May 13, 2012 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA
“As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
Jesus’ words tell about the relationship that He has with His Father. Hearing them at the tail end of the Easter Season, after being exposed to the life of Jesus from birth to death to resurrection, you grasp what He is saying. It is much the same way that the Eleven who heard these words of Jesus on Holy Thursday began to understand what He meant.
Jesus says that the Father has loved Him and that He has kept the Father’s commandments and abode in the Father’s love. Signs of that had been given throughout Jesus’ ministry. They came when the Father made declarations about Jesus: “This is My Beloved Son, with Him I am well-pleased.” Jesus declares: “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me.” Jesus speaks about His relationship with the Father regarding His actions: “If I am not doing the works of My Father, then do not believe Me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father.”
Speaking this way, Jesus makes known the bond that He has with the Father. But now, Jesus says that bond is reflected in another way: “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My commandments and abide in His love.” The bond that Jesus has with His Father is reflected in the bond that He has created with His disciples. Just as the Father loved Jesus, so Jesus loves His disciples. Just as Jesus abode in the Father’s love and kept His commandments, so Jesus’ disciples will abide in His love and keep His commandments. The relationship that Jesus has with His Father now stands as the pattern for the relationship that He has with His disciples.
But how is this so? Can people establish such a bond? Is it possible for humans to create a relationship that is like the eternal unity and love that is found between the Father and the Son? Such questions must be answered negatively. No, that is not feasible. No, they cannot initiate such a relationship much less maintain it. But note that Jesus does not tell His disciples that they must start such a relationship. He does not instruct them to create such a bond. No, He says something much different.
After Jesus describes the relationship that He has with the Father, He says: “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.” Jesus does not describe the relationship that He has with the Father so that His disciples would hear about it and lament that they could never have such a bond. No, Jesus tells this to bring joy to them. Then Jesus follows up that statement about joy with a declaration about what He has done for His disciples: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down His life for His friends.” Jesus speaks of the love that He has loved the disciples with. It is the greatest of all loves: He dies for them so that they may live. That is what His entire time on earth had led up to. Just hours before He performs this, Jesus reveals to His disciples what He does for them, an act that cannot be surpassed.
This act done by God’s Son establishes a bond between Him and His disciples. It is how these imperfect humans are shown a love that is deficient in no way. It is how they are brought into relationship with Him, a relationship that reflects that which exists between the Father and the Son. So Jesus says: “You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you.” Jesus has established the relationship with His disciples. He has revealed what He has done for them. By His choice, they have been chosen and appointed to share in the new life that He gives.
But Jesus’ words do not speak about the Eleven in the Upper Room only. No, they also speak about you. The relationship that He establishes with the Eleven is established with many more. That is what Peter, one of those who heard Jesus’ words in the Upper Room, declares: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him…. To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” Peter’s words reveal the expansive nature of Jesus’ work: it is meant for people in every nation; it has application to all who believe in Him.
Peter’s statement is complemented by what John, another of those who were in the Upper Room, writes: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him.” Belief in Jesus’ identity, including His relationship with the Father and what He has done to redeem the world, is found in those who are born of God. Again, this speaks of divine action creating and establishing the bond that Jesus has with His disciples. By His choice, others have been chosen and appointed to share in the new life that He gives. Their selection is enacted as Jesus comes to them: “This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood.” Those who are baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection have this relationship with Him established.
This is what has taken place for you. You have not established a bond with Jesus, but He has established one with you. He has chosen and appointed you to be His disciples. He calls you to be His friends. Like the Eleven in the Upper Room, you have all that Jesus heard from the Father made known to you. Receiving the Gospel of Jesus, you hear what He did to display the love of the Father to mankind, even the laying down of His life: “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him…. They put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree, but God raised Him on the third day and made Him to appear….” This is what the apostles bore witness to, as they were chosen: “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that [Jesus] is the One appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.” In this testimony, the Spirit is present: “And the Spirit is the One who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.” That is how you have been born of God and led to belief in Jesus.
By Jesus’ choice, you also have been appointed “that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you.” Jesus gives you this instruction: “These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” Jesus does so because you are now in the relationship that reflects the one He shares with the Father. You are made to be like Him: “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” Your will and desire is to act like Jesus does. It is what the apostle describes: “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” That is the charter for the life of discipleship that has been given to you by Jesus’ choice and appointment. Because you desire the same relationship and bond with Jesus as He had with His Father, you seek out what is necessary to maintain it and you look for ways to live it out.
Such will and desire is not naturally yours, but it has been created in you. It moves you to abide in Jesus’ love. It leads you to the places where the Spirit is found, the One who delivers the merits of Jesus’ perfect to you. It brings forth the fruit of good works that you bear as you “love God and obey His commandments.” When such things are lacking, when the evidences of this relationship with Jesus are not seen or when it seems challenging to live as He did, then you are led to pray as you did this morning: “O God, the Giver of all that is good, by Your holy inspiration grant that we may think those things that are right and by Your merciful guiding accomplish them.” And you trust that such prayers are answered, for your Lord said: “whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you.”
Your effort does not create or maintain this bond between you and Jesus. No, that quickly becomes quite evident, even during your best attempts. Every one of your failures, every time that your actions look nothing like the love that Jesus has for you, every venture away from abiding in Jesus’ love—these all point out the deficiencies that are in you. But note well again what Jesus says concerning you: “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you.” That perfect love which is deficient in no way has established the bond with you. That perfect love which is deficient in no way overcomes what is lacking.
Jesus has acted for you. By His choice, Jesus has made you His friends. By His choice, He has laid down His life for you. Jesus has made known all that His Father has said: the promise of life everlasting for you who have been born of Him, who believe that He is the Christ, who will overcome the world through faith and reliance in Him. And all these things about what He has done for your sake, Jesus has spoken to you: “that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”
+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.