Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

5-12-03

Title: The Face of Faithfulness: John

Text:  “Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!  Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” (John19:25-27).

Scripture Reading: John 19:17-27

Introduction

Christianity began with a group of men gathered by Jesus, but at the cross Christianity resembles a woman’s movement.  Of the twelve men Jesus made apostles, only one was faithful to the end.  Four faithful women stood with this man until the end.  One of them was Mary, Jesus’ mother.  Her sister was also there.  Mary Magdalene was another of the four, and with her was the wife of Cleophas.  But today we want to focus our attention on John.  His face beneath the cross is the face of faithfulness.  A study of John’s presence at the cross will help us in the pursuit of faithfulness.

Let’s begin out study by reading our text: John 19:25-27.

“Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.  When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!  Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.”

There are three things to see about John’s faithfulness:
1. The extent of his faithfulness.
2. The inspiration for his faithfulness.
3. The reward for his faithfulness.

When we have finished looking at John’s example of faithfulness, we will see that our faithfulness should be unto death.  We will be faithful because of His love for us, and we will be rewarded for our faithfulness.

Let’s begin by looking at the extent of John’s faithfulness.

Years after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, John wrote a letter inspired by the risen Lord to the church in Smyrna.  In the letter the Lord encouraged that suffering church.  He said, “Be thou faithful unto death.”  The members of this church were experiencing persecution, and John’s letter encouraged them. 

Note that being “faithful unto death” meant more than just as long as they lived, it meant that they should be faithful even if it cost them their lives. 

In the Old Testament, saints were delivered from death, but in the New Testament they triumph over death.  Our hope is in the Lord. 

The letter to the church at Smyrna also mentioned a crown that would be given to those who suffer; the crown of life.  There were many faithful souls in Smyrna who were martyred.  They will receive that eternal crown.  I know many wonderful saints who are going to get that crown someday.  My friends, if you are suffering at this moment and you have wondered if He cares, He has something good for you in eternity.  You will get something that no one else will get, except others who are in your condition.  God’s word says, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to them that love Him.”  That crown of life means that you are really going to live it up someday.

John would know about this kind of faithfulness.  This is the kind of faithfulness each of us needs.  We need to be faithful until death and we need to be faithful unto death. But what does it mean to be faithful until death?  The words could be understood to mean, “Be faithful for all of your life.”  It was a call for faithfulness regardless of what life might bring.  John had this kind of faithfulness.  It is the kind that a couple promises to each other in their wedding ceremony: “until death do us part.”  It is interesting to ask a couple as they approach marriage, “Under what circumstances will you seek a divorce?”  Their answers are always revealing.  Some confidently reply, “Under no circumstances.”  I like that response, but I know they will be surprised by the difficulties that will test their commitment to faithfulness. 

The cross did not force John away from his commitment to Jesus.  He intended to be faithful until the end of his life. Scholars debate the extent of the danger facing John, but we can plainly see that the other apostles perceived danger at the cross.  Anyone who has seen an angry mob knows that with a mob on the loose no one is safe.  Jesus was on the cross because of such mob movements.  The danger to John must have been real.  Yet he was ready to face even the possibility of death because of his desire to be faithful to the Lord.  Even if it cost him his life, he would not run away.  This is the quality of faithfulness that the Lord wants in each of us.  If our faithfulness has limitations, it is flawed.

The next thing to see is the inspiration for his faithfulness.

Why did John stand beneath the cross while the others hid in fear?  If we know this we will know the secret of faithfulness. 

Could it have been a sense of duty that compelled John to stand beneath the cross?  I believe that we would all agree that it is such a sense of duty that helps us to be faithful in hard times.  A sense of duty keeps a soldier in his place of danger when others might flee.  It keeps a son or daughter faithfully attending to the needs of aging parents.  But the real secret of faithfulness goes much deeper than a sense of duty. John gives us a clue to why he was there by the way he identified himself.  He is the disciple “whom Jesus loved.”  His presence at the cross was a response to that love. 

Jesus loved all of the apostles just as much as He loved John, but this man seemed to have a special capacity to receive that love.  He had a special awareness of that love.  He seemed to know better than the others that Jesus was bound to the cross by His love for them.  If Jesus could die on a cross out of love, could not John stand by the cross through the ordeal?  Gratitude and love compelled him to do it. This is the secret of Christian faithfulness.  It will keep us faithful in our service.  It will keep us faithful through all kinds of persecution.  It will make survivors out of us. 

If we waver in our commitment, we need to be renewed by a fresh awareness of how much we are loved by Jesus.

The last thing to see today is the reward for faithfulness.

John’s faithfulness beautifully illustrates the rewards that faithfulness to Christ will bring.  One of those rewards is the approval of Christ.  Jesus showed His approval of John for his faithfulness, and it must have been conveyed to him by a look from the cross.  Can you imagine the difference in the look John must have received from that which Peter received in the moment of his denial?  The look that Peter received sent him into the night weeping in shame, but the look John received sent him home to take care of Jesus’ mother.  While John does not describe that look, I can imagine the look of gratitude Jesus must have conveyed to him.  John, along with the women, was the one bright spot in the sea of darkness.

Jesus promised that faithfulness to Him will result in a final and blessed, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” John certainly received Christ’s approval, but he also received the trust of Christ.  His trust is the greatest reward for faithfulness.  John received this trust in Jesus’ special request from the cross.  As Jesus neared death He thought of His mother, Mary.  While she stood by the cross brokenhearted, her first born Son made provisions for her needs.  He said to her, “Woman, behold thy Son.”  Then He said to John, “Behold thy mother.”  John reports, “From that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.” 

Although Mary had other children, John was the one who cared for her until her death years later in the city of Ephesus.  Jesus trusted John with a very special responsibility.  There is a lesson in this for all of us.  Jesus loved Mary, because she was His earthly mother; He loved her again as her Redeemer and Savior; then, there at the cross, He showed His love when He told John to take care of His mother.  This teaches that everyone has a responsibility to provide for and take care of their parents.

Responsibility is the primary reward for faithfulness.  In His parable of the talents, Jesus said, “Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.”  In the parable of the talents, money is distributed to three men according to ability.  The three servants represent three types of people who are entrusted with various tasks according to their ability.  They are not all expected to produce the same results, but all three are expected to be faithful with what is entrusted to them.  In the parable, the first two double their money, while the third simply hides his one coin in a hole in the earth.  Those who produced good results were commended by their Master-“Well done…good and faithful servant.”  Because of their faithfulness, they are promised the reward of being “rulers over many things.”  That will happen during the millennial rein of Christ. 

Could anything be greater than the Lord of Glory trusting us with a special assignment?  This kind of assignment is reserved for those who have proven themselves to be trustworthy through their faithfulness.

Conclusion

John’s example of faithfulness is especially encouraging for those who are facing trials.  Maybe you feel like you are in an extremely difficult place.  What should you do?  “Be thou faithful unto death.”  “Do it because of Jesus’ love for you!”  You will find the rewards for such faithfulness to be more than enough. 
As you meditate on Jesus’ love, take a place of faithfulness with John beneath the cross.

As you meditate on Jesus’ love, remember He is Lord.  He has all authority, and at the end of Matthews gospel we are given an assignment: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  The Savior has entrusted us with the responsibility for helping build His church.  We are His ambassadors and we should be faithful to Him in all things.

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