John 13:30 – The Unholy "I've Got This."

Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night. John 13:30, New King James Version

In some respects, my transition into adulthood was a rough one. Matriculating through school, the next step was always clear. After graduating with my masters, progress was more nebulous.

I cast my resume, life, and blood, and hopes on paper, about broadly. The world wasn't as responsive as the encouraging teachers among whom I had grown up. Instead of this teaching my heart humility, it taught my flesh to protect itself, to refuse to acknowledge how vulnerable my sense of identity and worth really was.

As my professional beginning, I landed in a place that, at least in retrospect, presented this choice clearly and daily. I worked and lived in a Christian boarding school in Eastern Kentucky. Had I in my heart of hearts really wanted to begin again, to acknowledge myself as a child in God's ways, mentors abounded. Chapel services and Bible studies presented ready entrées even for me as staff to gradually leave behind speaking and thinking as a self-centered child and to begin to walk as a man of God.

My ego walked me off from much of that, though. I engaged in purposeful amnesia to forget as quickly as possible what my attributes were worth. I polished them lovingly at every reminder that I was one of the most educated people on this isolated campus. Every twang from every holler reminded me that I was something special compared to those I worked among. If my sense of cultural superiority was stultifying to my growth, its sepsis into my spiritual life was more damaging.

The grace God had extended me was coming to my corrupted way of thinking, perverted permission to stay in place, a pass not to deal with the sin which so easily entangled me. Already isolated spiritually, dabbling in pornography instead of seeking real intimacy with Christ and His people, I had still spoken the shibboleths of a Christian testimony with enough proficiency to get this opportunity. What did I need with the "elementary" principles being taught to the less respectably bred adolescents around me?

I combined insular pride and insecurity so strangely that on my first Sunday on campus I actually asked one of the kids whether faculty were supposed to attend Sunday night services. I took his answer as permission to isolate myself. I was a grown-up, after all. This, not being confronted and corrected, was sowing onto a habit. I skipped church, especially with adult peers, reasoning darkly that my serving the Lord during the week taught me enough. I esteem lightly the privilege of daily chapel and sometimes turned away from its provided oasis to contact prospective employers about my next opportunity.

I was, if such a monstrous hybrid is possible, a Christian Judas as the Scripture describes our Lord's prayer in John 13:30. As Judas took the bread, I took the grace of our Lord continued to extend. I took the offer He continued to make of fellowship with Him by strengthening among His own as an opportunity to watch out for myself, enact my own plan, to forsake His Light as He offered it to me to wonder more deeply into aspects of my life that were still dark.

The "I've got this," insistence still pops up from time to time, and I see this weed choking out Christward growth in the lives of others as well. His blessing, His grace, His mercy hardens hearts because we are convinced by the enemy of our souls that it indicates no change is necessary. Much as with the optical capacity He has engineered, our hearts become accustomed to a certain level of darkness, actually are dazzled and put off by increased levels of His Light and loving scrutiny that might call on us to change.

Judas' world just got darker. His heart just got harder. Peter knew to a visceral degree what Paul would proclaim in Romans, that the wages of sin is death, as Peter describes what happened as Judas hung himself and was apparently splayed open as he fell. Yet Peter, with his own trek into the night reminiscent of Judas, HE by God's grace was called back. He, having been forewarned with the seed of Christ's Word in his heart, he affirmed God's work in his heart by being where Christians gathered in the Temple.

I'm growing in that direction by fits and starts. Decades later, for almost the first time, I am fellowshipping in the same town where I live, among people able to spot my progression or regression from week to week and intervene in love. I'm among people who can combine this discernment of matters spiritual with opportunities to be the hands and feet of Jesus to me, and to whom I sometimes have the opportunity to reciprocate.

I see more the dangers of John 13:30 isolation and can begin to sense it and repent of it by degrees. Some of my deeds still, as the Word says, love darkness, but the lovingkindness of the Lord is so irresistible, so attractive, so needed that His pull through His own is stronger.

Lord, there are no Lone Rangers in You. One in whom You live, and move, and have Your being will feed Your sheep, and be fed by Your shepherds.

Help us, Lord, by Your grace and Your Spirit, to discern the health of our hearts, moving closer or further away from Your vital fellowship, more warmed by Your Light or becoming acclimated to encroaching darkness. Give us, Lord, to renounce the entrenched habits of our pride which would insist on our isolation.

Give us, Lord, like You, good Shepherd, to leave the ninety and nine and go after the one, to come up where You grant burden and conjoining effectiveness, win back our brother trapped in sin and its accompanying web of justifying lies. Make it so, Lord. Make it so.

