John 13:31-38 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.
If you knew you only had 24 hours to live, what would you want to say and who would you want to hear it? That is, is there anything you would definitely want to share with anyone right before you die? Last words carry a lot of weight, especially with those whom we’ve shared our lives with.
John 13:31-38 contains the first of the final words Jesus spoke to His disciples (which continues on for four-and-a-half chapters). He chose to share them with the men He was closest to and who were most responsible for continuing His ministry after He was gone. For these reasons, John 13:31-the end of 17 is often referred to as the “Farewell discourse” (or the “Upper room discourse”).
To be clear, Jesus took the final hours of His life to share a number of important things with His disciples. A few of the disciples chime in a few times, but only with brief questions and only to give Jesus the chance to explain His previous words or set up His next. Throughout this final monologue, Jesus teaches, predicts, promises, warns, and prays. And in all of that are some of the most moving and significant words in John’s Gospel. We would do well to listen especially carefully and glean all that we can from them.
Regarding our passage for this morning, there are three main ideas for us to see: (1) The Father and Son would be glorified in awesome ways, (2) Through the Son’s departure, (3) And so Jesus gave them a “new commandment” to guide them through His glorification and departure. Above all, practically, this passage is A call for us to (1) See and savor the glory of the godhead, (2) Grow in a holy longing to follow Jesus in all His ways, and (3) Love others as we’ve been loved by Jesus.
THE GLORY OF THE FATHER AND SON (31-32)
The Father and Son would be glorified in awesome ways, through the Son’s departure, and so Jesus gave the disciples to whom He was speaking a “new commandment” to guide them through His glorification and departure. Each of those truths are awesome beyond imagination. Each has been written on in countless volumes. And each has led men and women to gladly give their lives to tell others about it. And each will get less than 15 minutes this morning. I say that only to remind you of the fact that God’s Word has depths that we will need eternity to plumb. I hope this sermon inspires you press deeper into at least one of these three truths this week.
With that, let’s begin by taking a closer look at the “now” glorification of the Son and the Father.
The first question of the Westminster Confession of Faith is familiar to many of you.
Q. What is the chief and highest end of man?
A. Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy Him forever.
The question and answer presuppose something really important. Did you catch it? They presuppose that God is glorious in such a way that it is possible to fully enjoy Him forever. Getting your head around how significant of an idea that is, is necessary to really appreciate the opening lines of our text.
Truthfully (especially for everyone for whom smart phones were never not a thing), when is the last time something held your full enjoyment for more than a few minutes, let alone for a whole day, let alone for a full week, let alone for a full year, let alone for a full decade, let alone for FOREVER?!
It takes something truly extraordinary to capture our full enjoyment for any amount of time. The idea of something doing so for eternity is almost unfathomable. No ordinary thing could possibly do that. We always get board of everything eventually, don’t we? But, as Jesus makes clear in the opening lines of our passage, neither He nor His Father are anything ordinary. They are (along with the Spirit) infinitely glorious and, therefore, entirely able to fuel our full joy, forever.
That sounds fine in theory, but what does it really mean? What is the content of that glory? What is it about the Father and Son that makes them glorious to the point that they can sustain complete joy in a person for eternity? And to that end, John wrote,
31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.
There’s a lot of glory in those two verses (five glories), and within that, there are three main claims: Jesus will be glorified now, God the Father will be glorified in Jesus’ glory, and God the Father will glorify Jesus.
Jesus Will Be Glorified Now (31)
“Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified’…”. In these words, Jesus was echoing His earlier claims that, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (12:23). And He was anticipating His words in chapter 17(:1), “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son …”
The first question these claims present is what Jesus meant by “now” and “the hour has come”? When did he have in mind? The answer, as we’ll see more clearly soon, is at the cross (and resurrection and ascension).
In simplest terms, then, Jesus was explaining that the time for Him to be crucified was at hand and in the cross His glory would be put on display in a manner never before seen by the world. O, Grace Church, do not be quick to move past this or to believe you’ve exhausted this. You and I really will spend all eternity growing in our sense of awe and wonder at the glory of Jesus put on display in the cross, so let’s get at it now.
