The whole of this section is about what the Lord does for those whom He loves. All the grace, all the mercy, all the boundless blessings, all the lavish gifts that are poured out forever on those who belong to Him are the product of this infinite divine love. Welcome to Grace To You with John MacArthur.
I'm your host, Phil Johnson. With Valentine's Day this Wednesday, you may be planning a special I love you surprise for someone you care about. But what about all the other days of the year? How are you doing at giving of yourself on a daily basis? And isn't that what love really is? What can you do to strengthen your love for your family, your neighbors, your co-workers, whether or not they share your commitment to Christ?
And what about in your church? What are tangible ways to show love to those who bring nothing but joy and to those who are, well, sometimes a challenge to love? Today, John MacArthur shows you how to consistently demonstrate sacrificial Christ-like love, and he helps you see the blessing that comes from that. The title of John's study, Love No Matter What. So take your Bible, if you're able, and follow along with today's lesson. I want you to turn in your Bible to the thirteenth chapter of John, John chapter 13, John 13.
Just a little bit of background to kind of get you up to the point where we can actually look at that verse. This all takes place, what begins in chapter 13, all takes place on Thursday night of the final week of our Lord's life, which is called Passion Week. You will remember on Monday He came into the city, hundreds of thousands of people hailed Him as the Messiah. On Tuesday, He assaulted and attacked the temple, threw out the money changers, the buyers and sellers, and took over the temple on Tuesday. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, He held court in that temple, teaching, giving parables, communicating to the people, and interacting with the leaders in a sense overwhelming them and overpowering them in their verbal conflict.
That's been going on now Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. But Thursday night, it is time for the Galileans to celebrate Passover. The Galileans celebrated on Thursday night, the Judeans on Friday, so celebrations began Thursday night, and we find ourselves in John 13 on that Thursday night. You can see the way the first verse begins that we are right up against the Feast of the Passover that would be held on that Thursday night. We don't know the date that Jesus was born. We don't know the date in which He was baptized. We know the exact date on which He was crucified, 15th of Nisan in the year A.D. 30 at the Passover at the very time when the lambs were being slaughtered to be offered by the people as sacrifices.
We know that date. So when we celebrate Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we are in the zone consistent with the Jewish calendar of the death of our Lord. We're Thursday night, and He will meet with His disciples in that upper room. He will leave, go through the dark streets of Jerusalem with them trailing along, Judas having been dismissed.
They will stop along the way for an incredible event. Then they will proceed to the Garden of Gethsemane. He will pray in agony. After midnight on Thursday early into Friday morning, He will be arrested. He will be tried in the middle of the night at mock trials. He will end up being crucified on Friday at exactly the time when the lambs are being offered.
We're on Thursday night of that week. In the narrative text of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, these scenes all move by at a rather consistent pace. But in John, we come to a dead halt at this moment on Thursday night, and the next five chapters feature what happens with Jesus and the disciples on that night, five full chapters. In some ways, this is the high point of all four gospels as far as the believer is concerned, because here is truth so stunning and staggering that it just reaches beyond our comprehension. If there is anywhere to stop and rest for a long time in the fast-moving narrative of Passion Week, it is here on Thursday night, and that's exactly what John forces us to do.
Now, one other thing to consider. The heart of Judaism was the temple, which had been basically designed by God and revealed to man and was built in a manner that followed the instruction that God gave back in the book of Exodus. In the temple, there was a holy place. The people could be outside in courtyards, but only priests could go into the holy place. They went into the holy place to commune with God through their offerings. Inside the holy place, there was the holy of holies, or the most holy place. In that place, only one person could go, and that was the high priest.
It was for him and him alone, a very brief visit once a year. That was the center of the worship of Israel by God's design. But by the time we reach this moment in Jewish history, the temple is not God's. It has been turned into a den of robbers from a human viewpoint, and even more, it has been taken over by Satan. It is full of a false and apostate priesthood, corrupt leaders whose father, Jesus said, is the devil.
So it is the devil's edifice now. It still has a place called the holy place, but it's unholy. It still has a place called the holy of holies, but it also is unholy.
