John 13: 21-25
1 Peter 5: 1-4
Galatians 2: 20, 21
John 13: 34, 35
I have read about John and Peter and Paul. Each of them knew and appreciated the love of Christ. The love of Christ is powerful. The apostle speaks of knowing the love of the Christ that surpasses knowledge, see Eph 3: 19. In the activity of His love, Christ will secure the universe for God. How immense that is! We were speaking in the reading of the Lord’s service in His love towards us. Now we are speaking of three individuals who appreciated that love. Each of us needs to grow in our appreciation of that love. We learn it first in His suffering love for us. If you are a believer at all you have some appreciation that He took your place. What love, that He took upon Himself what was due to me from a righteous holy God. What love was expressed in that!
Each of these sections of scripture also speaks of what is among us. When the Lord was with His own, He spoke about what was extant among men, but then He adds “But it is not thus among you”, Mark 10: v 43. In other words, He made a distinction between what was in the world and what was in the company of His own. “It is not thus among you.” He also says “For the Son of man did not come to be ministered to but to minister”, v 45. That is a service of love - to minister. So in the Lord’s mind there was a contrast between what was in the world and what was ‘among us’. These two thoughts are before me - appreciating the Lord’s love personally and, related to that, what is among us.
The passage we have read in John 13 is the first time that John speaks of himself as the disciple “whom Jesus loved”. This comes in immediately after the Lord’s service to His own and specifically to John. John must have been so impressed by the Lord’s service to him in feet washing that he now calls himself the disciple that Jesus loved. He did not always call himself that. He was conscious of the Lord’s love. It is a great thing to be conscious of that love. It is enjoyable for its own sake, by itself. John took that position. “Now there was at table one of the disciples in the bosom of Jesus.” John had learned that idea by his contemplation of the Lord Himself - contemplating the Lord Jesus, in His relations with the Father. He was in the bosom of the Father. John learned that idea from contemplating the Lord and saw the attractiveness of it. He saw a son loving a father and a father loving a son. What an attractive relationship is seen in the Lord Jesus here in manhood, His affections going out towards the Father and the Father’s affections resting on Him. He was an adequate Object for the affections of the Father, an adequate Object down here: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I have found my delight”, see Matt 3: 17.
I think that John learned about the bosom from contemplating the Lord. We have to learn everything from Him. The position in the Father's bosom is unique to the Lord Jesus, but John took up this position in the Lord’s bosom. Literally, only one could take up that position at a time. But in the present situation, it is open to all of us to enjoy this position in the bosom of Jesus. Whatever happens in your life here, whatever happens in the testimony, this is open to you, the restfulness of this position. It saw John through difficult times - he was writing this after he wrote the book of the Revelation that the Lord gave to him. After all the decline, he writes a whole book about the relations between the Father and the Son. He saw the attractiveness of it. He appreciated the Lord’s love in service towards him. He calls himself the disciple whom Jesus loved. We can all take that place as we enjoy the Lord’s love. He did not always call himself that. He did not call himself that when he influenced someone wrongly (see John 18: 5) and when he came under wrong influence, see John 21: 2, 3. Therefore we see the importance of keeping ourselves in the enjoyment of the love of the Lord Jesus.
He was in the bosom of Jesus, and then we see him leaning on the breast of Jesus. That speaks of the support of the Lord’s love. His love sees us through in this testimonial scene and all that may come into it: it is a love we can rely on. You can lean your head on the Lord, as it were; you can rely on Him, turn to Him, and tell Him everything. Where we read in the reading it says “Jesus, knowing that his hour had come…” and “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given him all things into his hands…”, see John 13: 1, 3. How did John know that? We often think of John in His bosom saying “Lord, who is it?” He was near enough to the Lord to get that communication. But it also seems that he was near enough to know what was passing in the Lord’s mind. He must have learned that from the Lord. It says here “Jesus knowing…” In this place of intimacy with the Lord, the Lord communicates what was in His own mind to John.