There are lots and lots of ways the cross displays the glory of Jesus. I’d like to highlight four.
- The cross was the place in which Jesus willingly absorbed the full measure of the wrath of God for the sins of the world. He did at once what millions of animals and millions of gallons of their blood could not do.
Ephesians 2:16 [Jesus] reconciled us…to God…through the cross
Colossians 1:20 [God]… reconciled to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of [Jesus’] cross.
Hebrews 9:26 he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
Above all, the cross glorifies Jesus in that it is the place in which Jesus died for the sins of the world. I’ll come back to this from another angle in just a minute, but we are right to marvel here at the glory of Jesus displayed in His sacrificial death on the cross on behalf of sinners.
- Jesus was glorified in the cross in that it was the place where He defeated Satan and all His enemies. Since the Fall of Adam and Eve, there’s been a battle between the offspring of Eve and the offspring of the devil. The devil and his allies have made war against God and His people. Even now. they are constantly prowling around seeking some to devour. At the cross, Jesus was glorified by exercising His infinite superiority over every evil being that had and would come against the rule of God.
Of that, Colossians 2:15 says that at the cross, Jesus “disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”
Similarly, in Hebrews 2:14 we read, “through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil…”.
At the cross, Jesus secured perfect and eternal victory for God and perfect and eternal defeat for the evil one. And in that, He was glorified with a glory that can fully satisfy forever.
- The cross was the place in which Jesus defeated death. At the cross, Jesus defeated sin, the devil, and death itself, and in each His glory was displayed for the heavens and earth.
Anticipating and promising this, Isaiah prophesied (25:8), “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth…”.
In 1 Corinthians 15(:24-26), Paul wrote of the certain, eventual, and eternal effect of what Jesus accomplished on the cross, “Then comes the end, when [the resurrected and ascended Jesus] delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Revelation 20:14 says the same.
Acts 2:24 records Peter’s declaration that “God raised [Jesus] up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”
Death couldn’t hold Jesus because by His death, Jesus defeated death. What an awesome reality and staggering display of His glory—the eternally satisfying kind of glory that was about to be revealed.
- Finally, Jesus was glorified in the cross in that upon His death on the cross, Jesus finished His earthly obedience. We’ll see this more explicitly in chapter 17(:4), where John recorded Jesus’ prayer, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”
Paul explains in Philippians 2:8 that Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
It was always going to be because of His perfect righteousness, His utter sinlessness, His immaculate holiness, His complete obedience, that Jesus would be an acceptable sacrifice to God for the sins of the world. At the cross Jesus crossed the finish line of obedience and therein was glorified in the highest.
Marvel at the amazing glory of the One who had every temptation known to mankind put in front of Him, yet did not sin (Hebrews 4:14). He never had a sinful inclination or thought, much less a sinful action. What’s more, His every desire, contemplation, and deed were only righteous, always. Not once did Jesus do anything prohibited by God and He never once neglected anything required by God. He obeyed all the way until the end, and that is glorious beyond measure, and that glory was shown in the cross, and the cross is now.
In anticipation of His crucifixion, mere hours away, Jesus told His disciples that through it (through the cross), “Now is the Son of Man glorified”.
God Will Be Glorified in Jesus’ Glory (31)
More than that, though (as if that were not already an unimaginable amount of glory in the cross), Jesus continued on by promising, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. That’s also in the next clause of the chapter 17 passage we read earlier, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you…”. Not only was Jesus glorified in the cross, but the Father was glorified in Jesus’ glory.
There is a way in which every parent can understand this. When our kids do well at something, it is often as much to our great pleasure and glory as it is to theirs. In a way that is similar, yet immeasurably greater, the Father was glorified in the Son’s glory on the cross. Indeed, Jesus declared that the Father’s glory in the cross was His aim all along, “for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name” (12:27-28).
Just as is the case in the cross-glory of Jesus, the cross-glory of the Father shows up in many and particular ways. Again, let’s slow down enough to prayerfully consider a few.
