Maundy Thursday

Preached: March 20, 2008

Jesus' Love Fills Us
1 John 4:10, 11

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus today is 1 John 4:10, 11

In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as atonement for our sins. Beloved, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:10, 11)

This is the Word of our Lord

Dear friends in Christ, loved by God:

John was there. He saw it all unfold that Passover night. He was there in the upper room. Jesus washed his feet. Jesus gave him his body and blood. He was there in Gethsemane. Jesus asked him to keep watch with him and pray. Jesus was betrayed and arrested before his eyes. He was there at the cross. Jesus entrusted the care of Mary, his mother, to him. John may well have seen the blood and water flowing from Jesus' pierced side.

John was there to witness God's love for sinners. And this same John, many years later, writes “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10 NIV). Let's walk with John tonight and witness Jesus' love for us.

For without Jesus, we are empty, like a dry cup in the middle of a dessert under the burning heat of the noonday sun. Only suffering, death, and hell come from that. But Jesus is living water. He brings you joy and life and heaven. Why? Because of his love that we do not deserve, his love toward us who hated him, his love that went all the way to the cross for you. How high and wide and deep and broad his love is! Jesus' love fills you and me. Drink in his love. Overflow with his love.

A. Drink in Jesus' love

Consider the dry glasses we were. Some imagine that they can love without Jesus. Certainly anyone can have affections, passions, or desires, all of which the world labels as love. But this is not the love that comes from God. This is not the love that John is talking about.

Some imagine that they can even love God without Jesus. But what sinner could love the true God, who is holy and just? He hates sin and damns the sinner. Who could love the true God whose Law demands what we cannot give, namely, complete and perfect obedience in heart, mind, speech, and action? And anything short of that brings the ceaseless, fiery torture of hell. For without Jesus, we are left with only our conscience to accuse and condemn us as failures before the God. Anyone without Jesus who claims to love God has invented their own god.

But don't despair. Don't give up. Don't figure, “God could never love me.” For in Jesus God's love is completely different. Now based on what fallen mankind considers love, then it's true God could never love someone like you or like me. You see, the only love that fallen mankind knows is love that is drawn out from us. Something attracts our love to it. Something makes us feel good about ourselves. But there was nothing in us to attract God, nothing in us for God to feel good about. For we began life empty of all good, empty of all true love for God, empty of all genuine trust in him. We began life filled with evil desires, only able to do that which was always sinful. That's why it's so easy to think, “God could never love someone like me.”

But God's love is completely different. He loves because that is who he is. His love is not dependent on something in us attracting him or making him feel good. For he is the Lord. He is the I AM, independent of all. He does whatsoever he pleases. And it so pleases him to love worthless, undeserving, unlovable sinners, like you and like me. But note this is not a doting, permissive affection that the world labels as love. This love eagerly, earnestly desires to save worthless, undeserving, unlovable sinners like us, to save us by making the full payment to atone for our sin and so changing us from children of sin and death into children of God who walk in the light. This saving love flows only through Jesus.

Yes, God's saving love flows only through Jesus. He alone is the payment that cancels our debt of sin. He alone is the sacrifice that brings us God's favor and forgiveness. He alone is the atonement that reconcile us to God through his blood, his holy, precious blood. For Jesus is our God, the Son of the Father, sent by the Father. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. What love!

So when your conscience troubles you and you wonder, “How could God ever love someone like me,” don't look into your own heart to see what you're like. Look to Jesus. Witness his love. Witness his love that loves you and me despite what we were. Witness his love saving you at the cost of his own life, at the cost of suffering your hell as he hung on the cross. Taste his love as he gives you his body and blood. For Jesus wants you to know and believe without doubt that what he did on the cross, he did for you. Yes, he did it for you, despite the sinner that you are.

What a treasure the Lord's Supper is! It feeds your faith and drives out your doubts. Yes, God loves you. See how Jesus gives you his body to eat and his blood to drink. Yes, God loves you. See how Jesus holds before you the sacrifice he made once and for all on the cross. Yes, God loves you. See how with the bread and wine Jesus makes his words visible, “Given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” What a treasure the Lord's Supper is! Don't lose it by coming with an unrepentant heart that wants to keep on sinning. Don't lose it by failing to come often. Rather treasure it, and drink in his love.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10 NIV).

B. Overflow with Jesus' love

Now as Jesus' love fills us, we overflow with his love. We overflow with love for God. This love turns away from sin. It says, “I no longer want to do that. I want to listen to my God and do what he says.” For you see, love for God obeys his commandments.

We also overflow in love towards others. This is not the natural kinds of love that most anyone can show. Rather, this is love that imitates God's love. This is love that loves others, even if they don't deserve it, even if they are be mean or hateful toward us. It loves even when a part of us doesn't want to. “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11 NIV).

Jesus illustrated that love for us. This love does not boast or puff itself up. Rather it humbly serves. Jesus washed his disciples' feet in humble service. This love seeks the eternal wellbeing of others even at the cost of our own comfort and pleasure. For at the cost of the cross Jesus secured our wellbeing for time and for eternity. This love prays even for our enemies wanting them to know Jesus and be saved. For while we were still sinners, still God's enemies, Jesus died to save us.

Only Jesus' love for you can fill you to overflow in love for others. So fill up with Jesus' love. Hear his loving promises proclaimed in worship. Witness his saving love at the foot of the cross tomorrow. Read his love letter to you, the Scriptures. Feast on his love in the Lord's Supper. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313