If you would, please turn with me in your Bibles to John 13:18-30. John says:
I’m not speaking about all of you; I know those I have chosen. But the Scripture must be fulfilled: The one who eats My bread has raised his heel against Me.
19 “I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am He. 20 I assure you: Whoever receives anyone I send receives Me, and the one who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”
21 When Jesus had said this, He was troubled in His spirit and testified, “I assure you: One of you will betray Me!”
22 The disciples started looking at one another—uncertain which one He was speaking about. 23 One of His disciples, the one Jesus loved, was reclining close beside Jesus. 24 Simon Peter motioned to him to find out who it was He was talking about. 25 So he leaned back against Jesus and asked Him, “Lord, who is it?”
26 Jesus replied, “He’s the one I give the piece of bread to after I have dipped it.” When He had dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son. 27 After Judas ate the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Therefore Jesus told him, “What you’re doing, do quickly.”
28 None of those reclining at the table knew why He told him this. 29 Since Judas kept the money-bag, some thought that Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 After receiving the piece of bread, he went out immediately. And it was night.
This is the word of the Lord. Let’s pray.
As we pick up our passage this morning, Jesus has just finished up washing the feet of his disciples. After he washes their feet, he tells them, “Just as I have washed your feet, now you must wash one another’s feet, because you are my disciples.” But then, moving into our passage today, in verse 18, he says, “But I am not speaking about all of you.”
What Jesus says in the first half of chapter 13 does not apply to everybody in the room. He is not talking to all 12 of the people sitting at his supper table with him./
You can probably guess where I’m going with this.
When Jesus says, “You are my disciples,” he is not talking to Judas. He says, “I am not speaking about all of you.” He says, “I know those whom I have chosen.”
What does that tell us?
To point out the extremely obvious, it tells us that Jesus has chosen us to be his disciples.
It tells us that if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then Jesus has chosen you to be his disciple.
Sit with that for a little bit.
Before you are anything else, you are a disciple.
What does that mean?
First and foremost, that means that God has shown you a glorious mercy.
Because, Ephesians 2:3, you “previously lived in your fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of your flesh and thoughts, and you were by nature a child under wrath.”
But, 1 John 4:10, this is love, “not that you loved God, but that God loved you and sent his Son to be the propitiation for your sins.”
And so, Galatians 4:4-5, when the time came, “God sent his Sonto redeem you, so that you might receive adoption as God’s son, or daughter.”
After you worked your fingers down to the bone, you found, Romans 3, that you could not be “justified in his sight by the works of the law,” but now, through God’s glorious mercy, God has blessed you “apart from the Law” with “his own righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ.”
And that means that even though you have “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” God has “justified you freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” Romans 3.
And, even more, it means that, Hebrews 4:14, Christ continues to advocate for you today as your “great high priest.” Jesus “entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing your eternal redemption,” Heb. 9:12. And, Hebrews 7:25, “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for you.” Because, Hebrews 10:14, “by a single offering Christ has perfected you for all time.”
And now, Colossians 3:1-4, because “You have been raised with Jesus,” you can “seek what is above, where Jesus is, seated at God’s right hand,” and “When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you will also be revealed with Him in glory.”
But until then, Ephesians 3:7-8, “You have been made a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace that was given to you by the working of His power. 8 This grace was given to you—the least of all the saints—to proclaim the incalculable riches of Jesus.”
That’s the first thing that the Bible means when it declares that you are a disciple of Jesus.
That’s kind of like the “front porch.” If you are a believer in Jesus, what that means is that Jesus has chosen you to be his disciple.
But think about what else that means. Jesus chose you. Jesus hand-picked you. You are like Matthew, or you are like Peter, or you are like James and John: You were standing in the crowd and Jesus chose you, or you were fishing out on the lake, and Jesus chose you.
He pointed to you, and he said, “Follow me.” Or he walked into your tax booth at the outskirts of town, and he said, “Come with me.” He said, “You are not a fisherman anymore, you are my disciple.” He said, “You are not a tax collector anymore, you are my disciple.”
He chose you.
He called you by name.
He summoned to you to come follow after him.
And you did.
Maybe you didn’t even realize that that’s what was happening.