John 13:29 – The Fallacious Assumptions of Status and Station

27 Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. 29 For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. John 13:27-29, New King James Version

Chris exudes the calm concentration of a mind at work. He seems the perfect fit to marshal the cheerful discipline it takes for a small Christian college to stay afloat but without an over-concentration on vulnerability or material worth.

Whatever decisions he carries as he calculates the upsides and downsides of various permutations, he does so lightly. He reserves RAM to listen to others' struggles, to offer that quiet, timely word which Proverbs prizes. More than once, he sorted through my emotional-laden word salad and helped to crystallize realistic choices.

I esteemed him as one of THOSE people especially gifted by God, grateful that the organization for which I worked and the students we both cared about benefited from such rarefied discernment. I put myself in a different class, mixing real humility with demonically subtle self-pity as perhaps only humans can.

I'm not that calm, I would tell myself is the latest "crisis" buffeted me. I haven't spent the time and invested in the training Chris has to see the world in fairly straightforward alternatives. One day I will have the mind of Christ resting in the Father's Providence, but not today.

Then, God showed me the sort of parity between men which the Bible points to when it says Elijah was a man like us. Chris responded to a question I sent out to some friends considering Jeremiah 31's disconsolate grief and the overwrought indignation of Jesus' enemies in John 10. Chris the Calm confided, "The emotion I access far too easily is fear."

"Unfortunately," Chris distinguished, "it’s not the fear of the Lord, but mostly the fear of man…the fear that I will fail in the eyes of others or not meet someone’s expectations of me. Scripture clearly instructs me otherwise, but I often refuse to be comforted by a loving Father."

"That's the temptation to impress others and serve myself by appearing to be 'enough' although I’m clearly inadequate on my own. The appropriate response often comes after the Lord graciously brings me to a breaking point where I have not other choice but to fall to my knees in desperate need for Him. Oh what peace we often forfeit!"

John 13:29 exposes in retrospect the same class-conscious assumptions to an even more dramatic degree. John leaned on Jesus' breast. He was in the inner circle of the inner circle, privileged to witness the Transfiguration and to dub himself without irony the one whom Jesus loved.

As John 13 unfolds, we see in John a confidence even bold Peter did not possess, as John is willing to take Peter's question as to the trader's identity directly to Jesus. Yet, even discerning John gives Judas the benefit of the doubt. As I did with Chris, John gives added, disproportionate weight to Judas' stature as the guy who handles the money, attributing with this an automatic calm rather than an additional front for temptation.

Eventually, as we live, as we lap the sun another time by God's grace and reflect that, again, heretofore the Lord has helped us, we will stop sorting people into various and sundry classes. No temptation has seized us, His Word insists, but that which is common to man.

Others have experiences and education we lack, and the same is true of us in comparison to them. There is no meaningful aggregate score, no overall stamp of superiority. All of us, from King to commoner, from CFO to frontline worker, are constantly in need of God's grace in order to survive and prosper.

No experience, no evidence of finely honed acumen renders dependence upon the Lord's righteousness unnecessary in the here and now. Yet we fail to appreciate His perfection appropriated to ourselves and would rather crane our necks to the point of soreness as we look up at the proven gifts other people have.

In this, we have an ancient and arbitrary heritage. Even with Christ before them bodily, even with His perfect Word ringing in their ears with recognized and superior authority, the populace among whom Christ walked struggled to believe because He had not been to one of their schools.

To uproot these envious assumptions at the maturing experiences others have had, perhaps Christ will offer us a chance to trust and esteem Him in service to His own today. Perhaps by this commission and command He will teach us He is still creating and growing us, faithful to complete what He has begun. Perhaps by purposefully putting our eyes on Him as the Author and Finisher of our faith, we will spend less time tripping distractedly because we are looking in other lanes.

Lord Jesus, Matt Chandler was right that You don't need raw material. You MAKE raw material. Do what You will with us this very day, this very moment.

Refashion, Lord, how we see other people You are using for Your glory. Uproot the envious or overly deferential response, and replace it with that which would, in calm reflection, sleuth for Your image evident among men in disparate ways.

Especially, Lord, as we handle Your money or the influence You have granted us, make us circumspect as to the temptations involved. Impassion us as we pray for our leaders with varying degrees of responsibility before You, and show us our chances to lift up their arms as contemporaries did for Moses.

Free us of the twin errors of perpetual bitterness toward those with responsibility we don't have and of the assumption that they operate immune from our fallibility. Make it so, Lord. Make it so.

John 13:28 – Distracted from Life's Deeper Drama

27 Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. John 13:27-28, New King James Version

At the community college where I worked for seven years, I attended a luncheon that allowed me to mix with people from different departments with whom I didn't often interact. An executive secretary was featured in the event's programming, and I asked her afterward what the view from the top was like. She commented literally on what she could see from the stage that day.

