“What you are about to do, do quickly.” With those words, spoken by Jesus, things began to happen. Jesus spoke these words to his disciple Judas. And here in verse 31 of our lesson we see that Judas heeded his master’s command as he left to do what he was destined to do, as he left to betray his Savior. At this moment, the die was cast. In a few short hours, Jesus would stand in front of a host of armed men and be betrayed one last time with a kiss. And soon after, he would face a horrifying trial, torture, and lonely walk to die; a criminal, hung on a cross. Jesus knew what was coming and yet he urged it to happen in haste. “What you are about to do, do quickly.”
There wasn’t much time left for Jesus. I wonder if he was starting to feel the pressure of this moment. I think the thought of pressure is something we can all relate to in our own unique ways. The younger children and the teens here maybe have some homework that they need to finish, tonight even, – projects that need to get done – and there is pressure to get it done and to do it well. That pressure doesn’t go away when you get older. Whether you spend your days in an office, on some job site, or whether you spend your days at home alone or with children, there is always stuff that needs to be done. There is always this invisible force of pressure either coming at you from someone else, a boss, a teacher, a parent, or it comes at you from your own mind as your head spins with all the different responsibilities that you have taken on in life.
How do we react to that pressure? How do we handle the responsibilities of our lives? Maybe we settle in and get the work done; we get at it! Maybe we push it off and procrastinate. Perhaps we complain about the work and responsibility. But, you know, in all honesty, we could rid ourselves of all the pressure in our lives. You and I we could all just decide to stop. We could decide to stop caring, to stop trying, to give up on anything and everything that makes life difficult, that bring pressure. And that brings us back to Jesus.
Whenever we look at Jesus in the Scriptures, we are confronted with this baffling question: What was the Son of God doing on this earth? The Bible says that God lives in the bliss and glory of heaven, in unapproachable light; there is no sadness, there is no pain, there are no problems, there are no heartaches or heartbreaks. So why would he leave that and come
here? Why would Jesus put himself in a situation like the one in our lesson, and endure such pressure, such responsibility?
You hear those words again, “Do it quickly. Go Judas.” And then we read, “he, Judas, was gone.” There we find the answer to the question “Why was Jesus here.” Jesus was longing to work the long-promised plan of salvation. Judas, until now, had been the man who held it up. He had to be warned, he had to be loved to the last and, without a doubt, he was. Until finally he was given the piece of bread, dipped by his Savior, the mark of his betrayal…and “he was gone.” He left at once, and Jesus knew now that the hour had come. The departure of Judas meant his glory as he began the greatest work of love, a love we can barely grasp, yet confess every time we speak the Nicene Creed: “For us and for our salvation, he came down from heaven.” That’s why Jesus was here, for you.
You step back in time, to creation. God knew full well that Adam would plunge the world into sin and death and that he himself would have to be the one to come and rescue it. And when sin and death came upon all – for all of us inherited Adam’s sin – he didn’t hesitate; God stood there in that garden now ruined by his creation and announced his rescue plan. He would send the Son whom he loved, to love all, yes, even those who would despise and reject him, yes, even Judas who left to betray him.
“This is love,” John writes in another place, “not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 Jn 4:10). And St. Paul writes, “God
demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro 5:8)….while we were still sinners. God loved us in spite of us.
And so there sits that love, his Son, Jesus. He saw the storm of his suffering and death coming but instead of avoiding it, he walked right into it. In his dismissal of Judas, he brought glory upon himself and his heavenly Father; for in doing this he allowed the storm, not of rain but of wrath, sin and hell, to descend upon himself. This was his glory. This was his love that he came to show, a love that led him to a cross.
There he died. But he also rose; you know that. Jesus pointed to that resurrection moment as he sat there with now just the eleven. He spoke of how he would be with his Father, and soon. They would not follow him there, not yet at least, but one day they would join him with the Father; they too would be in heaven
Notice at this point how he spoke to his disciples, “My children,” he called them. At the approach of this crucial, fatal hour, Jesus’ heart went out in pity toward his beloved disciples. He knew each of them. He knew their failings, their weaknesses. They needed strengthening, needed encouragement, and so he devoted his last hours to those whom he loved. He taught them. He showed them that while they were still on this earth, while they still waited to follow him into glory, they would be left here to continue his work, three words: Love one another.
“Love one another.” That is what we have been called to do on this earth. “A new command,” Jesus called it. But was it really? No, not really. This has always been God’s will: for us to love him with our hearts, souls, and minds and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. But here’s the difference, he is what makes it “new”: no longer are we to love as we love ourselves but “as I have loved you.” That is the new standard. That is the motivation. A love which has as its source something far more powerful than self, a love that comes only from the gospel, only from Christ. There is no loving anyone or understanding what true love is apart from knowing what God has done for us in Jesus.
“As I have loved you . . .” Jesus said. As I have had true love for you—putting you first, loving you at all cost, doing what’s best for you not me—“so you must love one another.” Do you think Jesus wanted to have those nails pounded into his hands and feet? Do you think he wanted to endure the ridicule and the mockery…the hell? Soon we will see him in anguish – do you remember? – we will find him praying for this cup of suffering to be taken from him. Yet, our need for his love, for his sacrifice, was too great and he drank that cup, he paid the price – “so you must love one another” This is how our Savior beckons us, his children, to live.
You think of a child. It’s pretty incredible how they learn to imitate their parents. I’ve taught my son how to wink. I start winking at him and now he does it too. I’ve seen other children who blow kisses when they say goodbye having been taught that by their parents. You can get a child to imitate just about anything you are doing. Often it’s cute, often it’s funny, and best of all they are learning. But as a child picks up on the funny and cute things, so a child can imitate the not-so-cute and not-so-funny things. They watch how Mom and Dad speak to each other, how Mom and Dad speak about other people, and they imitate it. They learn the dreaded word, “No.” they pick up on our stubbornness. They learn all the negatives We parents kind of grimace when we hear that, don’t we, because we know we aren’t perfect role models for our children.
You see we all have this old sinful nature that imitates all the sinful bad habits that it inherited from its parents and it only knows “self-love.” Love for self is what consumed Judas. He couldn’t stay that night; he left to watch out for himself, to do what was best for him. He didn’t understand Jesus’ love, even when Jesus lovingly washed his feet. His self-love destroyed him, eternally. And even in our lives as believers (unlike Judas), we struggle to love so freely, so lavishly as Jesus did. We limit our love. We put conditions on our love. We sometimes dictate the time and place and circumstances under which we are going to show love. And so often it’s just a “half-love”: half genuinely given but the other half directed back at us so that we can feel good about ourselves, about what we’ve done.
It’s this constant battle within us, together with the shame of our guilt, that might often leave us wondering why Jesus loved us at all. Yet he does, and the marvel of his love is that it so…steady. Every day as we confess our sin, and often it’s the same sin, and as we hang our heads, he is there. “My child,” he says, “I forgive you.” And he treats us not as our sins deserve but showers us with mercy and grace. That love causes us to ask with the psalmist, happy yet amazed, “How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?”
Here is the answer, given by Jesus, as he set in motion the plan of our salvation. Not a long list of ideas, commands, principles, guidelines, directives, mandates—no. Just these three simple words of truth: Love one another. Amen.