Then in Peter we see one who certainly knew the service of the love of Christ towards him. It says “And the Lord, turning round, looking at Peter…” (Luke 22: 61); that is, looking intently. Andrew brought Peter to the Lord. It says, “Jesus looking at him said, Thou art Simon”, see John 1: 42. Think of it, the Lord of glory, God manifest in flesh here, and He took an interest in this individual, in Peter, as He has taken and takes an interest in you. He sees each one of us here and He is intensely interested in each of us as individuals. He looked at Peter. Peter at that point did not exactly follow the Lord. Later on he left all and followed Jesus. How the Lord served Peter! I find Peter very attractive. How patient and gracious the Lord was with Peter! Most of us are probably like Peter. John went through steadily in the enjoyment of the Lord’s love; he is reliable and trustworthy. Peter was more up and down. He said things out of place. But the Lord continually served him. The Lord said “Simon, Simon, Satan has demanded to have you to sift you as wheat”, Luke 22: 31, 32. That was the whole company. “But I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not.” The Lord was telling Peter that He was praying for him and we can rely on that, on the service of Christ towards us. Then he warns Peter, “I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow today before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me” Luke 22: 34. There He warns Peter. Then they are in the garden. In Matthew’s account, the Lord says to Peter, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation”, Matt 26: 41. The Lord said that to Peter, exhorting him to pray that he enter not into temptation. The Lord prays for us. But He also gives Peter a warning. Peter was self-confident. He exhorts Peter to pray, because He knew what Peter’s heart was like. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He says, “Pray”. That is open to each one of us: let us feel our dependence. Do not trust in yourself. Pray: be dependent.
Then Peter failed: he denied the Lord. So the Lord looked at him: “…turning round, looked at Peter.” Think of that: in the High Priest’s palace they were wrongly accusing the Lord, giving Him blows on the face, spitting on Him. The note says that these blows on the face were with a fist. Peter was there, and he denied his Lord and Master. And just at that point, the Lord, turning round, looked at Peter. The Lord was suffering there from men, and He is concerned about and interested in Peter. Whatever the Lord was going through, He had the time and the love and the grace to turn and look at Peter. He had Peter in mind, as He has all of us in mind. It was a look of grace. “…turning round, looked at Peter.” It is the same word as that used for the look with which He looked at Peter initially (see John 1: 42) - He looked intently at Peter. What that must have done to Peter! There was the Lord, He was about to suffer from God and He was already suffering from men; what the Lord had on His spirit! Yet He looked in this loving and gracious way at Peter.
The poetess says:
“'Tis the look that melted Peter
'Tis that face that Stephen saw,
'Tis that heart that wept with Mary
Can alone from idols draw.”
(Idols, Miss Ora Rowan)
It was the look that melted Peter - what grace was in that look! Then the angel says: “Go, tell His disciples and Peter”, see Mark 16: 7. Peter had denied the Lord, but the Lord still had him in mind. He was not going to let Peter go. His affection was still the same towards Peter. Peter would have been feeling pretty bad, but the angel specifically mentions his name. And then it says, “The Lord is indeed risen and has appeared to Simon”, Luke 24: 34. That was a private appearing to Simon. What went on then we do not know, but it brings out the importance of secret and private relations with the Lord Jesus. Nothing at all takes the place of that, however much you enjoy the company of the saints and being together with them, what underlies it all is your secret relations with the Lord Jesus. That is absolutely essential. I appeal to young people: keep on having to do with the Lord Jesus, keep on speaking to Him. Not only in a formal way - you might think ‘I must speak to the Lord before I go to sleep at night’, and that is good: I always do - but you can speak to Him informally through the day also. Just speak to Him, have to do with Him. That is open to every one of us. How the Lord appreciates that! It is said that He appreciates our company more than we appreciate His. That is the Lord in His loving, shepherd service to Peter; He considered for him and thought of him in the time of His suffering. When He was raised, He appeared to Peter.
