“…but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.” (John 14:31)
Why did that hardy band stick it out through three tough years in Jesus’ discipleship school? Why hang in there to the very end — take the tests, determine to invest their lives in this risky enterprise? Let’s accompany them for a few days…
The disciples were following along at some distance behind Jesus, having a heated discussion. When they arrived in their headquarters town of Capernaum, he asked what they had been disputing about (Luke 9:46). They were embarrassed and didn’t want to tell him. But he knew they had been disputing which among them would be the greatest. He drew a child to his side and explained that he who is least is the one who is great in His Kingdom. The same is true in a church or ministry.
Now we follow with them on their way up to Jerusalem where Christ was to make the supreme sacrifice. He had told them repeatedly he must die, but they rejected the idea of a suffering servant so weren’t hearing Him. The mother of James and John, with her two sons in tow, asked for top rank for each of them (Mt. 20.20; Mk 10.35 ff.). How did the others respond to that idea? Especially after Jesus had rejected the request. Were they understanding and spiritual about it? After all, the mother and her sons were relatives of Jesus and the disciples understood near-eastern culture and family obligations. But no, they were angry! Jesus took the occasion to explain that if they were to be in His company, they must all be servants.
They reached Jerusalem and were gathered for the last meal together. Someone should have volunteered to wash the dusty feet so that the next person reclining would not to eat in uncomfortable circumstances. It was traditionally the youngest, the lowest in rank who should have volunteered. No one did. The lesson on the child and the servant somehow had never gotten through. The meal began with dirty feet and then they got into the same old dispute. This time it was not over who would rule, but who would serve (Lk. 22.24-27). Finally Jesus Himself took the servant’s basin and towel and demonstrated the way rank was to work in His Church.
Why were they in this enterprise? For what they would get out of it. Their motive was love for self. Didn’t they have any compassion for others? They wanted to call down fire on those who rejected them or were inhospitable. They wanted to bar from preaching those who had been to the wrong seminary. They had no time for women and children, the weak and oppressed. Oh, they loved God and His glory, His Name and Kingdom. Especially, they loved Jesus. But above all they loved themselves and were in it for what they would get out of it.
A disciple can give generously, witness faithfully, work up an ulcer serving God, even lay down life on a distant mission field from love of self. I should know. There is the story of my mid- life encounter with me in Izumicho. I was in financial trouble, one of my children was in rebellion, our church start was sputtering, the only couple in our new little church was on the brink of divorce. In desperation I cried to the Lord for deliverance. And what did he say? It was the “Why?” question. “Why do you want deliverance?” And I blurted out, “Who wants to fail?” In an instant the true me stood naked before God. All these years I’d been praying, “For Jesus’ sake, amen” when all along I should have been honest and closed my prayer with, “For my sake, amen.” Maybe you’ve seen Christians you suspected may have made choices primarily from love of self?
Jesus, Paul, and John concur: the dominating motive in the Father’s sending was love for lost and hopeless people. Is that why you minister?
Before leaving the camaraderie of the upper room for the lonely cross, Jesus didn’t say, “That the world may know how much I love them…” but rather, “That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise, let us go hence.” (John 14:31). And he got up and went straight to the cross! His all-controlling motive was love of the Father. Who lives with love for God as the all-controlling motive? Do you?