Body armor can’t stop the wound of a friend

Pastor Jeff Struecker

When I first joined the army. This was back before body armor. I’m not really this old, but they issued me this old-school Vietnam-era flak jacket when I first joined. This thing weighed about 40 pounds. It wouldn’t stop a bullet. It was designed to stop that flaming hot shrapnel from tearing through your skin if a hand grenade or a mine went off.

But I remember lifting that thing up and thinking it is so unlikely that I get hit by a grenade, and this thing is so heavy that I don’t even have to wear it. I would be dead from dehydration long before the enemy threw a hand grenade at me. I’m never going to wear that thing. And I put it in a closet, and not only me, but the rangers that I worked with, they hated that flak jacket so much that none of us ever wore it. And finally, the unit got smart, and they just stopped giving it to us because they knew it was just sitting there gathering dust in a locker somewhere. It wasn’t until a week before I went to Somalia that I ever saw this piece of equipment.

The R&D guys handed it to us, and they were like, Hey, we want you to wear this while you’re over in Somalia, and it’ll stop a bullet of any caliber all the way up until an AK 47, and I remember thinking about this thing exactly like it was a flak jacket.

Like I’m not interested and not going to wear that thing, it’s going to kill me from dehydration. I’m going to Africa in the middle of the summer, and I don’t plan to get shot in the chest where this thing will protect your heart, lungs, and all of the vital organs. And of course, my boss said, I don’t care if you want to wear it or not, Jeff, put that thing on, you’re going to wear it.

And this body armor became such a massive success in black hawk down that it became an instant piece of equipment. So important that almost every ranger that I know, everything about what they wear in combat is built around this piece of equipment.

Here’s what I want you to understand. We’re gonna take a look at a pretty famous passage from the Bible today in John Chapter 13, and I got some bad news for you because no body armor on planet earth can stop the wounds of a friend. Today, Jesus is going to be wounded deeply by one of his closest followers. I don’t even need to know who you are to know. You’ve been hurt badly by somebody, and no plate can stop somebody from stabbing you in the back. No plate can protect your heart when you open it up to a relationship, and then somebody hurts you in that relationship.

You’re going to see something about how Jesus deals with him today that, frankly, all of us in this room need to be reminded of because if you’re like me, you want to shut down as soon as you get hurt and shut everybody else out.

Jesus will be hurt really bad by one of his closest followers. There’s something that I think we need to learn as we watch Jesus because this is what it looks like when you try to live your life like Jesus in this crazy, mixed-up sinful world today. When sin gets into relationships and gets into every human relationship, it will hurt people, so you’re going to be hurt again and again. But if you follow some simple examples from Jesus, I think you’ll be able to find the ability to open your heart up again, even after you’ve been hurt.

Body armor can’t stop the wound of a friend

So here are the three things that I want you to hear from the Bible today about relationships. They’re gonna hurt love and trouble. Unfortunately, these two go together like a hand in a glove, and where you have love, you’re going to have pain. Love hurts because people hurt one another, and there’s no way around it. As long as you’re in a relationship, you open yourself up to being hurt in a marriage or friendship. The deeper the relationship goes, the deeper the hurt. And there are only two options here: shut everybody out or get hurt again and again because sin will cause people to hurt you.

Love and ‘trouble’ go together

And by the way, you’ve heard other people in relationships too. So, we’re gonna take a look at John chapter 13. This is Jesus’s communion meal, his last supper. And this is Jesus describing this shocking turn of events. Nobody in the room saw this one coming except for Jesus when he said, somebody in this room is gonna stab me in the back. Somebody is going to betray me today. 

John chapter 13, we’re going to start the story of Judas, the famous betrayal of Jesus at the last supper, in verse 25. In fact, this is the painting that da Vinci painted that became a book and an international best-selling movie, a whole bunch of malarkey in that movie. But this is the event When Jesus had said this, he was troubled in his spirit and testified, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” I want you to pay attention to how the disciples react to this statement when he tells them somebody’s gonna betray me tonight. The disciples started looking at one another—uncertain which one he was speaking about. If you were in the room and one of his disciples, you started asking if you are talking about me right now, Jesus? One of his disciples, the one Jesus loved, was reclining close beside Jesus. Simon Peter motioned to him to find out who it was he was talking about. So he leaned back against Jesus and asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

This event did not catch Jesus off guard. He knew that somebody was going to betray him, but just because he knew it would happen didn’t make it any less painful. So he’s having this last supper, he says, somebody will turn around and stab me in the back. Somebody will use my relationship with them against me, and somebody will betray me. Everyone in the room was so shocked that they were asking if Jesus was talking about them.