All of that underlies this section in chapter 5 of Peter’s epistle. He is an elder, he had proved the loving shepherd service of Christ. He says: “The elders which are among you I exhort, who am their fellow-elder.” This is one elder speaking to others. It shows the importance of elders. It involves years, but also moral weight and substance and love. You have influence among the saints as you love them. That is seen in John, about whom we spoke first. You can see in the letters John wrote that he had influence among the saints because of his love for them. That is our measure: not what we say or what we know, but our formation in the divine nature. That is our measure. Here is one elder speaking to fellow elders. It shows that Peter appreciated others. Peter was a witness of the sufferings of Christ - he spoke about that - and also spoke of himself as “partaker of the glory about to be revealed”. He witnessed the sufferings of Christ: he says that he simply witnessed them. But he is going to be “partaker of the glory about to be revealed”. Peter certainly appreciated Christ in His present position. He says “God has glorified his servant Jesus (see Acts 3: 13): that is Jesus in His present position. It is the glory about to be revealed: He is soon to be publicly revealed, manifested. But Peter says, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you.” He is speaking to elders and he refers to the flock “among you”. That is our present situation. Those who belong to God, the flock of God, are among us and there are persons who take responsibility. Peter puts it on these persons to shepherd the flock of God. Peter had learned the shepherd service of Christ, as we all have. As we experience that, we are qualified to shepherd the flock of God. Ezekiel speaks of God’s flock, see Ezek 34: 15. God speaks of “my flock”. In that section, there were false shepherds. That is not the idea here - it is persons who have proved the service of the Lord Jesus personally in His constant care and feeding and guiding. “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you” is the responsibility put upon these persons. Then it says: “but being models of the flock.” We can speak to one another, but what about being models for the flock? “When the chief shepherd is manifested you shall receive the unfading crown of glory.” The Lord is the Chief Shepherd. That means He is over others. We are all directly responsible to the Lord for how we care for one another. The more responsibility you take, the more you are answerable to the Lord Jesus, to the Chief Shepherd. There is the incentive of receiving the unfading crown of glory: there is an incentive to labour in this way, shepherding the flock of God.
How Paul was marked by this attitude! He speaks to these persons whom he addresses in Acts 20 of how he had been among them in all lowliness, in tears and temptations. He had laboured with his hands, how he shepherded the saints! Shepherding is care of the saints, but Paul also brings out in Acts 20 that it is care of the truth too. A shepherd cares for the truth also, because he sees the danger ahead. He can see ahead. The sheep do not realise the danger, but the shepherd does. As we shepherd the flock of God we are responsible to care for the truth in its purity as it has come to us. That is all involved in shepherding. Sometimes this side of the truth is overlooked, but the Spirit would give discernment as to what might be involved in anything that comes in, that the truth is cared for. Shepherding is in view of the saints being held in relation to God’s thoughts for them.
I want to speak about Paul. He was one who appreciated Christ’s love. It is recorded, where we read, that it was said to him on the road to Damascus, “I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest”. What light flooded into Paul’s soul, what a change was brought about in that man! The Lord apprehended Paul, and then Paul desired to apprehend what he had been apprehended for. The Lord had laid hold of him. It is a great thing, dear believer friend, to apprehend what the Lord has apprehended you for, and to have part in the testimony here. But the fullness of what the Lord has apprehended you for is that you might be formed like Him now, formed in His features now. What moral perfection shone in the Lord Jesus, and shines in Him! We are left here so that that work can go on. I am always attracted to that verse “That I may gain Christ”, see Phil 3: 8. Paul wanted Christ for his gain. He was prepared to give up other things that he might have Christ. “That I may be found in Him”, v 9. That is what Paul wanted. Is that your desire, dear friend, that Christ in His glory might be before you, Christ in His present position? “That I might be found in Him”. Paul was already in Christ, but that was what was before him - his object - that he might be found more and more like Christ. He speaks of “the prize of the calling on high of God in Christ Jesus”, v 14. That laid hold of Paul. He was pursuing to that end, that he might gain the prize. What a prize is set before us! We will be with Christ and like Him, like Him bodily, and like the features that mark His manhood. Think of that, ‘That we may be found in Him’.
