6th EASTER Sunday
May 21, 2017
Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church
Sioux Falls, SD
Rev. Norman F. Seeger
Jesus: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit — fruit that will last — and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.
“We are Chosen to Love the Lord Who Loved Us First”
1) Loved by Christ
2) We Love Like Christ
Dear Disciples of Jesus Christ,
What would you like in your life? Health? Wealth? Happiness? What will we pray for as Jesus basically hands believers a blank check, promising last Sunday: ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me & my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish & it will be given to you.” What will we ask as Jesus promises again: “I chose you…I appointed you to bear fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” Holding in prayerfully folded hands what is basically a blank check signed by the Creator & Controller of our life; signed by the Owner of all the silver in the hills, will we ask good health? …ample wealth? …unparalleled happiness?
Do not dream too wildly, too worldly! Preparing his listeners for an immense loss they will feel the very next day as Jesus’ life apparently ends when he is hung on a cross to die, our Lord not only prepares faithful followers for Good Friday, Jesus prepares us for every day after Good Friday, assuring us God’s love, love graciously flowing into our life through his Son, God’s love already gives us everything we will really need in time or eternity.
Will health head up my wish list? Is physical fitness my desire today? Would I love to live a long life? Jesus promises, “Because I live, you also will live.”[JN 14] While his promise might not completely comfort souls who will see Jesus die on a cross the very next day, Easter evening (3 days later), a risen Jesus reassures these same souls, “Peace be with you.” Proving he is alive again, Jesus assures us life. Is good health our prayer? Buried with Christ by baptism; we are raised to life in Christ’s resurrection. Living in Christ, we will now live as long as our crucified but risen Savior lives. What more might I ask?
Will wealth lead my wish list? Jesus tells us our heavenly Father who freely feeds birds of the air & most beautifully clothes lilies in a field already knows my real needs. What’s more, Jesus promises our heavenly Father will rightly feed & clothe me as I first focus on his righteousness. Encouraging contentment rather than greed – reminding me, if I have food & clothing, I do not actually need anything else — Jesus nevertheless promises his heavenly Father “will give us whatever we ask in his name.” If our almighty, ever-loving Father will positively answer whatever prayers we offer in line with Jesus’ words, what more could I ever request?
Is personal happiness my priority? A risen Savior assures us eternal health. An undying Intercessor guarantees us necessary wealth. A Lord Jesus, buried the day after speaking these words, but rising from his grave Easter Sunday produces in disciples personal happiness earthly friends might seek but never attain. Prioritizing spiritual rather than physical blessings; focusing my life’s eyes outward rather than inward; Jesus stresses God’s saving love as he emphasizes the fact we do not choose, but we are chosen – chosen to love the Lord who loved us first. Loved by Christ – saved by Jesus’ sacrifice of his sinless self – we in turn love the Lord our God & we love our Lord’s people just the way Jesus first loves us.
Last Sunday’s gospel reading pictured believers as branches attached to Jesus, the vine — pictured fruitful branches producing good words & works of faith because Jesus’ power & love flow through us. Insisting upon Christian love appearing in our life, Jesus continues to today simply say, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”
Our Lord’s expectation is easy to understand. I am to love you the way Jesus loved me. You in turn are to love me the way Jesus loved you. Yet, while Christ’s command is quite clear, who will ever live up to our Savior’s expectation? Not I. Not you. Perfect love cannot possibly flow from imperfect people. Not that this fact erases or alters our Lord’s simple order to love God’s people the same way our Savior first loves us. What Christ’s command does is delineate my disobedience to any one of God’s orders – defines my every sin – as a lack of love for our Lord. But Christ’s command is not a burden, not an unreasonable obligation because every time I see my sin, I see my Savior Jesus lovingly sacrifice himself to redeem me. Know for a fact, Jesus’ command to ‘love’ is not given to bury me under my sins’ death sentence, but is issued to raise joy in my life – joy Jesus experiences as we apply his love in our life & ‘complete joy’ we experience as we imitate Christ.
Being loved by God is undeniably enjoyable. What an unparalleled pleasure to hear Jesus say again: “I chose you, you did not choose me.” How elating it is to hear Jesus reiterate, “I laid down my life for you” — ‘I paid your sins’ penalty!’ Knowing there was no way I could have freed myself from sin’s guilt, no other way I could escape sin’s eternal death penalty – no matter what I can accomplish in my life — no earthly happiness can ever equal Jesus simply explaining , “You are no longer a servant, you are my friend, my brother, a son of God … whom I have taught everything God wants you to know.”
