What does it really mean for God to love us? What does it mean for us to love each other? And what does it mean for us to love God?
If you’ll pull out your teaching notes, I want to start by asking a question that you might have a very first answer to, but I would like to challenge how we tend to think of it. And the question is this: Is love more than a feeling?
Is loving someone more than a good, positive, emotional connection feeling? And I would say for most of us, we would say, Well, no, there’s got to be more to it than that.
But in pop culture beginning the sixties, and we won’t go into the whole existential movement with truth. But if I say something like, “If loving you is wrong, I don’t want to be…” Oh, gosh, how did you guys know that? That’s an old song. Right?
Or do you remember the B.J. Thomas, some of this will really date you. You’ve heard it on an elevator, right? “Hooked on a feeling, high on believing that you’re…” Oh, this is scary.
No, literally, you read the lyrics, “I’m hooked on a feeling,” later in the song he says, “I’m powerless and a victim of your love. I’m an addict.” In other words, love is something that is so powerful, so pulsating, so penetrating that whatever it is, you just have to respond to it. But it’s fundamentally a feeling.
And honestly, fifty years later, an awful lot of what has happened outside the Church and inside the Church is that if you really love someone or if you love something, it justifies any behavior, because you love them, right? How could love be wrong? But love gets kind of squishy.
My first conflict with this concept was in high school. I talk about basketball a lot, but I played baseball in high school and college. And we had a great baseball team my senior year in high school. And what made it great was we had a lot of guys who could hit, but we had two pitchers who were great.
And our ace, back then, eighty-five miles an hour in high school. And he had a curve ball that would just drop off the table. High school kids couldn’t hit it.
The championship game, we are there, we are ready, we are going to win the whole thing. And we’ve got our ace on the mound. Well, senioritis sets in. Three days before the game, he decides, I’m going to cut school. He goes out and parties. He gets suspended. We want to kill him.
So it’s the championship game, he shows up in his dress clothes; he can’t dress out. And he gives this shrug of the shoulders and he goes, “Hey, I really want you guys to know,” we had a brotherhood; it was a great team. “I just want you guys to know that I really love you.”
I’m thinking, Really? I mean, really? So we lost the game, by the way. And I didn’t feel real loved by him at all. His words were absolutely meaningless. I wasn’t a Christian at that time, I had lots of responses that I won’t share here.
And you get the idea? Someone says they love you, but their behavior is like, Come on, man!
Well, it gets really personal and often very painful when there is a discrepancy between even a good feeling. I think he was sincere. He felt good about us. But I remember maybe one of the earliest counseling times, I was a very young pastor and a young man came and sat in my office and he said, “My wife met some guy at the gym, and she told me that she has fallen in love, and she can’t deny herself. And even though she knows it’s wrong, she is leaving with this guy and I’ve got these two little kids. But she said she still loves me but this is just…”
And I remember thinking, Wow. And then scores and scores and scores of counseling sessions over the years, I have sat at more than a few restaurants or in my office with a husband and a wife, and a guy who feels overwhelmingly remorseful. But unconsciously, love is such a pulsating feeling and you’re such a victim of it and you have to respond, and he is telling me and telling his wife, “Look, she was just a prostitute. It was just sex. It’s just pictures on the Internet. It’s just sex. Okay? It was an affair, but I love you. I love you, I love the kids. This is just sex. It’s not even…”
And I just have to tell you, if you have never been in that sort of situation, her face was not, It was just sex. Her face is, I have been betrayed, and your words of, “I love you,” feel absolutely meaningless.
And I think what it does is it raises the question of: What is the relationship between love and behavior or love and obedience? And this isn’t new.
This isn’t something that has happened in the last fifty or sixty years. It was so prevalent in Jesus’ day, He told a little parable in Matthew 21. I have put it in your notes if you want to check it out later.
And He tells the story of a father trying to teach people about obedience and love. And He says, “A father went to two of his sons and he says to the two sons, ‘I want you to go out and work in the fields today.’ And one son said, ‘Great, I’ll do it, Dad.’ And the other said, ‘Dad, I’m not going to go.’” The one son who said, “I will go,” gets halfway there and decides, You know, I’m not doing this. I’m going to blow him off. So he says he will go, but he doesn’t. The other son says, “I won’t go,” and then he decides later, You know what? This is my dad. This is…
And so he decides later to go ahead and obey. And Jesus said, “Which one of these has obeyed their father?” And the inference was, “Which one of them really loved their dad?”
We are going to talk about where love and obedience connects and how does it work? Our feelings and our passions and our, those are all really, really important. But there are some things that are deeper and we’ve got to figure out how they fit together. Because Jesus has told His disciples He really loves them, and as you open your notes, we are going to look at John chapter 14, and what we are going to do is we are going to see how He communicates His love by His words, how He is going to remind them of His actions, and how He is then going to flip it around.
And in about the middle of this evening of this conversation, He will tell them and He will tell us, Here is love, here is obedience, I want you to know, here’s how they fit together. So that when you say, “I love you,” to a person or say, “I love you,” to God, this is how they really fit together.
