The Teachings of the Upper Room Series
Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
March 8, 2020
John 13:34-35, John 15:9-12
The setting for these words is the night of Last Supper, Thursday night of Holy Week. It’s the night before the Cross. The disciples and Jesus are in Jerusalem, the holy city, but the opposition to Jesus was reaching a fever pitch. The plan to arrest him and seemingly end his ministry was about to unfold. They’re in a “large upper room.” These rooms were built on top of an existing house. So they were the size of the entire house itself, which wasn’t very large, but still it was a nice room to have, particularly if you’re hosting the most important meal of our faith.
During this meal Jesus reviewed and underscored the most essential truths he needed his disciples to understand. Let’s take a look.
34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
36Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” 37Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.
9As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
There are two things I’d like to highlight today. The first is this: Do you realize how much you are loved?
The earliest Christians needed a word to describe the amazing love of God that Jesus aught them about.
The Greeks had several words for love. (New York Life has a Super Bowl commercial about these exact words)
The Greeks had one word for the love of friends, Philia.
They had another word for family love, Storgè.
They had yet another word for romantic love, Eros.
But none of these words was large enough to begin to describe God’s unconditional love. So they took a seldom-used word and gave it a hugely expanded meaning, Agape. Agape came to mean, all-encompassing and complete unconditional love.
I’d like to do a quick exercise with you. I’d like you to close your eyes and try to imagine this love.
You are loved . . . completely.
You are loved . . . unconditionally.
You are loved . . . as if you had never made a mistake in your entire love.
You are loved like a parent loves their beautiful, newborn child.
You are love with a perfect, holy, unchanging love.
You are loved by the source of all love in the universe.
You are completely loved by your Creator.
You are loved so beautifully by Jesus.
You are loved (period).
Please open your eyes.
That’s pretty wonderful to think about, isn’t it?
But here’s the truth – as great as you imagined God’s love to be for you – it’s even greater than that! Because our minds are finite. We can’t fully comprehend the infinite love of God. The love God has for you is even greater that you just imagined, because even our best thoughts of God fall short. You are truly loved, more than you can imagine!
How do I know for sure?
“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.”
“As the Father has agaped me, so I have agaped you.”
The same love that God the Father has for God the Son, that same love has been extended to you!
You have been invited into the love which exists within the Trinity – “as the Father has loved me . . .” That’s the message Jesus is delivering to them as Last Supper.
Here’s an illustration that will hopefully help bring it home.
A friend of mine told me this story. She had had a baby, her firstborn. Her parents came to visit and meet their first grandchild. The parents and grandparents would sit and stare at the baby for hours. You know, grandparents are the only ones who can keep up with the parents in the staring contest. At one point the mother of the baby says,
“It is unbelievable how much I love my baby. I’d give my life for him in a second.”
Her mother replied, “Honey, that’s how much you father and I love you.”
She had never considered that – that such incredible, complete, all-encompassing, unconditional love enveloped her as well.
In the same way, what Jesus is saying is that the love that God the Father has for the Son, that same love is extended to you and me! We’re included in the love within the Trinity! How do you wrap your brain around that. You don’t, but don’t let that stop you from receiving that love!
So at the Last Supper, Jesus needs them to remember how much they are loved. Considering what’s about to happen, that’s a pretty important message for them, isn’t it?
But there’s one other thing he impresses upon them this night. One other essential mater he needs them to understand and never forget. He wants them to remember is that his entire movement is all about love – God’s love for them and their love for each other and the world.
It’s all about love!
It’s s movement of Love!
It’s not simply about spreading doctrine, spreading truth – though truth and beliefs are important. And it’s not just about establishing his church and building this new community of believers. No, it’s all about love. And though we will always fall short, we must never forget our primary calling, and that’s to love.
Illustration. “I was wrong.”
Fred Craddock was one of my favorite preachers. He died just a few years ago. He told a story about his father that illustrates what church is all about. He writes:
“My mother always took me to church and Sunday School; my father didn’t go. He complained about Sunday dinner being late when she came home. Sometimes the preacher would call, and my father would say, ‘I know what the church wants. The church doesn’t care about me. All the church wants is another name, another pledge; another name, another pledge.” That’s what he always said. I guess I heard it a thousand times growing up. Another name, another pledge.’
“But one time he didn’t say it. He was in the veteran’s hospital, and he was down to seventy-three pounds. They had taken out his throat and said, ‘It’s too late.’ I flew into to see him. He couldn’t speak, couldn’t eat.
“I looked around the room. There were potted plants and cut flowers on all the window sills, a stack of cards twenty inches deep beside his bed. And even that tray where they put food, if you can eat, on that was a flower. And all the flowers beside the bed, every card, every blossom, were from persons or groups from the church.
He saw me read a card. He could not speak, so he took a Kleenex box and wrote on the side of it a line from Shakespeare. If he had not written this line, I would not tell you this story. He wrote: ‘In this harsh world, draw your breath in pain to tell my story.’
I said, ‘What is your story, Daddy?’
And he wrote, ‘I was wrong.’”
There are still people today who have the wrong idea about the church, and about God, and about Jesus.
And nothing will change their minds more than our love.
“As the Father has love me, so I have love you. Abide in my love.”
Amen. Let it be so.