But keep that in your mind. Jesus attacked that temple for its corruption. It still has a priesthood, the Aaronic priesthood still in place, but they are an unholy, unqualified, ungodly priesthood. However, as we enter John 13, we are going to enter the true holy place, not the temple in Jerusalem, because that's an unholy place, but a genuinely holy place. We're going to enter the genuine holy place where the true priests commune with the living Lord. Here in this holy place, we have come to the most spiritual, the most personal, the most intimate, the most glorious fellowship between the Lord and His authentic priesthood. Here in this holy place, we literally are given access to the secret place of the most high God, available only to true priests, available only to those whom Peter calls the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the people of His own possession, those who are called to proclaim the excellencies of the glorious one who called them out of darkness into His marvelous light. The false and apostate priests of Judaism are completely excluded. They are shut out of this holy place.
They are eliminated from all of its astonishing promises, pledges. What our Lord does in this holy place is communicate to His true priests all that He has prepared for them that love Him. This holy place is a place where they commune with the living Lord, and He unfolds for them heaven's provision for power, protection, peace, all the promises of eternal triumph. This communication of divine promise to the true priests couldn't happen in the physical temple in Jerusalem.
It had been taken over by the devil. This is a true holy place. It's not a building.
It's not a building. But it is the place where the Holy One is. He sanctifies it. The one who is the Holy One of God, the Lord Jesus, creates around Him His own holy place. And who are the true priests? They are His apostles. They are His apostles. They are the true priests. They are the royal priesthood, the holy people, the people of His own possession. Now, the presence of the Holy One makes the holy place holy.
And by the way, it is mobile. The holy place starts in an upper room where Jesus meets with His disciples and has the Passover and speaks with them and unfolds promises and pledges and commitments that are beyond comprehension. But it doesn't stay in the upper room. This holy place moves. At the end of chapter 14, we read this. Jesus says, get up.
Let's go from here. And Jesus gets up from the reclining table in the upper room along with the 11 disciples who were still with Him, Judas having been dismissed. And He takes that royal priesthood out the door of that upper room, and they walk through the dark streets of Jerusalem late, late on Thursday night. The holy place then is moving along in the darkness of Jerusalem. Along the way, the holy place stops, and a most amazing event takes place described in chapter 17, and the disciples are a part of that as well. And then finally, the holy place arrives at the Garden of Gethsemane where our Lord goes to pray.
That is the holy place. And all along, through that moving holy place, from the upper room to the garden, the Lord is speaking and dispensing promises, astonishing promises for His true royal priesthood. And as Peter tells us, it's not just the apostles. Peter writes to the believers and says, you are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own possession. John allows us all to be there in that upper room. All the promises that our holy Lord gives to His royal priests, the apostles, extend to all believers, to every true Christian. In fact, as it all comes to an end in chapter 17 and verse 20, Jesus says, I do not ask on behalf of these alone, meaning the eleven, but for those also who believe in Me through their word, and extends all of these promises to all believers right down to us and to the end of the age. The glorious, astounding promises of the Lord for His royal priests, His holy people, the people of His own possession are perfectly recorded by John, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in chapters 13 to 16. This is really monumental territory.
You will be ushered into a place where only the true royal priesthood can go. Just as a footnote, some wonder why John omits so many of the details of Passion Week, this final week of our Lord, which Matthew, Mark, and Luke record. Some of the more historical details. Why does John omit those? I think the answer is pretty simple because Matthew gave them, Mark gave them, and Luke gave them, and that fulfills Deuteronomy, which says that truth has to be established in the mouth of two or three witnesses. We don't need another repeat of the testimony of the two or three witnesses. I'm not bothered by the fact that John leaves things out. I'm just grateful that he included what he did because the others left that out. I love the historical narrative aspect, but nothing compares to this. I am so profoundly grateful, and so will you be as we go through this, that John, by the Holy Spirit's inspiration, included this section.
We have the history in three accounts. We have this only here, and it is a treasure beyond treasures. We are allowed into the holy place. We then are given all the promises that belong only to the true priests of God. And then, then we are taken into the holy of holies.