Maybe the way that this has been explained to you your whole life, Jesus is just a choice you make.
That he’s just something you kind of opt into.
That he’s just a decision you make at summer camp cuz all the other kids made the same decision, because you’re at summer camp and what else are you going to do?
Or, maybe Jesus is something you just sort of inched your way into because the woman you wanted to marry wasn’t going to marry no irreligious man, right?
That is very much the way that people tend to see these things in our culture in our day and age. They think that Jesus just kind of “comes with the house.” That he is, like, our “territorial spirit.”
I don’t know how many times I have met someone or been witnessing to someone, or something along those lines, and in the process they have made it abundantly clear that they believe that they are Christian because they are American.
That they are Christian because they were born within the geography of America, or that they are Christian because they are Republicans, or that they are Christian because they are white instead of brown, or they are Christian instead of this or that or whatever.
But all of those things are false equivalencies.
The reality is that you are a Christian if you are a disciple of Jesus, and if you are not a disciple of Jesus then you are not a Christian, no matter how American or Republican or traditionally-minded or anything along those lines you are.
None of those things equal Christian.
Exactly one thing on planet earth equals Christian, and that is disciple. You are a Christian if you are a disciple of Jesus. And you are a disciple of Jesus if you have responded submissively to the call that he has placed on you, the call to come follow him.
Jesus chose you as his disciple, and you came. You got up from the tax booth and you followed him out. You set down your fishing net and you followed after him. You put away whatever it was that you had devoted your life to beforehand and instead this became the thing that your life was about.
You became Christ’s chosen disciple. You became Christ’s chosen student. You became Christ’s chosen follower. And everything else in your life was reoriented around that.
Obviously, that doesn’t mean you quit your day job. That doesn’t mean you stop doing your hobbies – unless your hobbies are bad. Like, if your hobby is making meth out of a movable trailer in the outskirts of town, then you probably get rid of that hobby. Same thing if the meth thing is your day job. Right?
It doesn’t mean you stop being a normal person.
Peter and James and John and Matthew and so on and so forth kept being normal people. They kept having jobs. They kept having families. They kept having hobbies. They continued doing things just because they wanted to do them, as well, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
The call to be a disciple of Jesus, a follower of Jesus, is not a call to be a buzzkill, it is not a call to be a stick-in-the-mud. It is a call to follow Jesus wherever he leads you. Wherever he calls you.
If you are a Christian, then you are a disciple of Jesus. You are a follower of Jesus. And that means that Jesus has chosen you.
I think it’s very important that we think about it in those terms. Maybe it seems like I’m just making a huge deal out of semantics. That I’m just insisting on a different word to use, but I think it’s very important that we reframe the way that we think about ourselves.
Do not think about yourself as just someone who is Christian.
Do not think of yourself simply as a member of a demographic.
Do not think about yourself simply as a member of an interest group.
Do not think about yourself simply as an American who subscribes to the Christian religion.
That is technically true about you. But that is absolutely wrong as an identity marker.
Because your identity is that you are a disciple of Jesus. Your identity is that you are a follower of Jesus.
Your identity is that you are a 21st century version of what the disciples were in the first century.
That is what you are.
There is no difference, except for the 2000 year gap.
You are what Peter was today.
You are what Matthew was today.
You are what John was today.
You are a chosen disciple of Jesus. That’s not just something true about you. That is what you are. And any identity marker you claim that clashes with that is a false identity marker./
But that brings up another question, and it’s a question that it seems like we end up asking a lot. And that is, “How do you know whether someone is genuinely a disciple of Jesus or not?”
To put it another way: How do we know the difference between a genuine disciple and a Judas?
Interestingly enough, I think Jesus gives us somewhat of an idea in verse 20. Immediately after telling us that not everybody at his supper table is really his disciple, he goes on to say, instead, “I assure you, whoever receives anyone I send receives me, and the one who receives me receives him who sent me.”
Does that sounds familiar? It sounds an awful lot like the parable of the “sheep and the goats” from Matthew 25, right? Jesus says:
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35 For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36 I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’
40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’
41 Then He will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!
42 For I was hungry
and you gave Me nothing to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me nothing to drink;
43 I was a stranger
and you didn’t take Me in;
I was naked
and you didn’t clothe Me,
sick and in prison
and you didn’t take care of Me.’