The Bible tells us that this relationship troubled him. This word has been used now three times in the book. Every time this has been used in this book, it’s always about Jesus, and somebody else. Meaning relationships hurt Jesus, just like they hurt you, and there was no way around it. 

There’s no way to totally protect yourself from the hurt that a friend will do to you. Even the son of God couldn’t stop a friend from hurting him. 

John 13: 21-25

When Jesus had said this, he was troubled in his spirit and testified, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples started looking at one another—uncertain which one he was speaking about. One of his disciples, the one Jesus loved, was reclining close beside Jesus. Simon Peter motioned to him to find out who it was he was talking about. So he leaned back against Jesus and asked him, “Lord, who is it?”

Bible Scholars have asked the question, Jesus, you knew back in chapter six that he was going to betray you, why would you call Judas in the first place? And Jesus has already answered the question. This had to happen so that the will of God would be fulfilled. 

Now, let me remind all of us of something. Everyone in this room has hurt somebody that’s close to you, and everyone in this room needs that person’s forgiveness. You ultimately need God’s forgiveness. It’s so important that Jesus put it in his model prayer, The Lord’s prayer, forgive me, God, like, I forgive other people who have hurt me. 

All of us have hurt somebody. There’s just no way of avoiding it. So, you have two options here. You can just simply open your heart up and find the strength from God to forgive when you’ve been hurt, or ask forgiveness when you’ve hurt somebody, or you can run and live in a cave.

Can I get real for just a second? I’m talking to people who have turned their living room into a cave and started hiding from other people because they’ve been hurt. Maybe you’ve been burned by the church. Maybe somebody close to you stabbed you in the back, and they hurt you. So now you’ve withdrawn from other people. I’m talking about the guy or the gal across town who could be here but is not here because they don’t want to be here. And it’s not health reasons or some other reason why you’re not here. The real reason deep in your heart why you’re not here is you don’t want to open your heart up because you don’t want to get hurt again. 

If anyone knew he would be burned but still opened his heart up, it was Jesus. You and I need God’s help to open our hearts up. Even after we’ve been burned, knowing that if I go deep with this guy or this gal, this marriage or this friendship or my relationship at work, I could get burned if I go deep. In fact, yeah, you probably will, but the only other option here is even worse than getting burned. If you do open your heart up, let’s just be honest. Maybe they will take advantage of you and stab you in the back because an enemy isn’t in a position where they can stab you in the back. You typically face your enemy, and your friends have got your six, and your friends, because they’ve got your six, are now in a position where they can stab you in the back. You wouldn’t get stabbed in the back by an enemy unless you’re running away.


Only a friend can stab you in the back

Jesus gets stabbed in the back by somebody very close to him, and it shocks all the disciples. When Jesus says what he describes next, Starting in verse 26, Jesus replied, “He’s the one I give the piece of bread to after I have dipped it.” When he had dipped the bread, he gave it to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son. After Judas ate the piece of bread, Satan entered him. So Jesus told him, “What you’re doing, do quickly.”

This is a communion meal, and if you think about Jesus’s life up to this point, this should be the greatest moment of his life. This should be the pinnacle of his ministry. Instead of celebrating and making this the greatest party, they’ve ever been part of. It’s awful because of what’s happening at this table.  

And Jesus knows what’s going on in Judas’s soul that ought to scare you a little bit too because he knows what happens in my soul, even when my face looks pretty on the outside. There could be something very dark, very evil inside me, and it can be you too. And instead of celebrating, Jesus dips the bread and gives it to Judas. Jesus isn’t setting Judas up to do what’s about to happen. Jesus even tells us in his word that it’s Satan that entered into Judas and made this thing happen. 

I’ve been struggling and meditating all week long because I’ve been asking myself every time somebody gets hurt in a relationship. Is it because satan entered into the person that hurt you, and Satan did to them what he did to Judas? You see, the tool that Satan used against Judas is selfishness. 

I can’t tell you how many hundreds of hours of marriage counseling I’ve done when a spouse comes in and says, all my spouse cares about is themselves. They always put themselves in front of me. How am I supposed to live in a relationship with a selfish spouse who only thinks about themselves? It’s happened to all of us because relationships will hurt people. 