Only the high priest could go there. In this case, the high priest goes into the holy of holies to commune with the Father, but He takes us with Him. He takes us into the inner sanctuary where no one could ever go, where only the high priest could go, and that is chapter 17. Chapters 13 to 16, the holy place. Chapter 17, the holy of holies where no one speaks but the great high priest, and he prays to his Father, and we're all there. We are indeed a royal priesthood. We are a privileged priesthood taken into the holy place, taken into the holy of holies.
Given access to all of this, even to the intimate personal communion between our great high priest and his Father. And again, this is not in the temple in Jerusalem. It's the devil's temple. This is in the sanctuary of prayer.
I don't know where it was in the night. I don't know where it was along the walk before they got to Gethsemane, but somewhere along the way, Jesus stopped and created a holy of holies that was really holy, a sanctuary where He is the great high priest communed with His Father on our behalf, and we are there because what He said is recorded in chapter 17. And no doubt the disciples heard it. And they couldn't have distinguished between what was in 13 to 16 and 17.
I'll tell you why. Because the prayer in chapter 17 is that God will do, will fulfill all that Jesus has promised in 13 to 16. He makes all the promises, and then He prays that the Father will fulfill those promises.
Do you understand that? He intercedes for us to the Father, pleading with the Father to grant us everything that He has promised us. If you had any question about the importance of prayer, that ought to end that. But even in the communication within the Trinity, prayer plays a role in the accomplishing of the will of God. Now, what in the world could motivate the Lord to do this?
What He promises in chapters 13 to 16 and what He prays for in chapter 17 are realities that are the essence of what it means to be a believer and to have eternal life. They're vast, far-reaching, infinite promises. But the question is, why? Why? What motivates this?
What drives this? By now, having come to chapter 13, we're pretty well acquainted with the apostles, aren't we? You might have expected that at this point the Lord would have said to the Father, could you give Me a different group? These guys are ignorant, hard-hearted, weak, selfish, proud, ambitious, cowardly.
They're going to end up fleeing, denying. There is really nothing at this point to commend them. They haven't preached a sermon.
They haven't made an impact. They have muddled along trying to figure out what was going on, taking in what the Lord was saying and filtering it through their own predisposed understandings of the way things are supposed to be, leaving them in confusion. This might have been the time when the Lord said, let's try plan B, Father.
But no. To these selfish, self-centered men arguing about who's going to be the greatest in the kingdom, to these men who are doubting and will even deny Him and flee when the going gets difficult, He makes promises that are beyond comprehension. This is all about grace. This is all about grace to the undeserved, which is what salvation is all about.
But why? Why this grace? Why these promises?
All right, now you come to verse 1. Now before the feast of the Passover, Jesus, knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, here's the motive. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. What motivated Him?
What motivated Him? Love. Not love that arose at this moment. Having loved them, already loved them. He loved them all along.
He loved them before they knew Him. Love, love. This becomes, by the way, the most common word in the next five chapters. Love, love, love, love, love, love, again and again. It begins with love in chapter 13, verse 1. It ends with love in chapter 17, verse 26, so that the love with which you have loved Me may be in them and I in them. It begins with love. It ends with love, and it's all about love. The whole of this section is about what the Lord does for those whom He loves.
This becomes the most common word in these five chapters, the most common theme. All the grace, all the mercy, all the boundless blessings, all the lavish gifts that are poured out forever on those who belong to Him are the product of this infinite divine love. And with full knowledge of their ignorance, full understanding of their selfishness, weakness, failure, cowardice, doubt, denial, all of the things that He knows, not only what they've done but what they will do. In the face of all of that, all these promises are poured out, and it's all motivated by love. Undeserved, it's about grace. Why does He come to save us? He loves us. He has set His love on us.
That's the end of the verse. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. It's an unbreakable love. If He started loving, He will love to the end.
It has no deviation. To the end is eis telos, eis telos. It means completely, perfectly, fully, utterly, to the max, to the end, both in terms of capacity and eternity. He loves as much as He can love, as much as God can love. That's how much He loves. And for as long as God loves, that's how long He loves, which is to say He loves infinitely, both in capacity and in time.
We're introduced then at this point in verse 1 to this dominant theme, and the dominant theme of all these chapters is this astounding love that He has for His own. Having already, it says, having already loved His own, implied to you already, having loved His own already. He's been loving His own since before they even knew Him. While we were enemies, He loved us. Having already loved His own, nothing can change that.
