MSG: Expectations in Relationships

This is the message given on February 17, 2013, the fourth message in a relationship series begun in November, but held during an Advent series and Strategic Vision series.

Expectations in Relationships: You’re supposed to serve me!

John 13

            God has three wills.  There is the direct will, where God says or does something and it happens.  For example, when God said, “Let there be light,” light happened.  Then there is the indirect will of God, where God uses an agent or agency to accomplish His will.  For example, when Scripture says that children are to obey their parents, the children learn God’s will through their parents.  The parents are the agency through whom God makes His will known and be accomplished.  Then there is God’s permissive will.  God’s permissive will is what God permits, even though it may not be what God desires.  God allows many things, like sin, that are not His desire, but He allows them to happen for His greater glory.

In God’s permissive will, He let Israel pursue a king like all the nations around them.  God knew people emphasized the physical, overt and human standards, instead of a heart pursuing God. God knew that people would want a tall, good looking man as king. Israel still hadn’t learned the principle “When people get what they want, they don’t want what they get.” Israel wanted meat, so God gave meat to them until it came out of their noses.  They got what they wanted, but didn’t want what they got! 

So regarding a king, God chose Saul. The Bible says, “There was not a more handsome person than he among the children of Israel. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.” (1 Sam. 9:2)  He was big on the outside, but a shrimp on the inside. Saul made life about himself and he had expectations that showed it. 

Saul showed life was about himself in many ways.  He didn’t take responsibility for being king when he hid among the baggage at the time of his coronation (1 Sam. 10:22). After two years of reign, he attacked the Philistines and war began. He probably didn’t think the Philistines would attack back or he thought he’d be more successful.  So when the people began to depart and Samuel had not arrived to lead in the sacrifice to God, Saul offered an ungodly sacrifice (1 Sam. 13:12-13). Then his kingly position really went to his head and his humility flew out the window, when he called for the execution of his own son Jonathan. He foolishly ordered that no one could eat, until he had taken vengeance on his enemies. He expected his son to hear and obey when his son had not heard (1 Sam. 14:27).

Saul showed his expectations when God ordered Saul to destroy the Amalekites.  Saul completed the mission, but only partially.  Instead of accepting responsibility, Saul made excuses for his disobedience.  Saul expected people to serve him, because he was king.   He, consciously or not, really thought He was God and He could decide how far He needed to complete the mission. Saul also expected David to play the harp and be a servant, but Saul wasn’t concerned for David’s condition, position or life. When people honored David, Saul’s jealousy wanted to kill David. Saul expected the world to revolve around him.

In contrast, Jonathan, Saul’s son, saw the Lord blessing David and he loved David,

Now when he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.  2 Saul took him that day, and would not let him go home to his father’s house anymore.  3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 And Jonathan took off the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, even to his sword and his bow and his belt. (1Sam. 18:1-4)

Jonathan used his position as Saul’s son to bless and protect David’s life.  Jonathan was next in line to be king, but he was more interested in God’s will than his own desires. What do you expect out of relationships?  Everyone has difficult relationships.  They can be at home or at work.  They can be with someone you love, that is part of your family, or they can be with the neighbor next door that likes to work on his hot rod at 11 pm.  How do you deal with trouble in relationships?  What do you expect? How do you ensure relationships grow instead of grumble?  How does Jesus want you to approach relationships?   

            The key is how Jesus approaches relationships.

1)      Jesus shows you how to finish well loving others John 13:1-3 

Imagine all that Jesus went through in loving His disciples! Jesus spent 3.5 years discipling twelve men.  Jesus dealt with loud mouth fisherman Peter, who was always sticking his foot in his mouth.  He dealt with Simon the Zealot, who often complained about the other sick, lame and lazy guys who couldn’t keep up.  Then there was Judas whom the Spirit revealed would betray him. Shouldn’t Jesus have gained some undying respect from his disciples?  Surely they would stand with him through a tough time.

Jesus knew that His hour had come. Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. (John 13:1)   Jesus shows us that even in your darkest hour (this was His), you can love others, because God the Holy Spirit will empower you to love others. You don’t love others, because they are so great, but because that is God’s will and it mirrors what God did for you (1 John 4:19).

His hour had come, yet after the bickering, complaining, comparing of the disciples, He loved them to the end.  After three years of living, traveling, eating, training together, Jesus loved them to the end. Even at this point the devil was working in one of Jesus’ disciples – Judas.  Jesus kept loving to the end. And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him (John 13:2).