In the moment, we are that obtuse to our position, privileged and perilous. So that we are not overwhelmed with decisions we have to make newly each time, stymied by paralysis of analysis, God has given us minds which develop shortcuts called heuristics.

There is, in His marvelous neurological creation, a kind of autopilot that allows us to focus on what we deem novel and/or important. In our fallen state, however, our assumptions obscure moments of moment and content us to skate upon life's surface. Asked about our perspective, we will comment on our exact Earthly location rather than our position before God.

John, John the one Jesus loved, John who leaned upon His breast at the Last Supper, admits as much for himself and his closest companions in the Lord's service in John 13:28. Transactions were taking place of eternal importance, and he confesses they knew it not. It was easy for them, he will say in verse 29 which will be our focus tomorrow, God willing, to fit events into the assumptions they already had in place, to reduce the day's events to a continuance of roles with which they were already familiar.

How is our view from the top, from near the apex of Creation, just a little lower than the angels as the image-bearer of God? Do we look to connect with Him, to reflect Him, in everyday conversations and transactions? Or, have we been completely subsumed by everyday rhythms and reckonings, determined to get the best of an interchange here, glide through an interaction there in order to move on to what we deem most important and most gratifying?

To be sure, brothers and sisters, to look back over God's faithfulness in our journey and see more of Him there will be part of the bliss of Heaven. Nevertheless, we would not be among those He chides in John 7 for looking, living on life's surface. It is the glory of kings, and kings-in-waiting, Proverbs reminds us, to search out a matter.

The Holy Spirit Whom Jesus said will bring all things to our remembrance will surely be faithful as we reserve the time to take us back over the day's events and show us that they, as much as the events within the covers of God's Word, testify to Christ. They either point to His marvelous attributes or our abject need for them.

Lord, You are so faithful to grant our every breath, to bequeath our every human connection. Yet, Lord, we assume so much and chase after carnal stimulation.

Teach us, Lord, to see You in action both in the profound and in the everyday. Remind us that time is precious, poor souls are in peril. Open our eyes to our opportunities to cling to and testify to You. Make it so, Lord. Make it so.

John 13:27 – Get to the point.

27 Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly. John 13:27, New King James Version

I live a life with cerebral palsy. The rules are different here.

I suspect others' muscles respond to subtlety, a distracted suggestion while one is concentrating on other fronts. Mine require a practiced, professional lack of ambiguity in direction that one might expect from an air traffic controller to a pilot always on the verge of panic.

Experienced in this, I got the signal across the other day. For me, the shower threshold is a major life threshold, and I was clearing it. Crawling concertedly, I shifted my weight to my right leg so as to lift my left enough to drag it into the shower. This was happening on the first try, so I was pleased at my momentum. Only, my figurative momentum kept going literally. My body seemed to like the lean to the right and continued it.

"Pull up. Pull up," the control tower of my nervous system emphasized, an undercurrent of irritation beginning to be conveyed along with the corrective directive. As my corporeal experience proved unresponsive to my brain's good intentions, I slid along the side of the shower, capsized. Had I known what would ensue, I might have permitted the little man in my air traffic control tower to shout and demand more effort to address my declining situation.

If what goes up must come down, alas, the reverse is not true. I was down, and it was proving exceedingly difficult to get up. My generally compliant shoulders pulled me in to what I hoped would be the U-turn into, eventually, the appropriate posture to, once upright, complete my showering business. Stuck. Legs flailed, only effective enough to go from sticking half out of the shower to positioned along its wall, draping me along its confined perimeter, largely immobile except for precatory thoughts.

Realizing my limits and my gradually stiffening neck from my head's resting place along the shower wall, I called for help. I sought help of the Heavenly kind, yes, but to be delivered by human means. Battling a cell phone screen that was constantly fogging up or being doused with water droplets, I phoned a friend in a sequence that would have been unfit for any game show on the airwaves.

Thirty minutes later, my friend and I knew each other a lot better, an experience he seemed to find more awkward than I did. I knew the alternative and was willing to trade my usually stiff sense of propriety for an essential rescue. Even to me, pride is only worth so much.

This morning as I was undertaking the same essentials closer to the apogee of my energy cycle, Jesus' terse ending in John 13:27 was making its impression on my thoughts. What you must do, He told Judas and the enemy of Judas' soul which now inhabited him, do quickly. Get it over with, your hour, your pretense to control, your sickening victory dance. MY glory, Jesus seemed intent on insisting in the subtext, will prevail.

Not surprisingly, the two realities commingled in my mind like steam from the shower and the cooler air without. My last trip here, I thought, drained my energy, stripped me of my pretenses to self-sufficiency and perfected routine. It forced me to call out in dependence upon my God and to express that dependence to other humans in ways that went beyond preferred social norms. What you must do, I said with my Master to the same enemy, do quickly.