- God’s perfect righteousness was displayed in the cross (Romans 3:25). This is critical. God declared from the beginning that sin always leads to death (Genesis 2:17; Romans 6:23). What’s more, also from the beginning God declared that in Adam’s fall, corruption and sin had entered all mankind (Genesis 6:5; Romans 3:23).
What that leaves us with is either universal death or injustice in God. Since all sinned and all sin leads to death, all must die (universal death) or God must go back on His word (injustice)…unless, some sufficient, substitute sacrifice was to be found.
God offered His own Son as the sufficient, substitute sacrifice at the cross because His perfect righteousness wouldn’t allow sin to go unpunished or Him to go back on His word. What awesome, amazing, eternally satisfying glory that is, and was about to be revealed.
- God’s perfect love was displayed in the cross. The fact that God would have been perfectly just in putting to death all who treasonously rebelled against Him, but chose to offer His own Son as a propitiation, is the greatest display of love of all time.
That glorious truth is at the heart of the most famous passage in John, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son [at the cross!], that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
I invite you to slow down this week and consider the unending, perfectly satisfying nature of the glory of God displayed in His love at the cross.
- God’s perfect patience was displayed in the cross. Since Jesus is the way the truth and the life, and no one comes to God but by Him (John 14:6), since salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), did you ever wonder what happened to people before Jesus came to earth?
The answer is found in passages like Acts 17:30 and Romans 3:25.
Acts 17:30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now [since the cross] he commands all people everywhere to repent.
Romans 3:25 God put [Jesus] forward [at the cross!] as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
The heart of these two passages is that God had patiently stored His righteous wrath for millennia, both for the faithful and the faithless, knowing that He would one day send His Son to atone for all who had or would hope in Him. The glory of the perfect patience of God is revealed in the cross. He patiently allowed His name to be profaned and His glory to be mocked across generations because of the cross. And finally, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him” in displaying His patience.
- God’s perfect integrity was displayed in the cross. What Jesus did on the cross is what made it possible for God to keep all His promises and remain perfectly true to His nature. And in that is eternal glory. The cross is the fulfillment of God’s first gospel promise. It was on the cross that Jesus bruised His heel on Satan’s head (Genesis 3:15). The cross is the fulfillment of prophecy. Deuteronomy 22:22-23, “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 … for a hanged man is cursed by God” (Galatians 3:13). And the cross is where God was able to be both just and justifier (Romans 3:26).
In these four things we find, once again, some of the content of the glory of God, revealed in Jesus, on the cross, that is able to fully satisfy forever.
God Will Glorify Jesus (32)
In the cross, Jesus was glorified. In Jesus’ cross-glory, the Father was glorified. And, in the Father’s glory, He glorified the Son.
32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.
The cross is the vortex of the infinite cycle of trinitarian glory. That’s the heart of Philippians 2:8-11.
8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus was glorified on the cross and so God glorified, highly exalted, Him even more.
It’s also the heart of John 17:3-5.
4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
Jesus was glorified on the cross, that brought glory to God, and so God turned all that glory back on Jesus.
In all of this, we see that the cross is the place of the supreme convergence of Jesus’ sufficiency, victory, and obedience. It is also the place of supreme convergence of God’s attributes. And in those things, we find a good deal of the content of the glory that will allow everyone who hopes in Jesus to fulfill our chief and highest end.
THE SON’S DEPARTURE (33; 36-38)
As I mentioned earlier, the initial claim in our passage is that “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” I also mentioned that by “now,” Jesus was referring to His death on the cross (resurrection, and ascension). We see that explicitly in v.33 and again in vs.36-38.
33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’
Jesus was about to depart from the earth by way of the cross. The cross, of course, would soon lead to the empty tomb (20:1). And the empty tomb would lead to His ascension back to the Father. When that happened, the disciples and the Jews would seek Jesus (for all kinds of reasons) but would be unable to find Him.
Confused yet again,
36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”
There was a sense in which no one could follow Jesus in any of what He was about to do. He alone could die on the cross for the sins of the world. He alone would be raised from the dead in fulfillment of the Scriptures. And He alone would rise to the right hand of the Father to rule and make intercession for all His people. (“Where I am going you cannot follow me now…”.)
