Sunday, May 6, 2018

Sermon -- 6th Sunday of Easter (May 6, 2018)

JOHN 15:9-17


In the name + of Jesus.

M: Alleluia!  Christ is risen!
C: He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

     One of the earliest creeds of the Christian Church was rather simple: “Jesus is Lord.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)  If you have grown up in the Christian Church, that creed does not sound too impressive; certainly not controversial.  In the days of the apostles during the Roman Empire, that creed was considered treasonous.  The creed of the Roman Empire was, “Caesar is Lord.”  That meant that Caesar was sovereign.  Caesar's word was supreme.  For some, it meant that Caesar was divine.  Christians refused to make this confession.  For many, it cost them their lives.  But the Christians would not make any concessions to their faith for the sake of Caesar.  While they would honor and obey him as emperor, Caesar was most definitely not “Lord.”  The Christians zealously held on to their creed, “Jesus is Lord,” which meant that Jesus is sovereign.  Jesus' word is supreme.  Jesus is divine.  Jesus is Jehovah who created heaven and earth, who parted the Red Sea, who became flesh to live and die in order to redeem sinners, and who is risen and lives forever.
     When Jesus spoke to his apostles on Maundy Thursday, just hours before he went to the cross, he gave them a new command.  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)  Jesus did not follow up his command with a threat, saying, “Remember: I am Lord; you are my subjects.  If you don't keep my commands, you will pay the price and face my divine wrath.”  Now, he could have said that.  He would have had every right.  But Jesus did not flaunt the fact that he is Lord.  Instead, he said something which is much more endearing and comforting: “You are my friends...” (John 15:14)  Jesus' words to his apostles are also intended for you.  Jesus is pleased to call you friends.
     Now, when you and I chose our friends, we base our friendships on common interests, common opinions, and other similarities.  While we might know people who have different interests and contrary opinions, we usually choose not to spend too much time with them.  Even if we call them friends, we do not give them as much time, care, or conversation as we do with the ones we call our true friends.
     Jesus is pleased to call you his friend.  But you are not his friends because he finds you so loveable or deserving of his friendship.  Our interests conflict with his will.  Our opinions are at odds with his word.  Although we are willing to confess, “Jesus is Lord,” with our mouths, our actions testify that we have a different master.  Jesus says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  But we see our neighbor with his problems and reply, “There's a reason they call them YOUR problems.”  Jesus says, “Love one another as I have loved you,”  We consider it a noble achievement that we tolerate someone else.  But to sacrifice for one whom we find annoying?  We answer with a resounding, “No!”  You cannot say, “Jesus is Lord,” and “No, I won't do what you say.”  Only one of those is true.  Lords are to be obeyed, not defied.  Repent. 
     You will not find a verse in the Bible which says, “God so tolerated the world....”  God loved the world, and he demonstrated that love by sending his Son into the world to remove everything from you that he would find offensive and objectionable.  Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)  But it is even more than that.  The Bible declares, “While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.” (Romans 5:10)  Jesus' love is shown in that he does all things for our good—not because we are loveable, but because he is loving.  Therefore, he suffered for sins that he did not commit.  He took the curse that he did not deserve.  He laid down his life for our good—to take away our transgressions and to secure our place in God's kingdom.  You are not merely subjects of the king who are to obey or pay the price.  Jesus is pleased to call you his friends, which means he has also converted your will so that you are more and more willing to live as it pleases him.  He has made you a friend of God.  Therefore, you recognize that God's word is good, that God's ways are right, and that God's love should be seen in your words and actions.
     Jesus is pleased to call you friends.  Jesus shows you that friendship by doing everything for your good.  He says, “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.” (John 15:15)  Jesus has made us his friends through his word, and Jesus keeps us as friends through his word.  Everything Jesus has revealed from his Father he has revealed for our good.  If that word convicts you of sin, Jesus does this for your good so that you will repent and not perish in your sins.  If his word corrects you, Jesus does this for your good so that you will not stray from the faith and lose his salvation.  And of course, Jesus continues to speak tenderly to you with his promises—comforting you, encouraging you, and assuring you that he is your good and faithful friend in good days and in bad.  Jesus is pleased to call you his friend.
     So, when Jesus gives a new command, it is not as a drill sergeant barking out orders to his underlings.  It is a friend who directs his friends to be like him.  “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)  Just as Jesus poured out love upon the world—whether those whom he claims as friends or those who remain his enemies, so he wants us to pour out such love upon others.  You do not do this because others are so loveable.  Some people make it very hard to love them.  They are obnoxious, rude, or crooked.  Some are even your enemies.  You do not love them because they deserve it or because you might gain something out of them.  You don't even love them so that they might believe.  Our prayer is that they would, but if that is the only reason you love people, then you will tire of them very quickly when they do not respond like you want them to.  Jesus has called on us to “love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)  That means we seek the good of others and help them in their need.  And we do this simply because this is what Jesus has given us to do.
     Jesus is pleased to call you friends.  He has made his word known to you and shown you the heart of the heavenly Father.  Since you recognize the Father's loving heart is good, Jesus calls you to have the same loving heart for all, and especially for those who belong to the family of God.  These are your brothers and sisters, recipients of the same divine mercy, heirs of the same glorious promise, and objects of the Lord's affections.
     The Lord Jesus Christ does not merely put up with you and all of your quirks, your odd sense of humor, and your favorite style of music and clothing.  The Lord Jesus loves you.  When he redeemed you, it was because he wants to spend his eternity with you—to talk with you, to laugh with you, and to feast with you.  Jesus became the friend of sinners to bring them into his family so that they would be his for all eternity.  He did this for your fellow members.  He did this for you.  Since Jesus has so loved us in this way, even forgiving our sins against him, so we also ought to love one another.  For love comes from God.  And now, we are his.  Therefore, let love also come from us.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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