It will not, the state of my heart confessed with boldness that surprised me, take an hour or two and unusual twists of circumstance to bring me to my limits. In my heart, I realized with a surprising amount of joy and peace, I'm already there. Do what you will, Devil. Use whom you will.

Your time even as an extra in God's movie is limited. Hit His mark, play His part within the limits He has prescribed for you al a Job, and move on. You have no home here, either in my soul or in my bathroom.

In that state of willingness toward whatever God might allow the enemy of my soul to bring to sap my seeming surety in Him, I have rarely been through the rigors of that process any faster. I have certainly never seen them, confessed them, as exercise to perhaps make the next time easier, and certainly more God-centered.

Agreeing with our human adversary, as Jesus originally instructed, may keep us out of the reach of an extreme court verdict. Agreeing with our spiritual adversary may likewise prove beneficial, ironically. As he breathes that we are vulnerable, feckless to carry off what we would in our pretenses, the argument is not worth the breath and time it would take. We can, instead, agree with him because God's Word does. Even a soul as hearty and disciplined as Paul goes before us in admitting, in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing.

As we skip to that bottom line of the human predicament, we spend less time listening to the enemy's indictments. Agreeing instead, we as Christians do what Judas didn't do, at this point couldn't do. We look past the enemy's time of strutting and fretting upon Earth's stage to Christ's lasting glory which shall be revealed, even in us, even in people thus far known for weakness.

Lord, all time is Yours. You slowed it down for Joshua to complete the work of battle You had for him. You shorten the time of tribulation lest, Your Word says, the very elect be destroyed.

Let us as Yours, then, no longer play the victim, as practiced as we are in the role. Knowing You allow trouble to stay only so long as it sets the stage for a revelation of Your character, we need not snivel before the enemy or the devices and people he uses.

Equipped with Your mind, coheirs to Your authority, we can speak with the confidence You used in John 13:27. Be brief, Devil. We know what You, Lord Jesus, knew and owned before Pilate. Those who oppose Your glory, even that glory to be revealed in Your own, would have no authority if it was not given to them from above. Ground us. Give us ebullient confidence in the faith that trouble did not come to stay. Make it so, Lord. Make it so.

John 13:27 – The Ultimate Entrapment of Entitlement

26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27 Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. John 13:26-27 (partial) New King James Version

Especially for Americans, choice is paramount. We can start and stop our habits choose, we think. The book Hooked by Michael Moss begins to explore the dietary limits of completely unencumbered choice, and Matthew Rees reviews the work in the March 12, 2021 issue of the Wall Street Journal.

"As for the biology that affects our food choices," Rees conveys, "Mr. Moss notes that, while it takes 10 seconds for the brain to feel the effects of cigarettes, sugar's effects are felt 20 times faster -- and salt and fat don't take much longer than that. The disparity stems from nicotine needing to enter the bloodstream to reach the brain, while sugar and salt take a shortcut through the taste buds. But the tongue is outmatched by the nose when it comes to driving our eating decisions. While there are 10,000 taste buds, there are 10 million olfactory receptors, and they can detect hundreds of scents. 'Flavor is the combination of taste and smell,' writes Mr. Moss, 'and the lion's share of the credit in this goes to smell.'"

They are pointing to the measurable, sensory end of a more dangerous Truth into which John 13:27 delves deeper. Our senses are often co-opted by the pleasure of sustenance, or the pride in it, and they can lure our spirits along. The first presents an extreme example. One moment, Judas is planning, perhaps viewing himself as the master strategist who is to induce Jesus to further display His glory and at last openly reign as the messianic King. All the food and knowledge Judas has metabolized to this point, so far as he knows, have bolstered his sense of control.

Then, after one more bite of bread which is provided most obviously by the hand of God, that illusion is shattered by God's penetrating Word. One more entitled bite, one more instance of eating unworthily to his own ends, and Judas is given over to the purposes of the enemy. The matzoh bread isn't fried, and it doesn't contain the sugar which Michael Moss says makes us consumers by habit, but even it, taken without humility before God, can enhance our deeper addiction.

Maybe we think we know better, Christian. Maybe we have the sense that our nodding, mumbling blessing over God's provision keeps us from truly believing it to be OURS. Maybe we assume we have followed the board's lead and thanked the Father for our daily bread often enough that we would never use it as fuel for our own purposes to commandeer His Son's glory on our timing and to our ends. Indeed, the souls for which Christ has paid will be so full of Him that they cannot experience the possession by demonic forces to which Judas is subject.

But, this doesn't keep us from the responsibility of asking ourselves hard questions with every bite of life toward which God in His goodness guides us. Examine yourself, Paul commands before the communion table, to see that you be in the faith. Consuming with an awareness of Christ's Presence isn't enough. He warns those eating the bread broken and multiplied by His own hands that they will die unless they partake of THEM directly as the Bread of life.