44 “Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?’
45 “Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’
46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Arguably, quite a few of the problems that we have had, both as a country, and as the people of God in general, boil down to the fact that most Christians never ask themselves – never seriously ask themselves with a straight face – “Am I a sheep or a goat?”
Because remember, when Jesus told the parable of the sheep and the goats, he’s talking to people who technically believe in him. He’s talking about people who technically believe in him. He’s talking about people who claim Jesus as Lord.
The sheep are not just believers, and the goats are not just unbelievers, Jesus is talking to those who claim to worship him, and to some he says “Well done my good and faithful servants, come and enter into my joy,” and to the others, he says, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”
It is absolutely worthwhile to ask if you are a sheep or a goat. Because the answer is not as simple as “everybody who believes the right things is a sheep and everybody who believes the wrong things is a goat,” although most folks would very much like to believe that. Instead, in Matthew 25, Jesus says that there are sheep and there are goats and there are identifiable differences between the two. There’s none of that “only God can know their hearts” stuff, there are differences that you can see.
Jesus says, “You saw me sick, and you took care of me, you saw me hungry, and you fed me, you saw me in prison, and you visited me,” the list goes on.
He’s saying, essentially, “I came to you as everyone you met.” He’s saying, “You met me in everyone I sent to you. And the way you treated those people is the way you treated me.”
He says something very similar here. He says, “Whoever receives any one I send receives me, and the one who receives me receives him who sent me.”
Obviously, the point is not that you somehow prove yourself worthy of Jesus by treating people well. I think that’s a pretty far cry from the point that he is actually making here.
I think the point is that we demonstrate that we are disciples of Jesus by acting like Jesus. We demonstrate that we are disciples of Jesus by becoming like Jesus.
And that tracks, right?
The point of being someone’s disciple is to become like them in some sense. The whole point of being a student is to become like the teacher in some way. If you are a disciple of Jesus, you are being discipled into something. You are being discipled into the way of Jesus.
Jesus is discipling you into the spitting image of himself./
And where is the “testing ground” for that discipleship? Your everyday life.
That’s the testing ground.
That is the threshing floor.
Jesus is making disciples out of us, discipling us to be “conformed into his image,” as Paul says in Romans 8 and 2 Corinthians ___. And your actual life, your actual relationships, your actual actions are the place where that happens.
How do we know whether someone is a genuine disciple or not? You might not like the answer. You look at what they do.
How do you know whether somebody is an actual disciple of Jesus Christ? Look at how they act.
How do you know whether you are a genuine disciple of Jesus Christ? Take a good, hard look at yourself in the mirror.
How do you treat your kids?
How do you treat your spouse?
How do you treat your parents?
How do you treat your friends?
How do you treat the waiter who screws up your order at a restaurant?
How do you treat the United States Postal Service people who messed up the gifts you were trying to send by Christmas?
How do you treat your extremely annoying neighbor?
How do you treat the people at your church that you really don’t get along with?
The list goes on and on and on and on.
That is the actual threshing floor.
That is the actual testing ground.
Do you obey Christ’s call on you when you have absolutely nothing to gain from it that you know of?
Do you obey Christ’s call on you regarding people who have absolutely nothing to give you?
Look, coming from 4 years of Baptist College and then 3 years of Seminary, this one’s really, kinda, raw for me: If you spend several hours every day reading your Bible, or something like that, but you treat your kids bad and you treat your spouse bad and you treat your parents bad and you treat your waiters bad and you treat the Postal Service people bad and so on and so forth, you have absolutely no reason to conclude that you are a genuine disciple of Jesus.
Hear me: You have no reason to believe that you are a sheep.
You have no reason to believe that you are a genuine disciple of Jesus. Because so far, there’s nothing about you that makes you significantly different from the religious leaders who moved heaven and earth to kill Jesus.
If that describes you, then there is no discernible difference between you and Judas.
And that’s the really scary part about this passage: Sometimes people seem chosen but they’re not. Sometimes people seem like disciples, but they’re not./
That really does not gel with what most of us are used to hearing from the TV preachers and the Motivational Speaker types. Our culture wants a version of Christianity that makes us feel real good and demands absolutely nothing from us, but the problem is that that Christianity does not exist.