Now, as you open the notes, you’ll notice that there is the context. And what I mean by that is what has been going on. And I wrote it out for you, because it’s a very emotional moment.
I don’t want you to think of, Here’s a Bible story and we are hearing this. This is twelve, grown men who have left everything. By the authorities, they want to arrest them. They have been abandoned, they have been kicked out of the synagogues, they are following this itinerant preacher with multitudes of people following Him.
But on this evening, He has told them that He is going to leave, and they don’t get it. And then Peter says, “Well, I’ll never leave You!” He goes, “No, actually, Peter, I know you’re the leader and all that. But you’re not only not going to follow Me, you are going to deny Me three times before the evening is even over.”
And now the other disciples are going, Mr. Peter, if he is going to blow it, what about us? Judas has left, and these guys are paralyzed with fear and anxiety and uncertainty. The dream that they had that the Messiah is Jesus and that He was going to take down Rome and He was going to set up a political kingdom on earth, in their lifetime and they were going to be the head honchos with Him – that evaporated.
And they are not sure what it is to follow this Messiah. He has done all the miracles of the Messiah, He teaches like no one else. They believe that He is God, but His agenda for how He is going to play that out, and their expectations are this far away. Anybody feel like that in your life? Like, I’m really following God, I really love God, and I was thinking we were going this direction, and it feels like this direction.
I had breakfast with a new and good friend and we sat across the breakfast table and he was explaining a little bit behind the stage four cancer that he has. He’s in his forties, young family, from college down to junior high. And we were talking about, So, God’s agenda. How do you…?
Anybody here like, Wow, I really want to follow Jesus, but life, it’s not turning out right now in my relationships or my health or my work. If this is what it means, I don’t get it. That’s what He is going to address.
Peter, Thomas, Philip, and Judas – not Iscariot – the other disciple, they all have questions. And so what I want you to know is, in your mind, if you can picture this critical conversation after they have taken the Lord’s Supper and Judas is gone, is each one is going to ask questions, and Jesus will weave teaching into the conversation. And just listen. His goal is to love them, to comfort them, and to help them. And as we eavesdrop, I think it will help us.
Peter basically said, “So, where are You going?” And Jesus answers, verse 1, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father’s house there are many rooms; if it were not so, I would not have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and I will take you with Me that you may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Now, first of all, just imagine. You have heard all this stuff about, When I die, and I will be raised, and Messiah, and your head has been spinning. And now people are trying to kill you and you’re in a secret hideout. And He has talked about, “This is My body and this is My bread and this is what I am going to do.”
But all of, it’s just like, whooo, what’s going on? And Peter says, “I want to follow You, but where are You going?” And number one, what He says is, “I am going to prepare a place for you. I am going to the Father and where I am going, I am going to prepare,” it says, “many rooms,” or an old translation is, “mansions.” Don’t think a plantation like in the South.
In the ancient world, families lived together and so the patriarch or the father of the family, when someone would get married, he would betroth his wife, which would be a legal contract, and then he would say, “Okay, you have agreed to marry me,” and whatever dowry and everything.
Then he would go back and actually build onto the father’s house and the related network, and then come back and take his wife.
And Jesus is picturing, I am for you, but I am leaving, but I am preparing – why? So that you can be with Me. He is giving them comfort in the moment by saying, There is an absolute certain future, and I will be back because I love you and I am for you.
And then He says, “You know the way,” and if you have your own Bible, probably not one of these pew Bibles, you can circle the word know, because there are two different words He is going to use.
And this one is: This is a fact. You know the fact of the way I am going and where I am going. In other words, it’s a word that’s like two plus two is four. Everybody knows that, right?
The other word for know in Greek is a word that means you know by experience. You know how this works because you have experienced it and He will use that in just a minute.
And so to Peter’s question, basically, the comfort is, “I am coming back, the agenda that you thought you were going to get is different than the agenda that you’re going to get. But it’s good for you.”
Well, Thomas speaks up and basically says, “Wait a second. You say we know the way, it’s simple. I don’t get it.”
Verse 5 he says, “Lord, we don’t know the way or where You are going, so how can we know the way?” And Jesus said maybe the most profound words that ever came out of His mouth that are very direct. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you really knew Me (by experience), you would know (by experience) My Father as well. From now on, you do know Me and know Him and you have seen Him.”
And so the word “way” here, sometimes we, the literal word, it’s if you were picking up a Greek document and you read this, it would be the path or the road. The word is Hodos. You know the path. So you’re at point A and you want to go from this city to this city. Here is the road. Here is the path.
What He is saying is: Everything I have come to do is to reveal the Father and take people to the path, back to the Father. There is this huge barrier of the selfishness and sinfulness of man and God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit so loves all that He has made, He wants them to be with Him. I came to reveal the Father, and I am the actual path. My life, how I have lived, what I have said, follow Me. I am the path. I am not only the path or the way to the Father, I am the truth of the Father. All that is true of the Father is true of Me. In fact, I am not only the path and the truth, I am the actual source of life, because if you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.