The crowd resists the lesson, of course, and so do we. We want to further the illusion of control, to enlist Him and the means He blesses, breaks, and provides, to our own notion of what He and His should be about. Even though we will never know possession by Satan, we are enlisting into the entitlement mentality he offered at Christ's temptation in the wilderness. Use the Father's power to feed Yourself, he offered. Use the Father's opportunities, he hissed, to enlist men's loyalties. Use the Father's protection to undertake Self-directed and Self-aggrandizing risks.

The same options are before us with the bread He provides at breakfast and the bread He provides in His Word. Use it as fuel to make much of ourselves, to show our intimacy and respectability, or submit to Him, recognizing that only He is the Great Intercessor capable of resisting enemy encroachments on our behalf, only He is the Strong Man capable of binding incessant enemy intentions. He is the Bread of true and abundant life. If we take even toast convinced of that in our hearts by His grace, we are bolstered against pride's incipient attacks.

Lord, Bread of Life, renew us. Renew at once our sense of gratitude for Your willing Presence among our daily doings, and our abject humility to the reality that these doings would capture our hearts if not for Your constant intervention.

By Your time-limited forbearance, Lord, the enemy still goes about. He would still lure us into the notion that we exist to consume, that even our spiritual faculties are granted for our gratification. Slay that notion, Lord, by whatever means You will. Grant us again and again, Lord, the reframing of what seemed to be our choices, as You did for Judas in John 13.

Empower, Lord, the gathering, preservation, and use of means to the extent that these glorify You. Show us our opportunities to give away our self-centered notions and to strengthen others by earthly means for eternal ends. Make it so, Lord. Make it so.

John 13:26 – Time-Lapse Glory

25 Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?”

26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. John 13:26, New King James Version

Martin Luther liked answers. He was a seminary professor who taught through the books of the Bible verse by verse over a period of years before he made his famous declaration to question Catholic practices. Yet, he said if God had all the answers Luther craved in one hand and years of walking with Him in order to discern those answers in the other, Dr. Luther would choose the longer route. Getting to know God is a privilege that precious.

I consider that in Christ's interchange with John in the Evangelist's record of John 13:25-26. We are given to compare John's trust in and intimacy with Jesus as he leaned on Christ. Even bold Peter asks John to be his intercessor in seeking to solve Peter's conundrum. John's sense that Jesus loved him particularly allows John to simply ask Jesus the question without pretense or preamble.

John's directness shows his confidence in Jesus' thoroughgoing love, but so does the relative indirectness of Jesus' response in verse 26. Rather than simply name Judas, Christ chooses to play out the revelation of His Truth over time using the goods He gives and man's response to them.

Here, it's not the riddle of the Sphinx. This is time-lapse photography sped up for impatient and easily frustrated man. In this instance, we have our answer just about as directly as if Jesus had spoken it in plain terms, but there is a pattern we can learn from.

We learn John's part. We learn we already are upon Christ's breast. We already are justified, already are, Paul revels in Ephesians, seated with Him in the heavenly places. Our questions need not include sufficient windup to impress Him, sufficient evidence of erudition to overcome some supposed reluctance on His part to disclose Himself. Yes, as Jesus says the Father delights to give food and clothing to His children, how much more what Augustine calls the food of the fully grown, the chance to feed on the Godhead?

The answer we get to such questions of maturing and yet sweetly childlike boldness are often a lot like John 13:26. Father, Son, and Spirit choose to teach us of Themselves over time, over subtle patterns we begin to perceive by Their cooperative grace. We would, no doubt have the villains pointed out, that we might be wary of them and begin to build up our self-sense of savvy. They, instead, lavish gifts upon men, even ungrateful and treacherous men, in the confidence that time will reveal the depths of the human heart even to people with our track record of obtuseness.

WE think we would remember if we saw Ananias and Sapphire struck down, if, perhaps, we played John's earlier entreated Elijah part in asking to call down fire on those who reject Christ. Much more often, though, the wonderful, Counselor has other plans. He causes His sun to shine on the evil and the good. He causes rain to bless the crops of the just and the unjust. He reflects aspects of His own nature through parents who, being evil, know how to give good gifts to their children.

Time will tell, especially as the Holy Spirit within us uses its events as our tutor. Sometimes, as in John 13:25-26, minutes will be sufficient to show us Christ's revelatory purposes for goods and relationships. Often, we will need to wait longer. Often, we will need to debrief with Him frequently, for we experience life as a jarring and nonsensical stream of events. We form narrative connections which reinforce our assumptions, and we do not often put life's pieces before our God and ask HIM to teach us what He would.

