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Fall Quarter: Love for One Another
Unit 3: Godly Love Among Believers
Sunday school lesson for the week of Nov. 1, 2020
By Dr. D. Craig Rikard
Background Scripture John 13:1-35
I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. John 13:15
- Jesus’ emotions at the Last Supper and their meaning.
- Learn the connection between loving Jesus and serving others.
- Choose a ministry that truly serves God’s children and write your observations as to how they differ from other actions in the secular world.
Many laity assume theology students work nice, easy jobs to pay their tuition. Many are surprised at the difficult work many of us perform between long, difficult classes. I, for example, stood in 9” snow to pick charred carpet thrown from windows and then dragged it to a trash car. I have fed cows on snowy days that they might eat. I’ve spent days in a hospital for the drug addicted. Every seminary family works, and many of us get what some would call dirty, hard work. But we did this work with a peaceful sense of purpose. How? We kept in mind that we did the work for Christ and our loved ones.
Every person’s work can bring purpose and peace into their life when done for Christ. It isn’t how much money we make that determines happiness. It is what we allow the work to mean and who we allow it to serve that grants it such power.
What is the most meaningful work you believe you’ve done? Why do you believe it was or is meaningful? What could we have done to make our labor more meaningful and what impeded us?
John the Beloved and Humble
John’s Gospel is of great importance. His gospel adds a different perspective of Jesus’ ministry than the other three gospels. The other three gospels are often referred to as the “synoptic gospels.” The prefix “syn” means “same” and “optic” refers to vision. Therefore, they write as though they envisioned Jesus’ ministry through the same eye. But John is far more philosophical and very “Greek oriented” in expression. John plays an important, loving role in the approaching last supper, arrest, crucifixion and resurrection.
Into this sacred, meaningful, celebration of God’s loving redemption enters the devil’s whisper. John records that the devil had been working prior to the start of the meal, and Judas Iscariot would use his greed, anger, and hatred as a zealot to plot the betrayal. Jesus, who refused to betray or forfeit the love of Judas, loved him to the end as he did all the disciples. During the temptation, near the beginning of Jesus’ life, after withstanding all of the temptations recorded in Mark 4, Mark records the devil would return at a later time. This was the beginning of that later time, in all its tempting power, making an assault upon Jesus. In a service of love, evil itself took its seat and betrayed the one that loved him more than anyone in the world. The devil indeed tempted Jesus at his weakest point. He tempted a hungry Christ to make bread from stone. Now, in a very emotional moment in Jesus’ life, Satan appears and works through Judas.
Consider the sacred moments in your life and the emotions that often attempt to secularize such holy moments. Why do you think the devil would be so intent on disrupting the sacred moments in life? Why do you believe he chose Judas as his vessel?
The devil did not understand, or didn’t care to understand, that his actions would harm his purposes and actually fulfill God’s. Jesus’ love and teaching at Passover was not hurting Jesus, but rather hurting himself. The actions of Jesus that follow resulted in a most humble act of servanthood confronting the ignorance of understanding the humility one enacts in utter love toward another. Jesus’ loving act allowed him by choice to remove his outer drying towel and wash the feet of the disciples. Peter especially disliked such a lowly “dirty job” by one he so greatly respected. Peter was very determined to shirk his working-class reputation as a fisherman and further clothe himself in Jesus’ reputation of wisdom, power, and respect. Thus, he refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet. In attempting to make his point he challenged Jesus to wash him all over, an act so humble he truly understood that Jesus wouldn’t do such a thing, certainly not the Messiah. However, love confronted the issues of status and stature and Peter was still struggling with the very basic issues of what it meant to follow Jesus and love as he loved. Jesus called Peter to understand a lesson he had been living and teaching from the beginning. True, loving servanthood is not something we accomplish in a few days or through a few actions. It is a journey, each step taken deeper in selfless love.
Why do you believe Peter was so resistant to Jesus washing his feet? What did Peter feel such an act would say about him in the world and to the world?
John records the short but intensely powerful words associated with the Last Supper. They were an expression of the highest moral law in all of religion, the Shema. The Shema asks us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. In the Maundy (usually experienced on the Thursday prior to weekend of crucifixion and Jesus’ death), Jesus proclaims, “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another, as I have loved you. That all may know that you are my disciples.” This deepens our understanding of what Jesus meant when he said “I have set an example before you.”
Our faith has always been about possessing a pure, clean heart more than just clean actions. Clean actions are very important in expressing what godly, righteous love means, acts, and was fully revealed in Jesus. But a clean heart is the motivation to not only act in such love, it is the motivating power that empowers us to continue in the journey of loving servanthood.
Almighty God, you are our loving, giving parent. Your grace is always a gift of greatest love, and transforms us into disciples of Jesus Christ. Teach us to be humble in giving and receiving love, and especially in knowing the source of all that is good, holy, and pure. Let us walk where Jesus would walk, love as he loved, and embrace the entire world Christ so loved. In Christ’s name. Amen.
Dr. D. Craig Rikard is a South Georgia pastor. Email him at email@example.com.