To be loved by God — loved by our savior Jesus Christ — is true happiness, but not total happiness because our Lord’s picture is not complete when God’s love comes to me, but as Christ’s love flows through me. Notice parallels Jesus draws between his life & ours as he commands Christian love to flow from God, through us, to the people around us: “The Father has loved me” …”I have loved you;” “I have obeyed my Father’s commands & remain in his love”…”remain in my love… obey my commands.” As Jesus’ relationship with God his father models the relationship between us & our Lord Jesus, we believers are not only loved by Christ, but we Christians are to love others like Christ so “our joy may be complete.”
Question: What does Jesus’ joy-producing love look like in our life? Early in him ministry, Jesus invites Peter, Andrew, James & John, “Come, follow me,”[JN 1] just as Jesus invites us, “Come to me, all you who are weary & burdened,” promising, “I will give you rest.”[MT 11] Jesus patiently explains to Nicodemus how the Holy Spirit works faith as inexplicably as the wind. Jesus carefully answers questions a Samaritan woman asks about the living water he offers her. Jesus invites both to believe he is the Son God sent to atone for our sin. So today believers invite friends & relatives to listen as Jesus speaks in Scripture, praying the Holy Spirit will use God’s Word to work faith in their hearts. Encouraging acquaintances to worship each week, we invite them to come with us as we follow Jesus. Is it not enjoyable to be loved by Christ & to love others like Christ?
In his ministry, Jesus orders an invalid by the pool of Bethesda, “Get up! Pick up your mat & walk.”[JN 5] Later Jesus urges this man he healed to “stop sinning,” for the result of sin would be unending suffering far greater than any physical pain endured on earth. Miraculously multiplying five barley loaves & two fish, Jesus feeds thousands who follow him up a mountain; identifies himself as the “bread of life…bread that came down from heaven” to keep men’s souls alive forever.[JN 6] Today disciples feed friends when they are hungry & we have bread. We cure, we care for each other’s physical ills as we are able, even as we emphasize the health of a person’s soul because we know our bodies will die one day, no matter what we do, but our Lord desires & designs souls to live forever. Is it not enjoyable to be loved by Christ & to love others like Christ?
In his amazing ministry, Jesus announces he will not stone a woman caught in the act of adultery, nor will he condemn her — in no way excusing or approving, but graciously forgiving her guilt; commanding her to correct her evil actions, to “leave her life of sin.”[JN 8] Jesus opens eyes of a man born blind, removes a consequence of sin in our world while warning us about the real blindness of unbelief. Jesus calls for faithful sheep; Jesus calls for us ‘other sheep’ to ‘listen to his voice;’ to follow him. Saints today call for repentance & correction as we point out each other’s sins. We offer Jesus’ full & free forgiveness. We study God’s inspired Word to open each other’s eyes so we can see paths we Christians will walk through this world. Calling for fellow believers to listen as Jesus speaks; we call for ‘other souls’ who are not yet gathered into God’s flock to follow Jesus their Shepherd. Is it not enjoyable to be loved by Christ & to love others like Christ?
When Jesus assures a mourning Martha he is “the Resurrection & the Life,” [JN 11] our soon-to-be-crucified Savior assures believers we will live even when our breathless bodies may be buried. Jesus proves his power to produce life by raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, picturing how his innocent blood will wash away our sin’s guilt. Jesus promises he will die, rise & ascend to prepare a place for his disciples in heaven. Jesus prays for his disciples, prays his Father will keep us faithful. Noting there is no “greater love than that a man lay down his life for his friends,” Jesus ultimately sacrifices himself on a cross as our Substitute. When we face death today, disciples comfort each other with our Lord’s promises of life — we point to our Savior washing away our guilt — we talk about a risen, ascended Jesus taking us to the heavenly home he has prepared. Saints today ‘sacrifice’ our life to serve like Christ, not selfishly looking out for our own welfare but asking what blessings we may bring to fellow believers. Is it not enjoyable to be loved by Christ & to love others like Christ?
What would I like in life? Health? Wealth? Happiness? What will I ask God to give me? What a blessing to know I need not prioritize one over the other in my prayers, for we who are loved by Christ can not only have it all, but, in Christ, we already possess everything we should ever desire. So, instead of seeking physical health or worldly wealth, instead of desiring human happiness our world looks for in all the wrong places, I pray we will listen as Jesus offers us “complete joy.” I pray we joyfully, faithfully apply God-given love in our life as Jesus pictures our place in God’s plans: God the Father loves Jesus — Jesus loves & obeys his Father — Jesus sacrifices himself — serving his Father; Jesus serves us– Jesus saves us sinners – so, God the Father keeps loving his Son. Paralleling this progression, Jesus loves us — we believers love & obey our Lord’s commands — we love each other — we serve each other; serve our Savior – so, Jesus keeps loving us.