So couldn’t Jesus expect something from the disciples whom He had poured so much into?  Shouldn’t they take care of Him?  Shouldn’t He expect them to stand with Him?  Jesus didn’t expect that, because He knew His time had come and He knew the heart of man. Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God (John 13:3).

No instead of expecting the disciples to act in a certain way, Jesus kept loving them to the end.  The question is “what does that love look like?” The rest of the passage shows what that love looks like.  People will often say, “I love you,” but their actions show something different.  They may say it so nice and sound so genuine, but their actions are empty or even contrary.  Notice how Jesus shows His love.

2)      Jesus wants you to serve others John 13:4-5

When you are weighed down with difficulties, problems and trouble, what do you normally want?  Do you want to serve?  Get real.  Most of us would rather just retreat to our man cave, or veg out at the television or computer.  Jesus knew His time had come. But, He served others. He was a spiritual parent. He did what His disciples should have done.  This was the job of the lowest ranking servant.

Let me relate that to today.  Washing feet today is nothing compared to Jesus day.  I’d be more than happy to wash your feet, but  the disciples? Your feet are at most a little fragrant, but not like the feet of the disciples.  They had far more than a little dust on their feet.  They walked through dust, but also puddles from rain water.  In that rain was garbage as well as animal waste in the road. Those were dirty feet! In His greatest crisis, Jesus serves.   Jesus lowers Himself before His disciples and serves them, 

[Jesus] rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. 5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. (John 13:4-5)

Jesus even washes the feet of the one who would betray Him.  Judas had the lesson of grace, but he chose to betray Jesus. 

Okay, I might get the gumption to wash someone’s feet, but don’t make me do anything else.  Don’t make me talk to them in a kind way.  Don’t make me cover a multitude of sins and help the person move closer to God.  At least that’s what my flesh would be thinking.  Notice how Jesus approaches the relationships.

3)      Jesus wants you to disciple people to truth John 13:6-17

There are times when Jesus even wants you to disciple someone to the truth, in spite of the fact they have wronged you, sinned against you, and failed on their part.  God wants you to let Him work through you to teach them about truth.  The hard part is as you are trying to do that, people often misunderstand.

Peter misunderstood what Jesus was doing.  He didn’t want Jesus to take that position of the lowest slave. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?” (John 13:6).  Peter was trying to show respect for Jesus, but he was also playing God.  He thought he knew better than Jesus about what Jesus should do.  He assumed Jesus was showing just a little too much humility.

Jesus makes a simple admonishment to Peter.  John records,” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” (John 13:7) Too many times we don’t understand what God is doing through others.  Rather than listening to understand, we assume we know what is best.  Jesus is trying to help Peter, who gets righteously indignant to which Jesus must rebuke Peter. Peter said to Him,You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”(John 13:8)   You can sense a firm, but graciousness in Jesus’ voice.

Then Peter misunderstands further, to which Jesus must correct him. Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you. For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.” (John 13:9-11)  Jesus declares all of them are believers (clean), but not all (not Judas).  Judas had not believed in Jesus as his Savior.  Judas looked like the rest of the disciples in actions, but he was not a child of God. 

Jesus was teaching the principle of confession of sins.  After salvation, a person is cleansed of the penalty of sin, but because of sin in experience or life, there must still be confession of sins (1 John 1:9). God gives you life after death and life before death.

After this tangible, concrete lesson, Jesus explains it.

So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?  13 “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.  14 “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. 16“Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. (John 13:12-16)

Jesus disciples them to the truth.  The Disciples didn’t understand the illustration of washing feet.  It was more than teaching confession of sins.  It was also that we are to disciple others to the truth.  Their expectations wanted others to serve them.  Jesus shows what is important – others. 

Would it be hard for Jesus to do what He did?  YES! It would be hard even for the humanity of Jesus.  Remember, He said on the cross, “Let this cup pass from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Thy will be done. (Matt 26:42). Jesus was also teaching the principle that when we do the hard things, there is great blessing and the choices in the future get easier. “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. (John 13:17) They are hard to do, because our flesh doesn’t want to do them.  Fortunately there is great blessing to come, but the hard choices come first. Discipleship is never a smooth straight line.  There are a variety of disappointments.  There are often setbacks and loss of traction.  Do the right thing.