O what a Savior You are, Lord Jesus, to break and use bread as bread AND to teach us to feed upon You as the Bread of Life! You offer Yourself continually as sustenance of body and spirit, yet even Yours rarely regard Your magnanimity.

Cause us to pause, Lord, with instructions, with narrative framing as clear as that You gave in John 13:25-26. Otherwise, Lord, Yours will go about as animals, feeding, competing, reproducing, dying without experiencing the true abundant life for which You said You came.

Understanding, Lord, that You are the continual source both of physical and spiritual bread, show us our opportunities to break and give both away. Free us from the formulaic expectations we develop as miserly earthlings. Show us, Lord, our part in following after You in giving ourselves away to the very people least likely to return the gesture. Thereby, Lord, You will show Yourself sufficient. Thereby, Lord, You will show Yourself our reward. Make it so, Lord. Make it so.

John 13:25 – Praying Acclimated to the Presence

24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke.

25 Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” John 13:24-25, New King James Version

One of my main professors and graduate school came stocked with anecdotes of every educational principle, generally of her correct application of them over her long and successful career. In one instance, though, this formidable woman who once sued the state of Ohio for the right to pursue a PhD at her age showed more of her woundable heart.

She confided that she had a close and long-standing relationship with her pastor. He came to pray for her over a particular difficulty she faced, and suddenly he code-switched into a different language, going to God on behalf of, "Thy servant Martha."

The apostle John's matter-of-fact intercession to the Lord, conveyance and Peter's inquiry is noticeably lacking in this verbal pretense as John gets straight to the question that is on Peter's heart. Spurgeon, this time drawing from Peter's plea for a rescue as he sank beneath the waves on which he once walked, applauds. He writes in Morning and Evening, "Short prayers are long enough. If our prayers had less of the tail feathers of pride and more wing they would be all the better. Verbiage is to devotion as chaff to the wheat."

This praying as we speak keeps us from emphasizing much inflated distance between ourselves and those for whom we intercede. It sheds any inclination to waste our breath and time in prayer with the Pharisee's preamble thanking God for those we are unlike. By God's timing, we have a lot in common with those entirely identified as the sons of Adam, and certainly with those with a less clear understanding of the faith. We don't have all the answers, and we often expose that as we overcompensate with our painted on spiritual language.

Instead, like John here, we carry men's petitions to the Lord as they come to us. It is HIS unction that makes them effective, not the form or formality of our plea. He is our Advocate. The Holy Spirit translates our groanings. What can our verbal polish or added length do compared to that? Instead, the plain intimacy of our prayers indicates, as it does with John, are confident in our place at His breast, as His beloved, established in His intimate love to ask what we will, big or small, rooted in understanding or confessing the lack of it.

The lack of a pretentious wind up to our prayers leaves us energy to come again, and regularly. It frees us of the temptation to sigh super-spiritually when others asked us to pray or ask that we tap the understanding the Lord has given us of His ways. They are, the mature know, merely asking us to continue a relationship in which we delight, asking us to sit in Christ's school on their behalf and to see His smile more clearly as we, like Peter according to Christ's restorative post-Resurrection commission, get to feed and edify Christ's sheep.

A lifestyle of simple prayer also ennobles our doings outside of the prayer closet. Abraham's servant doing his master's bidding, after all, needed concoct no elaborate formula or retreat to a secret place in order to ask the Lord's blessings on the servant's seeking. He prayed on the hoof that he might be guided to find the right bride for his master's son, and he was. Thus, through prayer is an attitude we take with us across life's thresholds, regular access to Christ's wisdom and invested, enthusiastic interest in what concerns us.

Lord, help us to breathe John 13:25. Knowing our place at Your breast, keep us from wearying ourselves shouting and cutting to get Your attention. Rather, give us to question You in the elementary phrasing in which life's complexities occur to us. If we understand better hereafter, and asked better, deeper questions hereafter, to You be the glory. But let us not wait for that day, rather pleading and prattling and learning the heart, mind, and speech of Your new order by doing so. We will not be upbraided for doing so.

Seeing prayer as a privilege, and an invigorating one, give us to listen for men's longings that we might so carry them to You. Not all of them will be politely whispered by insiders like Peter and obviously rarefied settings like the upper room. Prepare us that perplexity might be indicated in shouts, on placards, with vehemence that also attacks us, our group, or our assumptions.

So what? Give us hearty hearts which see any weakness or confusion as an opportunity to sit at Your feet, to learn from You, and to become like You Whom Scripture says our ever making intercession for Yours. If in those purposes elaborate, effusive language bubbles up, we have precedent for it being accepted as a sincere offering and preserved in Your Word. Even Spurgeon at times adopted a formal King James registry. If sometimes we simply convey our brother's question in the simplest terms, convince us ever after that Your heart is open to it. Make it so, Lord. Make it so.