This meal should have been the greatest moment of his life, and instead, it becomes one of the most painful. And unfortunately, I see this played out time and time again as a pastor. You know, I don’t do many weddings. Still, when I do weddings, there’s usually somebody in the room, one or two people in the room, that can ruin a wedding ceremony and the wedding reception. Do you know who it is? It’s the monster in law. I mean, the mother-in-law that can absolutely ruin a wedding ceremony. You see, sometimes they’re so controlling. They’re so selfish. They want this ceremony to go the way they think it’s supposed to go, that they’ll actually even hurt their darling little bride or the groom to get their way during the wedding ceremony. 

Before the rehearsal, I gather the whole family around, and I’m like, these two will be married, which means I don’t even want to hear what’s on your mind for every decision they’ll make for the next few minutes.

John 13: 26-27

Jesus replied, “He’s the one I give the piece of bread to after I have dipped it.” When he had dipped the bread, he gave it to Judas, Simon Iscariot’s son. After Judas ate the piece of bread, Satan entered him. So Jesus told him, “What you’re doing, do quickly.”

And I’m sure I have offended countless parents at a wedding rehearsal, but I have seen too many wedding ceremonies and receptions that should have been the most beautiful moment in their lives. It’s miserable for everybody in the room because some selfish family member threw a fit and pouted because they didn’t get their way.  

What Jesus is experiencing is this should have been the most significant moment of his life. But instead, he’s betrayed, and it’s miserable.

It’s probably a good time for me to remind you and myself that you were selfish and you betrayed him. Also, it’s called sin. Every time you and I choose to do our own thing instead of what we know, God expects of us. Every time we break one of those commandments. Our own selfishness comes in, and it hurts the relationship between Jesus and us, but instead of shutting us out and sending us to hell, which is what we deserve. He loves us enough that he’s willing to become the sacrifice for us so that this relationship can be reunited and we be close to him again. 

I betrayed him. You betrayed him. Satan has tempted and entered into us by using our own selfishness against us. You see, the truth is that if you choose to shut everybody down and shut everybody out and turn your living room into a cave where people can’t hurt you. You’re opening yourself up to the only pain worse than being hurt by a friend. It’s the lonely nights, those dark lonely nights when you need a friend. But you haven’t been a friend, and now you don’t have any friends that you can call on when you need them the most. 

Lonely nights are the darkest

In verse 28. None of those reclining at the table knew why he said this to him. Since Judas kept the money bag, some thought that Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival,” or that he should give something to the poor. After receiving the piece of bread, he immediately left. And it was night.

If you’ve been with us in the book of John up to this point, you know that word right there, night does not only refer to stars are out, the moon is shining, and the sun went down. 

Jesus is not just talking about darkness, he’s actually talking about evil and darkness. Evil got ahold of Judas, and now Judas has become an instrument of evil. There is a name synonymous with betrayal, anybody know what that name is, Judas. His name is actually a nickname. We talk about pushing back the darkness in this church, and when we talk about darkness, we’re talking about evil. 

John 13: 28-30

None of those reclining at the table knew why he said this to him. Since Judas kept the money-bag, some thought that Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival,” or that he should give something to the poor. After receiving the piece of bread, he immediately left. And it was night.

You see, it’s the job of light to penetrate the darkness and push back the darkness, and it’s the job of Christians to confront evil and stand against evil. And the more times that light confronts darkness, the less dark the darkness becomes. When enough light confronts darkness long enough, you don’t have darkness anymore. Now you have light. 

That’s what we want for this city that we live in. When we talk about 2 Cities, we want this city to mirror the heavenly city that we’re gonna live in one day, and until that day comes, we want to make this city as much as we’re able to like the heavenly city that we’re going to live in. 

But we also recognize times are evil, and there is evil all around us. I have to be really, really careful because evil will get inside of me, and that’s why I need brothers and sisters around me. I need guys and gals who will lock arms with me, come alongside me, and be there when I’m tempted and having a hard time. 

The only thing worse than being hurt by a friend is not having anybody around you when you’re in need, and you want to reach out to somebody, but there’s nobody there to reach out to. 

There are really only two options here, and if you’re going to follow the model of Jesus. You’ve got to open your heart up even though you’ve been burned; your spouse isn’t treating you the way that you’re supposed to be treated, you can use it as a tool to get angry, get bitter and then go get a divorce or you can get on your knees. You can ask God again and again and again for the strength to forgive and open your heart up, and maybe one day, by opening your heart up enough. Your spouse stops being selfish. Your boss stops being greedy and trying to control you and make themselves look good by making you look bad. But it’s only going to happen by being a friend that you can have those kinds of friendships.