Lord’s Day 34, 2010
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.’
Poem XXV. [Before Meat.] 1 Cor. x. 31.
Augustus Toplady (1740–1778)
Lord, we invite thee here,
Vouchsafe to be our guest,
Jesus, do thou appear
The Master of the feast;
Thy quick’ning presence let us prove,
And banquet on thy hidden love.
With manna from on high
Feed thine inheritance,
And come and sanctify
Our outward sustenance:
With it the inward food be giv’n,
The bread of life, the wine of heav’n.
—The Complete Works of Augustus Toplady (Sprinkle Publications, 1987).
The Gospel According to John
13 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, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. 2 During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, 4 got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. 5 Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
The passage we have now read begins one of the most interesting portions of St. John’s Gospel. For five consecutive chapters we find the Evangelist recording matters which are not mentioned by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. We can never be thankful enough that the Holy Ghost has caused them to be written for our learning! In every age the contents of these chapters have been justly regarded as one of the most precious parts of the Bible. They have been the food and drink, the strength and comfort of all true-hearted Christians. Let us ever approach them with peculiar reverence. The place whereon we stand is holy ground.
We learn, for one thing, from these verses, what patient and continuing love there is in Christ’s heart towards His people. It is written that “having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.’ Knowing perfectly well that they were about to forsake Him shamefully in a very few hours, in full view of their approaching display of weakness and infirmity, our blessed Master did not cease to have loving thoughts of His disciples. He was not weary of them: He loved them to the last.
The love of Christ to sinners is the very essence and marrow of the Gospel. That He should love us at all, and care for our souls, —that He should love us before we love Him, or even know anything about Him, —that He should love us so much as to come into the world to save us, take our nature on Him, bear our sins, and die for us on the cross, —all this is wonderful indeed! It is a kind of love to which there is nothing like it, among men. The narrow selfishness of human nature cannot fully comprehend it. It is one of those things which even the angels of God “desire to look into.’ It is a truth which Christian preachers and teachers should proclaim incessantly, and never be weary of proclaiming.
But the love of Christ to saints is no less wonderful, in its way, than His love to sinners, though far less considered. That He should bear with all their countless infirmities from grace to glory,—that He should never be tired of their endless inconsistencies and petty provocations, —that He should go on forgiving and forgetting incessantly, and never be provoked to cast them off and give them up, —all this is marvellous indeed! No mother watching over the waywardness of her feeble babe, in the days of its infancy, has her patience so thoroughly tried, as the patience of Christ is tried by Christians. Yet His patience is infinite. His compassions are a well that is never exhausted. His love is “a love that passeth knowledge.’
Let no man be afraid of beginning with Christ, if he desires to be saved. The chief of sinners may come to Him with boldness, and trust Him for pardon with confidence. This loving Saviour is One who delights to “receive sinners.’ (Luke xv. 2.) Let no man be afraid of going on with Christ after he has once come to Him and believed. Let him not fancy that Christ will cast him off because of failures, and dismiss him into his former hopelessness on account of infirmities. Such thoughts are entirely unwarranted by anything in the Scriptures. Jesus will never reject any servant because of feeble service and weak performance. Those whom He receives He always keeps. Those whom He loves at first He loves at last. His promise shall never be broken, and it is for saints as well as sinners: “Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.’ (John vi. 37.)
We learn, for another thing, from these verses, what deep corruption may sometimes be found in the heart of a great professor of religion. It is written that “the devil put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Christ.’
This Judas, we must always remember, was one of the twelve Apostles. He had been chosen by Christ Himself, at the same time with Peter, James, John, and their companions. For three years he had walked in Christ’s society, had seen His miracles, had heard His preaching, had experienced many proofs of His loving-kindness. He had even preached himself and wrought miracles in Christ’s name; and when our Lord sent out His disciples two and two, Judas Iscariot no doubt must have been one of some couple that was sent. Yet here we see this very man possessed by the devil, and rushing headlong to destruction.
On all the coasts of England there is not such a beacon to warn sailors of danger as Judas Iscariot is to warn Christians. He shows us what length a man may go in religious profession, and yet turn out a rotten hypocrite at last, and prove never to have been converted. He shows us the uselessness of the highest privileges, unless we have a heart to value them and turn them to good account. Privileges alone without grace save nobody, and will only make hell deeper. He shows us the uselessness of mere head-knowledge. To know things with our brains, and be able to talk and preach and speak to others, is no proof that our own feet are in the way of peace. These are terrible lessons: but they are true.
Let us never be surprised if we see hypocrisy and false profession among Christians in modern days. There is nothing new in it, nothing peculiar, nothing that did not happen even among Christ’s own immediate followers, and under Christ’s own eyes. Bad money is a strong proof that there is good coin somewhere. Hypocrisy is a strong indirect evidence that there is such a thing as true religion.
Above all, let us pray daily that our own Christianity may at any rate be genuine, sincere, real and true. Our faith may be feeble, our hope dim, our knowledge small, our failures frequent, our faults many. But at all events let us be real and true. Let us be able to say with poor, weak, erring Peter, “Thou, Lord, who knowest all things, knowest that I love Thee.’ (John xxi. 17.)
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Please don’t miss worshiping with your local congregation
if you can possibly help it.
But if you’re in need of a good sermon, try these.
What It Means to Be a Christian
What I Believe