John 13:24 – Others As Insiders

23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke. John 13:23-24, New King James Version

Augustine quests in a soliloquy to understand God's ways fully, but he admits it is easier to sail on dry land. Thus flummoxed, sometimes at the very prospect of having to navigate His depths, and sometimes endure His rebuke that we are slow of understanding, we seek intermediate sources to understand Him.

Peter, even in his spiritual infancy, may have been one of the bravest souls ever to have been called of Christ, and even he so hesitates. John 13:24 reveals that in Peter's perplexity as to whom would be used to betray Christ, he who took the master aside and chided Christ for speaking of His own crucifixion dared not question Christ as to His meaning directly. Instead, Peter asked John who leaned on Christ's
for a translation of the Master's ways.

Screwtape, in his backhanded, demonic way as expressed in CS Lewis's work, is delighted at such secondary settling for human guesses rather than braving direct contact with Christ. Advising for the demise of the human patient, Screwtape, veteran temper referring to Christ as the ultimate Enemy, insists, "Keep him feeling that he has something, other than the Enemy and courage the Enemy supplies, to fall back on, so that what was intended to be a total commitment to duty becomes honeycombed all through with little unconscious reservations."

Wonder of wonders, though, how often He uses the someone or something we fall back on to grow us toward direct reliance on Him! Our spiritual midwives from the reading of history, to Lewis's own enchantment with Norse mythology, to parents and teachers who foreshadow Christ's character implant in our souls a longing for Him and a subtle certainty that our experience outlasts the assumptions of the current age. Unmoored from animal contentment with the here and now, we cast about, seeking security in those sources would seem more certain, and so often God uses them to guide toward Himself.

Where is He calling us more, though, into the open sea of His full Nature? Where is He calling us beyond what our guides have experienced, to the delight the author of Psalm 119 realizes in knowing that by God's grace he is wiser than his teachers? As in John 13, the course toward fully growing realization is not a comfortable one. It often involves experiencing conviction without flinching or inducing distraction. Growing in an toward Christ often means confessing the extent to which the enemy is intertwined in our assumptions and habits. We are fully capable of betraying Him.

Are we, by God's grace, in a John place particularly close to Christ? We must expect, then, questions, admiration, and even envy from those not so positioned. Fortifying ourselves in Him, prepared like the priests in the Old Testament to use our position to intercede for those we represent, we relate to our brothers and sisters with grace. We carry their questions to the One Who is Himself the Answer. We are willing, even, like Paul, to bid others follow us as we follow Him.

Even if we would rather not invite the responsibility, we are being emulated. Knowing this, we constantly confess how much we reflect that is not of Him, how much we resent others' questions when we have so many of our own. We seek, then, satisfaction in His sovereignty, a constant confession of His goodness with whatever answers and maturity we have. We are, compared to what we will be, beggars telling other beggars where to find bread.

Lord, wherever we are in You, there are those further on. Give us the fortitude to wrestle with perplexity where this is Your purpose rather than to reflexively seek answers in others' human experience. We would, Lord, have a little of Jacob in us and wrestle for Your full blessing rather than being too easily pleased with the confusion of perpetual spiritual infancy.

But as we do pattern ourselves on one another, Lord, give us a spirit of constant confession, constant renewal in You, a constant sense of Your use of our relationships in the way in which we minister to one another through them. May we provide answers in our contemplations and our actions. Make it so, Lord. Make it so.

John 13:23 – The Bravery to Love Amidst Betrayal

Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. John 13:23, New King James Version

"The sweetest promises in the Bible are," judges Spurgeon in his sermon "Christ's Manifestation to Mary Magdalene" for the very people who deserve them the least. There are promises for those who follow close to their Saviour, and very sweet ones, too; but some of the tenderest promises in the Word of God are for those who have wandered furthest away from him."

The proto-Church is close to the Lord Jesus in location, huddled in the upper room in John 13, but the self-searching nature of its members' questions demonstrates that they know how far their hearts are from beating after His. Hearing His innocent glory will soon be betrayed by one of them, each wonders not how such a thing could be possible, but whether he is the one to implement it. The guilt within is the same however it manifests itself in socially circumspect or conventionally proscribed behavior.

How does the Spirit address this scene a realized ruin? Christ's love for His own, undeserved and undeterred, shines like a beacon in this dark setting. John fixes on it, subsuming his own past, even his own name, to the fact that he is the one whom Jesus loved in spite of the treachery within him that makes that an unwisely extended vulnerability. Christ's heart is so open to John that he recalls with rupture that he leaned on the Savior's breast.