If you are a believer in Christ, then you are a disciple of Christ, and if you are a disciple of Christ, then you will do the things that Jesus modeled for us to do.
And if you don’t, you aren’t.
That’s a very straightforward point that the gospel writers draw us back to again and again and again.
Disciples of Jesus do what Jesus modeled for us, and if they don’t, then they aren’t. People who do not do what Jesus model for us aren’t his disciples, no matter how much they lie to themselves./
So. That’s, uh, intense.
So far, this has not been a feel-good sermon. Although, if you were expecting a feel-good sermon out of the “Now Judas Kills Jesus” passage, that’s probably on you.
When Jesus says, “I assure you, whoever receives anyone I send receives me, and the one who receives me receives him who sent me.” it feels very much like bad news.
If you’d have told me this when I was younger, I don’t know if I could’ve slept at night afterwards.
I’d have gone insane trying to measure up. Right? Trying to live so consistently by the example Jesus gave us that I wore myself out. Every time I screwed up, I would’ve wondered whether that meant that I actually wasn’t really a disciple. I would wonder if that meant that I was actually a goat. I would’ve wondered if the fact that I just kept disrespecting my parents, or I just kept letting people down, or I just kept letting my anger get the best of me, and so on and so forth, meant that I was actually a Judas.
Like, it’s common to hear preachers say that a “Judas” will betray Jesus, but a “genuine disciple” will not.
Right? That seems to be the standard one-liner nowadays. But I’m not sure that’s true.
Because as you might remember, Judas wasn’t the only disciple to betray Jesus that night.
Judas turned him over to the Sanhedrin, obviously, but what did the other disciples do? Peter went out of his way three separate times to vocally and decisively cut all ties with Jesus just a few hours after this supper. That’s a betrayal.
The other 10 disciples scattered. The moment they “struck the shepherd,” the “sheep went running.” That’s a betrayal.
These are the same folks who said, just a few chapters earlier, “Let’s go after him so we can die with him.” And now they’ve got a chance to do exactly that, but they’re not taking it. They are scattering because they’re scared, because their loyalty has finally been genuinely put to the test, and they have failed – they have demonstrated where their loyalties really lie, and their loyalties lie not with Jesus, but with saving their own necks. So they betray Jesus.
The difference between the disciples and Judas is not that Judas blew it and the disciples didn’t. The difference is not that the “Judases” of the world will betray Jesus and the “genuine disciples” will not. The truth is that if you breathe, you will betray Jesus. It’s in your blood. It’s part of your Fallen condition.
The difference is that after betraying Jesus, Peter reached out for the endless and inexhaustible mercy that Jesus offered to him, while Judas fully, finally, and permanently rejected it. The disciples reached out for the endless and inexhaustible mercy that Jesus offered to them, while Judas filly, finally, and permanently rejected it.
We will see a couple months from now, in John 21, that Jesus comes to Peter on the sea shore. The Peter who just betrayed him a few days ago and can barely look him in the eyes because of his shame. And Jesus says:
“Simon Peter, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.” “Feed My lambs,” He told him. 16 A second time He asked him, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” “Yes, Lord,” he said to Him, “You know that I love You.” “Shepherd My sheep,” He told him. 17 He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved that He asked him the third time, “Do you love Me?” He said, “Lord, You know everything! You know that I love You.” “Feed My sheep.”
If I’ve been stepping on your toes all morning, my prayer is that this will speak to you. Maybe over the course of this morning, much to your surprise, you’ve seen a lot of yourself in Judas. You’ve seen a lot of yourself in the “goats” described in Matthew 25. You look at your own life and see nothing but disobedience and betrayal. If that’s you, my prayer is that you’ll also see yourself in John 21, where Jesus takes Peter by the hand and restores him.
Because that is the truth about you.
We opened this sermon by pointing out that this is your identity. You are a disciple of Jesus Christ. This is who you are and this is what you are.
And Jesus restores his disciples. Take comfort in that. Take comfort in the reality that Christ has chosen you, and that Christ will restore you.