So Paul says here “I live by faith, the faith of the Son of God”. That was the One who had apprehended him. “I am crucified with Christ and no longer live, I, but Christ lives in me; but in that I now live in flesh” that is, in his body, “I live by faith, the faith of the Son of God.” That is the way Paul lived, by the faith of the Son of God. The One of whom we have been speaking, who is already in final conditions (how attractive to think of it) - the Lord Jesus sets forth in Himself God’s thoughts for us. Paul wanted to lay hold of that and was engaged with that One: the faith of the Son of God. That is the One who is the Centre of that world. It is not exactly faith in the Son of God, although it involves that, but it is the faith of the Son of God, faith in relation to the One who is the Centre of that world, the world that God is patterning round this blessed One - the Son of God, who has loved me. Paul was in the current enjoyment of that love. As a fact it was historical, but it is present, and it is a moral thought that brings it right forward to the present day. You might say, ‘Why does Paul say this?’ Paul was moving among the saints in a way that was commendable. He did not take counsel with flesh and blood, and he went to Arabia. When a matter came in, a matter of the truth that threatened to take away the very foundations of Christianity, Paul withstood Peter. Paul was conscious that the Lord was loving him as he acted in that way - “who has loved me and given Himself for me”. Paul was crucified with Christ - “no longer live I”. The cross comes into this epistle a lot. I think that Paul was standing by the cross in writing this epistle to the saints in the area of Galatia. How attractive it is to read in John 19 of those who stood by the cross of Jesus, see v 25. In John’s gospel it speaks of Jesus going out bearing His cross (v 17): the cross of Christ. The Person is attached to the cross. It gives the cross its value because of the Person, the cross of Jesus. The women in John were standing there, in affection, prepared to stand in a place of reproach because of what Jesus meant for them. Because of what Jesus meant to Paul, he was prepared to stand by the cross. He stood by it in an area, in Galatia, and he stood by it in a locality in Corinth.
He goes on to speak of that here. He says “O senseless Galatians, who has bewitched you; to whom, as before your very eyes, Jesus Christ has been portrayed, crucified among you?” He does not actually say it was himself, but we can infer that it was. What features would you look for in a man in whom Jesus Christ was portrayed crucified among you? What features would you expect to see? You would see them in Paul. He did not take counsel with flesh and blood. Personalities did not weigh with Paul; Christ did. A man who portrayed Christ crucified would have no ambition in this world, no prospect. The cross is where the man that sinned had been ended, ended and condemned in God’s Son. That is what God thinks of the man that sinned. That is true of us all. The poison of the serpent is in every one of us, and the cross deals with that, the man after the flesh, the man upon whom Satan can operate in so many different ways. Paul gave no place to that. He portrayed Christ crucified among them. He was not giving place to the flesh in a religious way or in any other way among these saints, and he is the same in relation to Corinth. How important that is. I notice, particularly in older ministry, that the cross was ministered. It is absolutely essential. What gives it its value is the Person that was there. We therefore need to seek to be true, in the Spirit’s power, to the truth of the cross. We must be prepared to suffer because of what the Lord means to us. “But far be it from me to boast save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.” It was reciprocal - the world was crucified to Paul, and he to the world. The world did not think anything of Paul, nor of Christ. The more we are marked by the moral features of Christ, the less the world will think of us. Paul had a judgement of the world as a system and its features - the world is crucified to me. Christ had such a place in his affections. Oh that He might have a greater place in my affections!
I was just impressed by this, that “Jesus Christ has been portrayed, crucified among you.” What features do we set forth as we move about among the saints? “Crucified among you”. There would be no ambition, but rather lowliness and meekness. Think of how the Lord suffered on that cross - “Who when reviled, reviled not again”, 1 Pet 2: 23. These were the features of the Man who was on the cross. How attractive to heaven to see the moral features that shone out in the Lord, the obedience: “Becoming obedient even unto death, and that the death of the cross”, Phil 2: 8. How important to be maintained in our souls in the truth that is set forth in the cross of Christ. Paul here speaks of this glorious Person who had taken over his life, meaning that he served Him and suffered for Him like none other did. Oh that the Lord Jesus might fill our affections, so that we might be here for Him, and that His love might lay hold of us in such a way that our lives might therefore be for Him. That is what Paul’s life was. Paul loved the persons that the Lord loved. He had been persecuting them, but then he served and served and served them.
That is open to us in whatever measure it is open to us, but it all depends on this personal relationship, the enjoyment of the Lord’s love. Paul lived in the joy of it and the joy of the Person that is there. I love that, and all the brethren do. In Philippians 3, such an attractive chapter, we see Paul the Christian, we see what gave Paul his energy, helped him in his way here. He contemplated Christ in His moral excellence in chapter 2 - the Lord as the Model - and then Christ where He is gave Paul the energy to continue, and Christ satisfied his heart. How attractive He is in His present position! May we be more occupied with Him, more engaged with Him. God has given us this Object for our affections. He is available to us by the Spirit. Faith and the Spirit operate together so that we might have this blessed Man as our Object, so that we might be more like Him as He was here.
May the Lord bless the word.
27th January 2007