How does Jesus want you to approach relationships?  He wants you to serve others – even the hard ones.  There are always opportunities to serve out of love.  He also wants you to disciple others to the truth.  That takes great discernment.  That helps you do the right thing in the interest of the others. At the same time, He wants you to rise above the adversities of relationships.

4)      Jesus wants you to rise above adversities John 13:18-30

It would be nice if we could have an easy life once we became Christians.  It would be nice if we just got along.  But then, we wouldn’t need the Holy Spirit to empower us to rise above adversities and reveal how Jesus is sufficient in all things.

Notice this first adversity Jesus mentions. I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled,` He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me. (John 13:18)  Jesus knew ahead of time that Judas was going to betray Him.  How would you talk and act if you knew someone would betray you?  Jesus chose Judas for this mission.  And yet Jesus rose above knowing Judas would betray Him.  He served him and discipled him to the truth. 

The secondadversity is that Jesus knew the disciples would not get it.

Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He.  20 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” 21 When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.” 22 Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke. (John 13:19-22)

The second adversity was that Jesus told the disciples what was going to happen and they wouldn’t be able to understand.  They probably looked at Jesus like deer in headlights.  Most people want others to understand the pain and problems they are going through.  Jesus objectively states the truth, but doesn’t draw attention to His pain.  The disciples didn’t understand.  People often don’t understand.

            The third adversity was actually giving the signal to Judas for him to go.

23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved.  24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke.  25 Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, “Lord, who is it?”  26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.  (John 13:23-26)

Jesus was going to give the piece of bread dipped in the wine to Judas. Some of us would have wanted to throw it at Judas!  He gave Judas the symbol of His body broken for Judas dipped in the symbol of blood that would be shed for him.   Jesus also knew that Judas had every opportunity, but rejected it. AND Jesus maintained such tremendous composure by the Holy Spirit.

            The fourth adversity was telling Judas to go do what was part of God’s plan – to enjoin the process of betrayal leading to the flogging and to the crucifixion.

Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.  28But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him.  29 For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, “Buy those things we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor.  30 Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night. (John 13:27-30)

Wouldn’t there be a little resentment or bitterness in your voice if you had to say that?  There was none in Jesus’ voice.  He accepted the Father’s will and took responsibility to do what was required – even death on the cross.  He even gave Judas permission to go do what would be necessary. 

God is always in control.  Will you accept that God is in control, when someone tries to manipulate you?  When someone deceives you?  When someone wrongs you?  God was in control, when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery.  God was in control, when Potiphar’s wife lied and Joseph was thrown into prison. God was in control when Achan stole from Jericho and soldiers from Israel died at the Battle of Ai.  God was in control, when Absalom drove David out of Jerusalem?  God was in control when Solomon married 700 wives.  How foolish of Solomon!

How does Jesus want you to approach relationships?  Rise above the adversities.  Disciple others to the truth.  Serve them.  If you do, you will finish well loving others.  But there is one more thing Jesus teaches us to understand.

5)      Jesus wants you to overcome by loving others exactly as He does  John 13:31-35

We all want to overcome.  Most of us overcome by separating from others.  There is a time for separation.  But not until we have let God work through us in all circumstances.  Now, notice what Jesus says here.

So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately. (John 13:31-32)

How can Jesus talk about glory, when He has just given a piece of bread to Judas to begin the process of betrayal?  He even includes glory for the Father!  It is in the darkest moments that God’s grace shines the brightest.  It is in the trial, the crisis, the trouble, that God’s grace is shown to be sufficient and God’s Holy Spirit is all powerful.  Furthermore Jesus tells them they cannot come with Him, because they have a mission defined by the Great Commission. Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, `Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. (John 13:33)  They could not come now, they have a mission.

            Then Jesus gets to the pinnacle of how to approach relationships – overcome by loving others exactly as He does.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34)

Let’s note several things by this. First, it is a new commandment.  The word “new” means new in quality, not new in sequence or time.  He is not saying the other commandments are no longer needed.  This is a new kind of commandment, because what God calls us to is a humanly impossible activity.  No one can love as Jesus does, unless we die to ourselves and are filled with the Holy Spirit.

            Secondly, the word “commandment” means it’s not an option, preference, suggestion or choice.  It is a commandment from God and is a requirement if we are going to be His disciples. 