Now, they have heard different teachings, but He is putting it together. So you have hope, you are in the presence – He couldn’t be more clear – of God. And He has made, I think sometimes we, as Christians, get a little bit squirmish. It’s very exclusive. It’s very politically incorrect.
The idea that there is a God that you can put any name to and there are multiple paths to go up to the mountain to this God – one, it’s not only not biblical, it’s totally illogical.
When I sit down with a Muslim or a Mormon or people from any truth claim, there is a very clear path. And they are all very, very different. And they are all mutually exclusive.
Here’s the deal: If Jesus is in fact God and if He rose from the dead to prove it, and it’s true, when He says, “I am the only way,” He is the only way, it’s not narrow. Because the issue is not some formula or some way of living or sometimes that you need to pray or some concept that you can move into the cosmos.
The problem is there is a barrier between a personal God and He has broken the barrier and He has created a path, by His death on the cross He has forgiven the sins of all people of all time, and He has risen from the dead to give life, because it’s about a relationship. It’s not about some style of living.
And so He is making it very, very clear. They would give their lives and follow Him and you are here today and I am here today because of their faithfulness.
But Thomas has a question: “Okay, I don’t know the way. You are the way, the actual way? If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father?” Philip goes, You know what? How about a little closer look at the Father? Okay? I’m still not following You.”
And so Philip says, “‘Show us the Father and that will be enough.’ Jesus said, ‘Don’t you know Me,’” relationally, experientially, “Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time. Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?”
Proof number one, “The words I say to you are not just My own. Rather, it is the Father, living in Me, who is doing the work. If you don’t believe on the works, then at least believe in the evidence of the miracles themselves.”
And so He is clarifying – all this teaching, all this journey He is saying, “When you see Me, you see the Father.” “Well, show us the Father.” “You have been living in the presence.” The very first chapter of John’s gospel, this is written about 90, between 90 and 100 A.D. The Church has been multiplying thousands, and tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people are following this Jesus now in a very hostile environment.
In fact, they are being taken into coliseums and they are being persecuted and killed. And as they are following Him, John, led by the Holy Spirit, writes the gospel of John to help people understand who Jesus really was and correct some error.
And he says, “In the beginning,” not of time, “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. All things that have come into being have come to being through Him, and there has been nothing created that hasn’t been created by Him. And the Word became flesh,” the logos, the communication, the personal communication of the Second Person of God’s heart and Trinity, Jesus, “the Word became flesh and,” literally, “tabernacled,” or, “lived among us, that we would behold His glory,” see who God really is.
“Through Moses came the law, but truth and grace came through Jesus,” and then he would say, “no man has seen God at any time,” this was the goal. “but He,” Jesus, “has revealed Him.”
If you want to know what God is like, it’s exactly how Jesus is. If you want to know how God feels about poor people, how did Jesus feel about poor people? If you want to know how God feels when you’re discouraged and hurting and angry and you have really blown it and failed, it’s how He feels like when the woman caught in adultery is thrown at His feet.
If you want to know how He feels about people who are arrogant and self-dependent and think they’ve got it all together, it’s how Jesus feels about the Pharisees, and you can read that. “When you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.”
I am the bridge, I am the path, I am the way to the Father, I came to reveal the Father. Now look at verse 12. Now He is going to say that there is an assignment. “We have been talking about this the whole time. Your assignment is to do the very thing that I have been doing. I am going to leave and you are going to reveal the Father to the whole world.”
Look at verse 12. Verse 12 He says, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing.” What has He been doing? Revealing the Father. How? By His words and His miracles.
“He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” He says not quantitatively, but qualitatively. You all will have far more impact than the thirty or thirty-three years that I lived on the earth. You will have far more impact than this little piece of geography. You’re going to do things that, literally, transform the world. And it’s true. It has happened.
And then notice this amazing promise. He says, “And I will do whatever you ask in My name,” focus, “so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it.”
And so He is not only comforting them; and, Yes, it’s not what you expect, but I have a different agenda. It’s a better agenda. Then the question comes up: “How are we going to pull this off? How in the world could we do greater works? We are actually scared to death right now.”
And notice He is going to tell them, He is going to say, get this down, He is going to say, You all are uptight because you feel like you are going to be orphans and abandoned. You are uptight because all you can think about are the circumstances and the fear and what might happen later tonight. You guys are uptight because the agenda that you thought I had you own, guess what? The outcome is going to be better and greater, but the way to get there is going to be really different.
I want you to know that I am going to give you something better and richer and deeper than you have ever known. You think it’s been great to walk with Me on these dusty roads and we talk together and we share together and I have put My arm around you, and we have done counseling and you were used by Me. I am going to tell you that every, single one of you and every future follower will never have to wait in line to talk to Me.
He is going to say, The Holy Spirit is going to be sent, and He is going to live inside of every believer. And this Holy Spirit will bring the very presence of the Father and the Son to live inside of every believer in this new thing called a New Covenant, so that you can have access and power and conversation, 24/7.