Easter 6b - Mother's Day
Preached: May 13, 2012
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which Jesus speaks to us is John 15.
Just as the Father loved me, so also I loved you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.
I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is my command: Love one another just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this that he lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you. I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his lord is doing. But I have called you friends, because I have made known to you what I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me, but I chose you and have appointed you that you go and bear fruit and that your fruit lasts, that whatever you ask the Father in my name he gives you. This is what I command you: Love another. (John 15:9-17).
This is the word of our Lord.
A mother’s joy over her newborn. After nine long months, after the pain of childbirth, joy overwhelms the agony. Her hands holds a new life, her own dear child, God’s creation through her. What joy!
Jesus speaks of joy in the text today. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11 NIV84). What was Jesus’ joy? To bask in his Father’s love as he carried out the Father’s commands. He says, “… the Father has loved me … I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:9, 10 NIV84). How do we share in his joy? By obeying his commands as we bask in his love. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:9, 10 NIV84).
But how can joy come through obedience? That contradicts our national mindset of freedom as the source of joy. You know the phrase: “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Liberty brings joy, so they say. But how much joy do you see in our country? People pursue their dreams, but even if they achieve them, does that bring lasting joy? Doesn’t worry about holding on to the dream or desire for even more or despondency about what to do next drive out the joy? How often isn’t freedom abused bringing pain and sorrow? Now in this world’s way of doing things, liberty may be better than authoritarianism. But selfishness ruins both.
However, dear friends, Jesus’ way of obedience is entirely different. This isn’t a coerced obedience demanded by a slave-driving tyrant. This is your Friend, your dearest Friend saying, “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12 NIV84). So take to heart the theme: Love each other, since Jesus is your Friend. That’s where joy begins.
What a friend Jesus is! He laid down his life for you. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13 NIV84).
You know that truth well. How many of you mothers have taught it to your children! “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so … Jesus loves me, he who died, heaven’s gate to open wide.” Your children, from little on up, confessed: “Jesus died for me.”
We’ve known that truth well from our mother’s arms on up, but it’s still transforming us. As a little child we knew how to confess it with our words, but confessing it in our actions is training that lasts our entire life. No matter what our age, we fight that spiritual battle to truly practice what it means that Jesus laid down his life for us. We have far yet to mature for it to fill our heart and mind, our will and actions!
Your dearest friend, Jesus Christ, laid down his life for you -- even while we were still his enemies. How do we put that truth into practice? Jesus explains very simply: “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:13 NIV84). Let’s think about that.
First, beware the world’s trap. It wants to divorce love from God’s commands. If a mother tells her five-year old to stop hitting his little brother and the five-year old looks up at her and says, “But I love him and I love you” and then goes on hitting his brother, do those words mean anything? Love obeys. The world imagines that love does whatever feels right in your heart. But Christian love flows from love for God, which obeys his commands. Jesus ties love and obedience together: “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love” (John 15:10 NIV84).
Next, listen to what God says about love. “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6 NIV84). Love stands firm in the truth, refusing to compromise any teaching of the Scriptures. For if love obeys, it certainly doesn’t try to change what God is saying. Manipulating God’s word is not obedience and therefore certainly not love. Love for God stands firm on all that his written word says, no matter the cost -- just as Jesus did. He obeyed his Father in all things, even though it cost him the cross.
Then love for each other seeks to truly serve. “Love is patient. Love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4 NIV84). It turns the other cheek; it walks the extra mile. It does not selfishly cling to my things or insist on my rights. It even lets my person be ridiculed, abused, persecuted, if that furthers Christ’s kingdom in the hearts of others. For love would give all, suffer all, sacrifice all for the sake of Christ. Love each other no matter what the cost, just as Jesus did. He loved you, even though it cost him the cross.
Now, dear Christians, do you see why we have so far to grow in love? We have confessed for years that Jesus laid down his life us, but how far we still have to mature in putting that truth into practice by loving each other just as Jesus loved us. Where does that strength come from?