He loves them to the max, to the end, infinitely, utterly, completely, perfectly. How is that love measured? Well, the Bible is full of statements about the love of God, but you don't even need to go beyond these chapters that are in front of us right now. God's love for His own, mentioned there in verse 1, is then explained in the next five chapters.
Let me help you with just a little summary. It isn't romantic love. It isn't sentimental love. It isn't emotional love. It isn't fickle love. It is fixed, eternal love that provides eternal salvation, eternal blessing, and eternal glory. What we're going to learn in these chapters is this.
I'll give you a list. It is gracious love. We don't deserve it. It is sovereign love. He loved us first. We love Him because He first loved us. It is redeeming love. It is love that reached out and sought us and bought us. It is unconditional love.
It is not predicated on anything we have done and in full awareness of our wretchedness. It is faithful love. To the very end, nothing can separate us from this love.
Nothing, Romans 8. It is intercessory love. He loves us so much that He intercedes for us at all times, ever living to intercede for us before the throne of God so that everything He pledged and promised to us is delivered. It is sacrificial love. Greater love hath no man than this, John 15, 13, that a man lay down his life for his friends. It is a love that demanded the greatest sacrifice. It is generous love. He has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. It is this lavish, incomprehensible love. That's Grace to You with John MacArthur.
Chancellor of the Masters University and Seminary, his current series is titled Love No Matter What. Now essentially, this series is about showing the same love to others that God demonstrates to us. And of course, John, anytime you get into that topic, someone will ask one obvious and difficult question, and I'm sure you know the question I'm talking about. Well, that's the question that Larry King always used to throw at me.
Right. If God is a God of love, why do horrible things happen in the world? And, you know, his approach to it was either God is not a God of love, and He's happy that this is happening, or He is a God of love, but He can't do anything about what's happening, but He can't possibly be a God of love and also sovereign because love and power would cause Him to stop all of this stuff.
That is the agnostics sort of last argument. You can tell me all you want about God, but in the end, if God is a God of love, then why in the world is the world filled with such horrible things? Why do children die? You know, why is there war and disease and epidemics and whatever?
There is an answer to that, and the answer is given in Scripture. And the first and obvious answer is nobody dies that isn't going to die anyway because death is built into human life. In fact, life is a terminal illness. We're all going to die. It's appointed to men once to die, so we're all going to die. The wages of sin is death, so everyone is going to die. You have to then ask the question, in what sense does God view that death? And when you look at the Word of God, you have to understand that God views the death of those who reject Him as not only their own choice, but the punishment for that rejection, because God is holy and He deserves worship.
So God has a right to demand our worship, and He has a right to punish those who refuse to do it. This and a lot more nuances along the lines of this subject are available in a book called The God Who Loves. I remember when I wrote that book, Patricia said to me, my wife, why don't you write a book on God's love that everybody likes?
So I said, okay. So I wrote a book on God's love, and it didn't turn out to be something everybody liked. It stirred a lot of controversy because God's love is controversial, because He does love and He does punish and He does hold guilty those who reject Him. So the book is The God Who Loves. It analyzes the modern church's unbiblical beliefs about God's love. It answers questions like, does God love the whole world? Can God really love those He doesn't save? Can He be loving, yet allowing people to suffer and even banish them to hell?
This is an important book and one that you'll find giving you answers so that you can answer those who raise the question. The God Who Loves, a book available through Grace To You and affordably priced. Our number again, 800-55-GRACE. Or you can order from our website, gty.org. In this book, The God Who Loves, John MacArthur helps you understand the full scope of God's love, which will drive you to more meaningful worship. The God Who Loves costs $13 and shipping is free.
Again, to order, call 800-55-GRACE or go to gty.org. And while you're at the website, remember there are thousands of resources available to you free of charge. While you're waiting for your copy of The God Who Loves to arrive in the mail, check out our blog series titled, God Is Love. It's a great supplement to John's current radio study.
The website again, gty.org. And now on behalf of John MacArthur and the entire Grace To You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Thanks for starting your week here with us and be back tomorrow to consider what true love looks like from the supreme example of love, Christ Himself. It's another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace To You.
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