves. In Matthew, each openly denies it.
Peter signaled to the disciple “Jesus loved” (most likely John) to ask Jesus to identify the betrayer. Whether John recognized it at the time or whether he understood it later, Jesus clearly identified Judas. Even then, the disciples didn’t realize the significance of the act.
Perhaps they could not imagine that Jesus, whom they had witnessed calming the storm and raising the dead, could be harmed by an act of betrayal. Before being too critical of the disciples, note they did respond in a way every follower of Jesus should — they examined their own lives for any indication they might be the betrayer.
If one of the Twelve could have betrayed Jesus, even unknowingly, it is a reminder that we should examine our own faithfulness to Jesus.
Live for God’s glory even as Jesus did. (31–33)
Once Judas had fully committed to his betrayal, the final sequence of events in Jesus’ earthly life was set in motion. Though He glorified God in every action, His death and resurrection would bring glory in a way that would be unique in all the universe. The epic point of God’s grand plan of redemption would take place the next day.
Jesus was aware “that the Father had given everything into His hands.” But just as He had demonstrated humility to the disciples by washing their feet, Jesus now proclaimed that His death and resurrection would glorify the Father.
The relationship between God the Son and God the Father is sometimes difficult. They are equal persons of the Trinity, yet so much focus in evangelical churches is on Jesus — He is the difference between Christianity and other religions. Yet here, Jesus undeniably states that His glory is the Father’s glory. If God the Son can use His life and death for the glory of God, so should His followers.
Love for others puts your loyalty to God on display. (34–35)
Jesus has spoken about God’s glory and about His own imminent departure. He is letting them know that very soon people will not be able to see Him or observe His actions. What they will see is His followers. After He goes back to the Father, the only way people can know anything about Jesus will be through these 11 men and those they bring to faith in Jesus.
These verses should be read aloud before every church business meeting. Christian history is full of splits, schisms and even armed conflict. While such things are sometimes unavoidable in a fallen world, followers of Jesus must work harder to be known by their love.
Appeals to love one another are often based on how love benefits us and makes life more pleasant. Here, Jesus tells His disciples (including those today) that the ultimate result of loving one another is this: Everyone who witnesses that love will know Jesus is alive in our hearts, and He can be alive in theirs as well.
By Daryl Watts
Watts is a church consultant in Fresno, California.