And yet there’s another sense in which all who would be saved would follow Him. Grace, we must all take up our cross, laying down our lives in faith in the Son of God. All who do will rise from the dead. Jesus was indeed the first born from among many resurrected brothers and sisters. And all who do will come into the presence of God to reign as coheirs with Jesus. (“…but you will follow afterward”.)
Again, no one could follow Jesus immediately, but the good news of the gospel is that all who would trust in Jesus will do so “afterward.”
37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.
Peter displayed a familiar zeal mixed with an equally familiar ignorance. Not only could Peter not follow Jesus to the end, but He would not even follow Jesus as far as he could. Instead of following, he would first deny.
Jesus needed to lay His life down for Peter before Peter could lay his life down for Jesus.
The cross was the vortex of trinitarian glory and no one could follow Jesus into that until Jesus went through it so everyone could follow.
A NEW COMMANDMENT (34-35)
The third and final key to this passage answers a question that I hope you are already asking. If they couldn’t follow Jesus now, what were they to do? Jesus answered that question directly in vs.34-35.
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
A New Commandment: As I Have Loved You… (34)
God had commanded his people to love one another for hundreds of years. The “new” aspect of the command, therefore, was not to love others. The new aspect was to love others “just as I have loved you”. That is, never before had love for others been perfectly modeled as it was in Jesus. The foundation of this new commandment, then, is Jesus’ love.
…Love One Another… (34)
The “new” command is for you and I to love one another like that. But what, specifically, does that look like? How do we love others “just as” Jesus loved us? Let me close with three quick suggestions.
- Love one another “to the end”. In 13:1, we read that, “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” I’ve noticed an almost universal phenomenon among Christians in our various relationships. I see it in friendships, marriages, families, and churches. When the relationship begins, we see mainly the good and gladly accept the shortcomings. Over time, however, the pendulum often swings entirely the other way. We begin to see mainly the shortcomings (which seem to grow bigger and bigger), and minimize the good (which seems to grow smaller and smaller). The practical result is usually frustration, discouragement, complaining, and if unchecked, eventually the end of the relationship. This is not a charge to minimize the sin of others, but if we are to obey Jesus’ command and love like Him, we will (1) Focus on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8-9) in others and (2) Lay down our lives to help others turn from the rest.
- Love others by apologizing to and forgiving them eagerly and quickly. While we cannot love one another like Jesus did by dying for one another’s sins, we can love one another by living in light of the fact that Jesus did! One of the first ways we obey this new commandment is by putting “on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:12-13). Grace, we are all in the same sinking sin-boat apart from the grace of God. And once we remember that God loved us apart from our deserving it, we are free to love others even—especially—when they don’t deserve it.
- Love others by praying earnestly for them. Since the uniquely, fully, eternally satisfying glory of God is what others need more than anything, loving them well means wanting more of God’s glory for them. But since God alone can bring more of God’s glory to others, we pray in earnest that he would. Therefore, we must “…pray for one another…[for] The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” (James 5:16). Loving one another means almost nothing if it does not mean specific, intentional, persistent prayer for them to know more of God. We’re about to see that in the greatest prayer ever recorded in John 17.
Jesus commanded His disciples to love each other as He loves them, since they couldn’t immediately follow Him into His glory. At the least this meant loving to the end, apologizing and forgiving quickly, and praying earnestly.
…So Others Will Know You Are Mine (35)
The result of all of this, of course, is that a lot of people will be loved well and God will be glorified in that. That is, if we are to obey Jesus’ “new commandment”, the people of God will know the love of God in remarkable ways and the world will see the power and glory of God. Can you imagine how much the Church, our church, would be build up if we were to truly love each other as Jesus loves us?
35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
(1) The Father and Son would be glorified in awesome ways, (2) Through the Son’s departure, (3) And so Jesus gave them a “new commandment” to guide them through His glorification and departure. Above all, practically, this passage is a call for us to (1) See and savor the glory of the godhead, (2) Grow in a holy longing to follow Jesus in all His ways, and (3) Love others as we’ve been loved by Jesus.