No. 21: The greatest promise of all!
Read John 13:21-38
Judas Iscariot probably had several reasons for betraying Jesus into the hands of the religious leaders. When Mary poured perfume worth one year’s salary over Jesus’ feet (John 12:3), Judas probably realised that the longed-for kingdom, that he was relying on being part of, was not going to be a physical or political kingdom but a spiritual one. His greedy desire for wealth and status would not come to fruition, so he had to seek favour and wealth in another way. When Satan entered him (John 13:27) as he closed his heart to Jesus’ sign of love at the last supper (John 13:26), it was so easy for him to be party to this horrific deceit.
In betraying Jesus, Judas made one of the biggest mistakes in history, but this does not mean that he was God’s puppet or under Satan’s control. Judas made the choice himself, from a heart that had no relationship with Jesus. Neither he nor the devil realised that Jesus’ death was a vital part of God’s plan for the salvation of mankind. Judas certainly makes us take a second look at our commitment to God. Are we true disciples and followers, or uncommitted pretenders? We can choose despair and death or we can choose repentance, forgiveness, hope and eternal life. Judas’ action sent Jesus to the cross to guarantee that we have a second chance: our only opportunity of having eternal and abundant life. Will you accept Jesus’ free gift or, like Judas, betray Him?
By contrast, Peter was very vocal about his love and commitment to Jesus Christ: “I will lay down my life for You.” (John 13:37) No one, except Jesus, thought that Peter would deny his Lord as a direct result of fear of people. But when Peter (after his fall) chose repentance and humility, the final result for Judas and Peter, were entirely opposite, demonstrating that God has no favourites. Jesus treated them both the same, knowing what each would do, loving them unconditionally, and giving each a way out, if only they would have asked. Judas did not understand this and his life ended tragically in suicide, whereas Peter never let go of his faith in Jesus, the one he loved so dearly. His life ended as a successful follower of Jesus, having a place with Him in eternity.
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat, this is my body.’ Then He took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it all of you. This is My blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins…’” Matthew 26:26-28.
Jesus is celebrating the Passover meal with His disciples, knowing that He Himself is about to be the final Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7). Review Lesson 4 on John 2:13-25 (“Who has B.S.E. – Blood-Soaked Entry?)” to remember the power of the blood. Jesus has spent His ministry working towards this point and preparing His disciples for the time when they would have to continue the work. Jesus has longed to show the people the love of the Father, who has been working for thousands of years to reveal His amazing love to human beings and has consistently made covenants with them, whenever He has wanted to reveal Himself.
- With Adam, God killed an animal to make clothes to cover his shame. (Genesis 3:21)
- With Abraham, God made a covenant of love. (Genesis 15:1-8)
- Jonathan made a covenant with David. (1 Samuel 18:3-4; 2 Samuel 9)
- Jesus represented us and forged a covenant with God to make us free and whole.
A covenant is quite simply where two people have come together and, after much thought and discussion, resolved to be in a formal relationship with one another, marking this in some recognised way. In the Old Testament, it was usually done with the sacrificial blood of animals. So far as God was concerned, this covered over human sin. The New Testament (or “new covenant”) is a better one. (See Hebrews 7:22.) Because of the blood of Jesus, sin is washed completely away. (See John 1:29.) In the marriage covenant, each partner’s thumb was cut and the blood was mingled together. When the cuts had healed, there was a constant reminder of a covenant which could never be broken.
A biblical covenant or agreement was commonly:
- A total giving of oneself to another for ever;
- Based on strengths and weaknesses, not on things in common;
- Never entered into lightly;
- Had no way out, apart from death (Isaiah 54:10);
- Called upon God as the main witness to the covenant (Genesis 15:17-18);
- Included promises made by both sides.
Today, the covenant of blood contains the greatest promise in the whole Bible. It does not just contain it, it is the greatest promise. Jesus became the punishment we deserve, so that we can walk in liberty, knowing that we are forgiven, both now and in the future.
“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.” Hebrews 9:22
God has given us His best. He sacrificed His own Son to make a covenant with us. Jesus’ broken body and shed blood, as the Lamb of God, is the eternal proof of God’s love to all of us.
Basically, the covenant says that we are no longer servants, but sons and daughters (Galatians 3:26), heirs of God through Jesus. So, everything that is mine is His and everything that is His is mine. That means that all the blessings of Abraham (Deuteronomy 28:1-14) AND all the blessings of the new covenant, are for me! (Galatians 3:29).
In our covenant with the Living God, the following great exchanges have taken place:
- He took our sin and gave us His righteousness (Isaiah 53:6-11).
- He took our place for judgement and gave us His righteousness (Isaiah 53:8).
- He took our fear and gave us His faith (Psalm 34:7).
- He took our weakness and gave us His strength (Titus 3:4-7).
- He took our sickness and gave us His health (Isaiah 53:4).
- He took our poverty and promised to meet all our needs (Philippians 4:19).
- He took our turmoil and gave us His peace (Hebrews 13:20).
- He dispossessed Satan and became our Lord (Colossians 2:13-15).
You can have a revelation of God’s amazing love for you personally by meditating on this covenant He has made with you. Why not get out the bread and the cup now, go before the Lord with them and commune with Him, remembering what happened to His body and blood? This is what enables you to be a blood covenant member of the family of Almighty God. Read 1 Corinthians 11:23-31 out loud and consider thoughtfully where you stand with God and others. Really judge yourself, repent and then celebrate deliverance from sin.
Remember all that has been bought for you in the covenant and that you have only brought your weaknesses to the contract. There is nothing you can do to change or improve the covenant. God is totally committed to you for ever. There is nothing you can do to change that. So look to the body and blood to settle for ever the question of God’s love for you. You can never again doubt His promises for your life as you see His amazing love. Look ahead to Christ coming again, when He will take us to be with Him for ever, 1 Corinthians 11:26.
Remember where Jesus is today, interceding at the right hand of the Father in heaven for you. (Romans 8:34).
The Lord’s Supper is not to be taken lightly because the new covenant cost Jesus His life. We need to take part, remembering where we have come from, in order to strengthen our faith for the future.
Home challenges for Power Up! – No. 21: The greatest promise of all!
1. Read the notes about Judas and Peter. What did you find most encouraging and challenging about Jesus’ attitude to them both?
2. Considering the timing of the last supper, do you think that Jesus would have been encouraged by the end of the meal? Why?
3. Read the notes about the covenant.
a) Was there anything new to you?
b) Will this study make any difference when you take communion? How?
4. a) Does communion really help you to consider God’s amazing love and commitment to you, or has it just become a religious habit?
b) Is there anything you could do to change that?
Read John 14:1-14
5. What had Jesus said in John 13 that caused His disciples to have troubled hearts?
6. What was Jesus’ reply to encourage them in John 14:1?
7. a) Detail four promises that Jesus gives in John 14:1-4.
b) Do you think these would have comforted the disciples? Why?
c) Do they comfort you?
8. What did Thomas and Philip still not realise?
9. Jesus’ answer to Thomas was a truth that none of us must forget. How do you feel about Jesus being the only way? (John 14:6)
10. How do we get to know God the Father? (John 14:9-11)
11. What amazing comment did Jesus make about people who had “faith in Him” ? (John 14:12)
12. a) What condition did Jesus put on doing things for us?
b) What would be His motive? (John 14:13)
13. Having read this passage, how would you encourage someone going through a personal crisis?
14. Pick out one verse that was especially meaningful to you and memorise it.
15. Try and sum up what you have learnt in one short sentence.