Being & Building Followers & Friends of Jesus
I’ve been spending a lot of time in the “upper room discourse” lately, in John 13-14 in particular so far. It’s an interesting section, since it’s one of the few where you really see Jesus interacting with His disciples collectively, instead of just one or two at a time. Heck, we even get a line out of Jude/Thaddeus (aka Judas Not Iscariot) here.
It’s also a hard section to wrap your head around, and simultaneously kind of annoying because it sounds like Jesus is constantly repeating Himself—like He’s constantly rephrasing the same comments over and over because His listeners just don’t get it. Then again, He’s talking to His disciples, and we know they’re kinda thick.
Or at least we should—because after all, we’re His disciples, too.
Anyway, what seems inescapable here is the connection Jesus draws between love and obedience. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). ”Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (John 14:21)
In fact, He connects our obedience with our ability to see Him work in our lives. “And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…. If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:21, 23).
This isn’t the first time Jesus makes this connection, though. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). This word also helps contrain our obedience, so that it’s not blind—at best misguided, at worst satanic—obedience. Purity of heart is to want what God wants, in the way God wants it. It necessitates the right kind of obedience, and promises that God will manifest Himself as we do it.
Jesus illustrated this principle Himself later in John 14: “I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father” (John 14:30-31, emphasis mine).
Especially to the world, our obedience can look wrong, misguided, and overly submissive—and sometimes it is. There is a time to stand up. But as He prepares to enter the garden of Gethsemane and take up His cross, Jesus shows us what standing up should look like. It’s not “in your face,” but in His name. It is doing what God demands, and letting the chips—and our desires—fall where they may.
So, along with Jesus, “Rise, let us go from here” (John 14:31).