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bible reading mar 23



Bible reading for March 23: Exodus 34; John 13. 

"When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God." (Exodus 34:29)

This chapter (Exodus 34) includes the following:  Moses returns to the mountain with new stone tablets and sees the glory of God as promised (34:1-9); God renews his covenant with Israel and warns against any compromise whatsoever with idolatry (34:10-28); and the face of Moses shines when he descends the mountain from being in the presence of the Lord (34:29-35). The Apostle Paul uses this last event, the shining face of Moses, to explain the difference between the glory of the Old Covenant (Mosaic) and the glory of the New Covenant (2 Cor 3). 

More on the topic of "glory" below...

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"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35)

This chapter (Jn 13) begins what is called the "upper room discourse". The upper room is where Jesus and the disciples celebrated the Passover meal on the evening before his arrest.  The second half of the gospel of John covers one week, and a large portion of that is this one evening. Jesus' words are warm and personal -- these are his closest friends and they will carry his ministry onward after the resurrection.  He is realistic about what lies ahead, but he encourages them with many truths and promises about the future. He begins by washing the disciples' feet (13:1-17), he grieves over the betrayal by Judas (13:18-30), and then he speaks of his glory and gives a "new commandment" (13:31-38). 

Called to serve. Washing his disciples feet was not a kind of ceremony, but was a menial, practical task that household servants -- or a person himself -- would take care of.  It was a practical, daily need after walking in sandals in the dusty middle-east. Jesus demonstrated servant leadership by caring for their needs, and also by being willing to accept betrayal in their midst. He then describes how God the Father will be glorified through the Son and gives them a new commandment.    

"Lifted up was he to die."  This love finds its basis in a different view of the nature of God's glory.  After the departure of Judas, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once" (13:31-32).  Earlier he had said, "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself." (12:32)  To be "lifted up" on a cross as a spectacle for all the world to see was the last thing people in the first century would associate with "glory".  

Theologians of the Cross.  During the Heidelberg Disputations in 1518, Martin Luther made a distinction between theologians who speculated about God's glory based on human knowledge, experience, and expectations, and what he called "theologians of the cross". Luther wrote, "He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross."  Historian Carl Trueman explains Luther's meaning:  "At the heart of his argument is his notion that human beings should not speculate about who God is or how he acts in advance of actually seeing whom he has revealed himself to be... [Christ crucified is] the point at which God appeared to be the very contradiction of all that one might reasonably have anticipated him to be."  (Carl R. Trueman, from "Luther's Theology of the Cross" in OPC New Horizons) 

A new commandment (Jn 13:34-35). What's so new about this new commandment?  It is an integral commandment of the new covenant that Christ initiated, to be sure, but it is more -- it is a new standard of love.  In the Old Testament the Law required people to care for their neighbors as they would care for their own welfare: "...but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD" (Lev 19:18).  The standard in the New Covenant is Jesus' sacrificial, serving love. This is a higher standard: to love as Christ loves. This is all the deeper and richer when we realize that Christ's example goes beyond washing feet to laying down his very life for others.  

The first thing that our Lord stresses on this last evening together with the disciples before the crucifixion is that their very notion of love, service, and glory needs to be shaped by the life and death of Christ himself

Lifted up was He to die,
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in heaven exalted high;
  Hallelujah! what a Savior!

-- Philip Bliss (1838-1876)


Image credit: photo of "Divine Servant", statue by Max Greiner on the campus of Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, TX.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. 
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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