Thirdly, the word “love” means to give what is best for others.  It isn’t an expression someone says and then there is nothing good done.  That is hypocrisy.  Love is an action from personal resources done for the best interests of others.

Fourthly, the word “as” means “exactly according to the degree as.”  In other words, there is a comparison made between what Jesus does and what God wants us to do.  God wants us to die exactly as Jesus did for the best interests of others.  He doesn’t want us to say, “I love you,” and then ignore the person or stay away from the person.  If I say, “I love you,” there will be tangible expressions of that love.

Finally, it is a choice we make to be shown as Jesus’ disciples.

By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

If I love as Jesus loved, I will show I am His disciple.  If I don’t, then I will not let others know, because I am not His disciple.

There are good and bad expectations.  Bad expectations put expectations on how others are to act. Bad expectations are really a self-focus of trying to play God.  Good expectations allow God to work through you to love others.  Let’s look at it this way:

Godly expectations anticipate Jesus working through you
so you can love others!

How do you implement this?  First, accept that you have expectations.  If you expect people to always do the right thing; remember your dates, name, appointments, or anniversaries, you’ll have trouble.  They should remember, but if you have expectations, it makes relationships difficult at times.  If you expect people to be civil, raise their kids to be perfect, come to church with their saintly face on, you’ll have trouble.  If you expect people to protect the holiness of others, expect display of modesty, or not use course jokes, you’ll have trouble at times.  Should these things be done by people?  Yes! But if when it doesn’t happen, what should you do?  Serve them, disciple them to the truth, rise above the adversities and overcome by loving exactly as Jesus does.

It’s like when Paul visited with the Elders of Ephesus.

For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.  30“Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking [twisted] things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.  (Act 20:29-30)


For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. (1Co 16:9)

Paul didn’t expect everything to be quiet and calm in the church.  He accepted that trouble would arise.  When it did arise, he was a willing vessel through whom God could work to restore order and maintain the growth in the church.

Secondly, practice three things. Practice compassion, which is a genuine awareness of another’s suffering that leads to a desire to help. Practice forgiveness, which is pardoning for an offense without treating the other person as an offender.  And practice forbearance, which is patience under provocation.  It means you are willing to stand alongside someone in trouble.

Furthermore it means we will die to self for the sake of others.

·         It means I accept suffering and am willing to endure it for another’s sake.

·         It means I’m willing to live with the poor, whether financially, mentally, emotionally or spiritually. Jam. 2:1-5

·         It means I resist the temptation to favoritism Jam. 2:1-5

·         It means I’m committed to persevere in hardship.

·         It means rejecting a personal happiness and a comfort agenda for the sake of another’s standing with God.

·         It means I live with a commitment to forgive.

·         It means I overlook minor offenses by focusing on the big things God is doing.

·         It means I won’t compromise on what is morally right and true. I will point others to God and the Word, and not condemn.

What was the problem with Saul’s expectations?  Saul’s expectations were really a revelation that he wanted to be God himself.  He wanted people to adjust to him, because he was king and he wasn’t oriented to God in humility.  Jonathan, on the other hand, was humble and was oriented to God’s plan, regardless of what that meant for him. 

Expectations are a sign of expressing our desire to be and act like God.  Do your expectations get in the way of offering grace to others?



These are the Message Based Discussion Questions on the reverse side of the insert:

Message Based Discussion Questions
1)      The greater the gap of what you expect in life and what you experience will create a tension that you may or may not deal with well.  What are some examples of expectations and actual experience that people might see in schooling, occupation, marriage, family and/or retirement?
Digging deeper into the text:
2)      What are two of God’s expectations in Matthew 28:18-20?  ___________________; _____________________________ What are some of the challenges to the fulfillment of that mandate? 
3)      What are two of the expectations the writer to the Hebrews has in Hebrews 5:12-14? ________________________ ; _________________________ How does Hebrews 5:12-14 define our responsibilities so that we can discern godly expectations?
4)      Chose two of the passages below.  What are examples of expectations versus experience in the following?   Gen. 4:4-15; 13:1-15; 17:1-18; 22:1-19; 37:1-28 (cf. 42:21).
Implementing this message to your life:
5)      What are expectations that you may have had that God has taught you were wrong?  Based on the principles of the message, what do you need to do?
6)      How can you learn to discern what are godly expectations for schooling, occupation, marriage, family and retirement?  How does that impact your relationships?



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