For your strengthening Jesus takes you back to that same, fundamental truth. He laid down his life for you. What a friend he is! He certainly has your back. Look at his great care and love for you that led him to the cross. That’s what did for you while you and I were still his enemies. How much more, now that he calls you his friend, can’t you be sure and certain that his love will not fail you? That’s why we can love others no matter what the cost, because Jesus is taking care of you. That’s why we can love others without first thinking about ourselves, because Jesus first loved you. Our love for others flows from Jesus’ love for us. Love each other, because Jesus is your Friend, your Friend who laid down his life for you.
Now Jesus’ friendship is unique, one-of-kind. Many things that apply in other friendship don’t apply here. Jesus talks about only two similarities. First that a friend lays down his life, just as did. We talked about that. And second that a friend shares his plans, which brings us to part two.
Jesus says, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15 NIV84). He makes the Father’s plan known.
“I have called you friends,” Jesus says. Now don’t misuses that truth as if he were our buddy with whom we can get away with stuff. We didn’t choose each other, like mutual friends who have something in common. He chose us. He chose us not because of anything in us. We were rebels hostile to him. We were sinners repulsive to him. We were traitors serving Satan. He chose us only because of his love, grace, and mercy according to his good will. We were powerless to come to him, and our inborn, sinful self hated him. “You did not chose me; but I chose you” (John 15:16 NIV84), Jesus says. This is a very different kind of friendship.
He is our God; we are his creation. He has paid the ransom to redeem us; we belong to him. He freed us from slavery to sin to be servants of righteousness. As our God and Redeemer he is in every sense our Lord, yet he also calls us friends. Why? Because he has made the Father’s plan known to you and me.
What is that plan? Go back to that night when Nicodemus visited Jesus, recorded in John 3. Jesus had told him that only the Holy Spirit working through the water of Baptism can bring anyone into the kingdom of God. It’s a rebirth. And although the Spirit can’t be seen just like the wind can’t, yet even on this earth we see the results of the Spirit’s work changing the lives of those reborn. Nicodemus questions how this can be. Jesus responds by saying that he’s spoken to him about things that happen on this earth, yet he didn’t believe. How would he believe heavenly things?
But then in his mercy, Jesus pulls back the heavenly curtain and reveals the secret council of Father. The Son of Man who came down from heaven from the Father’s side would be lifted up on the cross to bring eternal life to all who believe. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV84).
That, dear friends, is the Father’s plan. No one could have imagined it, but Jesus has made it known. “I have called you friends, for everything I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15 NIV84). And he carried out the Father’s plan, laying down his life on the cross and taking it up again on Easter.
He’s the friend who makes the Father’s plan known to you. See the Father’s great love that gave his Son for you and chose you in him. That gives us confidence to love each other. For your status before God does not depend on your work or effort but on his mercy in Christ. That’s the Father’s plan that your friend, Jesus, has made known to you.
And the Father’s plan not only points back to the cross, but forward as well. “I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit -- fruit that will last” (John 15:16). And as we prayer for the strength to bear this fruit, those prayers in Jesus’ name are answered. Last week we talked about that fruit of the Spirit as branches connected to the Vine: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and the works that follow them. How Jesus command, “Love each other,” sums that all up!
Produce fruit. Love each other. For you know that this is the Father’s plan for you. These are the works he has prepared in advance for you to do. His word makes his will clear. Love each other as you carry out the Father’s will obeying his commands. That’s the Father’s plan for you.
Now as Jesus spoke these words that night, the disciples were struggling with sadness. How that sadness gave way to despair when Jesus was arrested and crucified! How incomplete there joy was! But after the resurrection as they remembered his words and took them to heart, how their joy increased! “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11 NIV84).
So also, dear friends, at times as we strive to love each other, we may feel like those disciples who thought they had lost everything. But joy grows as faith takes to heart the words of our Friend, Jesus, who makes the Father’s plan known. What joy to know the Father’s love that gave you his Son! What joy to know the friendship of Jesus who laid down his life for you to bring you! What joy to know the Holy Spirit’s work in you to produce fruit that lasts. This life is filled with its labor pains, but what joy awaits us in Christ! Until then what joy to love one another because Jesus is our Friend!
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.