The same invitation is open to us the very moment we confess how little we deserve it, how we have undermined His purposes and will again. The invitation of His intimate love is in fact insistent, for He knows in our incomplete state, we will either choose it or act against it in pursuit of a temporary substitute. Chuck Eggerth realizes, "Without a heartfelt knowledge of the love of God, we are bound forever to our painkiller of choice, whatever it may be. Without a divinely communicated realization of our status as Christ's beloved, our chances of escaping addiction are considerably smaller than our chances of escaping gravity."

Eggerth pivots to the affirmative with us. "The only answer to the pain of our human existence is the love of Jesus, the God-man who swam through oceans of torment to purchase our ruined souls." When we think this too good to be true, we make so much of our own hurts or potential hurts, He reminds us of His, entirely undeserved. When we would wait for a better, safer setting within which to make soul decisions, He delights in the contrast He presents here and now. He prepares, marvels the author of the 23rd Psalm, a table for us in the presence of our enemies and restores our soul.

He, transcendent in His own trials, has proven He can triumph over our triggers. He finds use for retreats, for quiet times with Him alone, but for the most part He need not transport us to some other setting in order to render His sanctifying work by His revolutionary, unexplainable love. He remakes us in the setting in which we were called, among the relationships He has already put in place, that He may prove Himself to be the X factor, the difference between Before and After.

Because we are so loved, because we have spent time intimately with Him, let us go forth differently, not chasing affirmation and gratification but proving our comfort and confidence that He will complete what He has started in us. As He came to serve, let us do likewise. As He promises rewards Earth cannot match, let us labor for His wages rather than those which pass away.

Lord, Your love is so out of place here we look at it like Roger Angell says expectant hitters viewed Sandy Koufax's pitches, like we had seen an Easter egg. Unless we perceive it in Your Word first, by the hearing of which it says faith comes, we will reject that which our souls desperately need because it is different.

Yet, Lord, somehow Your summons to come is at once gentle and expected to those You have prepared for it. Give us ears to hear. Give us the honest bravery to forsake all else as balm for our hurts. Even decades after having first done so, like John, let us reflect with rejoicing on the privilege of being the ones You love, that others may know us by this designation above all else. Make it so, Lord. Make it so.

John 13:22 – A Provident Perplexity

21 When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” 22 Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke. John 13:21-22, New King James Version

Finding my place in the world, I quickly ran up against the difference between my aspirations and my impact. Frustrated like Paul in the Bible and my inability to do what I ought, instead of resting in conviction and God's willingness and ability to rebuild from there in Christ's righteousness, I took mental shortcuts to oases of peace.

At least, I would reason, I haven't done this, comparing myself to contemporaries who engaged in sins I was sure particularly angered God, much more so than my failure to honor Him in the choices that were relevant to me at the moment. One by one, these boundaries have blurred or have been erased altogether. I have found myself guilty of many of the sins from which I previously Kept a self-justifying distance, or at least guilty of similar idolatry of the heart which results in those sins.

That Jesus has gifted me with a provident perplexity, a tendency as the years go by to examine myself before I cast about for other stand-ins who could provide momentarily beneficial comparisons, is not surprising. This was His work in His own in John 13:22 even before Calvary, the Resurrection and Ascension, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit gave renewed perspective. Inspired John says that as Jesus laid out the reality that one in their midst would betray Him, each member of the little band was perplexed. Each member knew the possibility was within them, forestalled only by His sovereign grace. Matthew's Gospel says each one of them actually asked out loud if they were to play the dreadful part.

By that same grace, by that same healthy mistrust of self, I am less likely to check my merit badges of action or absence. I am more likely to go straight to Him when shown the wages of a particular sin and ask Him, as the Psalmist does, to cleanse even my secret faults. Where I have broken one command, I note with Biblical certainty that I have broken them all. I know that in the right situation, with the right temptation allowed by His provident protection, I would fall in just the way described. In me, that is in my flesh, there dwells no good thing.

Lord, thank You for dwelling with me and with my brothers and sisters. Thank You that this dwelling with is not an inspection tour of outward optics on parade, to be sloughed on both parts as soon ask You have passed through. Thank You that You ABIDE with us, waiting to help us realize the aspects of sinfulness within which pose the most danger at our current time of life.

Thank You that You hear the John 13:22 question You make possible from each of Your own. Thank You that You meet it with empathy and the proprietary power by which You remake natures – and not the cold condescension for which so many of Yours are sadly known.

Use this day, Lord, by turns, to expose what in me will bring You glory. Expose, Lord, the remaining towers of treachery You will bring down in Your time. Expose, likewise, the good works You have begun and are faithful to complete. May those good works, Lord, feed Your sheep, fortifying them for their hour of danger, and granting them the hardihood to question themselves and emerge with a stronger sense of Your work in each of them. Make it so, Lord. Make it so.