John 14:15-21 “If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”
One Saturday morning, six-year-old Devin decided to fix his parents pancakes. He found a big bowl and spoon, pulled a chair to the counter, opened the cupboard and pulled out the heavy flour canister, spilling it on the floor. He scooped some of flour into the bowl with his hands, leaving a floury trail on the floor, which by now had a few tracks left by his kitten. He mixed in a cup of milk and added some sugar. Devin was covered with flour and getting frustrated. He wanted this to be something very good for Mom and Dad, but it was getting very bad. He didn’t know what to do next, whether to put it all into the oven or on the stove, (and he didn’t know how the stove worked)!
Suddenly, he saw his kitten licking from the mixing bowl and reached to push her away, knocking the egg carton to the floor.
Frantically, he tried to clean up this monumental mess but slipped on the eggs, getting his pajamas white, wet and sticky. And just then he saw Dad standing at the door. Big crocodile tears welled up in Devin’s eyes. He had just wanted to do was something good, but instead he had made a terrible mess. He was sure a scolding was coming, maybe even a spanking. But his father just watched him. Then, walking through the mess, Dad picked up his crying son, hugged him and loved him, getting his own pajamas white, wet and sticky in the process.
That is how God deals with us. We try to do something good in life, but it turns into a mess. We may try really hard, but we forget to keep God first in our life; we take God’s name in vain and fail to set aside time to worship Him. We make a mess out of our family, our marriage gets all sticky, we insult a friend or can’t stand our job, we hate, lie, steal, covet, gossip, and then our health goes sour.
Sometimes we just stand there in tears because we can’t think of anything else to do. That’s when God picks us up and loves us and forgives us, even though some of our mess gets all over Him.
But just because we might mess up, we can’t stop trying to “make pancakes” of love for God and for others. That’s what Jesus is teaching us today when He says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” Jesus is teaching us to live the Christian life of love. He is training us to understand that we are going to mess up our relationships; we are going to fail to keep His commandments; we are going to disappoint those we try to love. But we cannot give up, because we have a Savior who will clean us up, teach us how to love, and train us how to live the Christian life of love.
When Jesus says, “If you love me, you will obey what I command,” it is not a command from Jesus, telling us what we ought to do as Christians. It is rather a statement of fact. It is a description of reality. Jesus is teaching that love shapes who we are and what we do.
Unfortunately, because we do not love and cannot love the way Jesus commands, our life is not in a good shape. All we have to do is look in the mirror or look at our family or look at our nation, and we see how our failure to love perfectly has ruined so many good things.
So where does that leave us? Well actually, and perhaps ironically, that leaves us right where we need to be! For acknowledging our sin and inability and failure is the first step in living the Christian life. To look at the commandments and see in them a standard that we cannot attain is to receive them and know them exactly as God intended! For God’s Law was never meant to be a life-giving device, but rather the way to show us our sin; to show us our need; to show us our failure; to show us our lack of love and life; to show us that on our own, we cannot live this Christian life, no matter how hard we try. We will always fall, always fail, always become a sticky mess. But when we acknowledge that truth, we are right where God wants us to be. For when we are dead in our trespasses and sins, then God gives us life. True life. The Christian life.
Please understand that the Christian life is not something that we are able to do or accomplish, but, rather, it is a gift from God. A gift of His grace.
And so Jesus tells His disciples where this life comes from, when He says to them: “Because I live, you also will live.” Or in other words, our life is connected to His life. Apart from Him, we have no real life. But because He lives, we live. Because He died and rose again, we who are born without life and love will now rise to a new life of love in Him. This work of Jesus conquering our sin, our death, and our enemy the devil, earned for us the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of new and eternal life. And this new life is what we are celebrating this whole Easter season.
Jesus uses His own love as the key to understanding this new command. His love brought Him to this earth. It also made Him endure shame, mockery and rejection. It even subjected Him to the most horrible of deaths on the cross. In Jesus, the love He commands from us is revealed in complete clarity.
What makes Jesus’ love unique is that it not only offers the encouragement to love, it also provides the reason and power to love. Certainly there are many reasons for me to be selfish and self-centered. It is the natural response with which I am born. In contrast, there is only one reason why I can love. That is the love of Jesus. This is why I need to keep His cross always before my eyes. It is also why I need to keep His resurrection fresh in my mind. Here is where love begins, grows, and overcomes every selfish thought and desire I may have. Here is where I recognize what love really is.
And now beginning with Jesus’ love and His life, you and I can begin to love and live as He loved and lived. We can live the Christ life, the Christian life.
After describing the Christian life, Jesus then tells us how it will come about. It is not from anything we do, but rather from what He will do for us: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- the Spirit of truth.” God will not leave us as orphans, Jesus says. Jesus came as our first Helper to become man, to take our sins, die with them on the cross and then rise to life again. Secondly, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit was given to you as a gift in Holy Baptism, where He joins you to Jesus’ death and resurrection and gives you a new life, a Christ life, a Christian life. The Holy Spirit is given to you through His Word and the gift of Holy Absolution, where through the declaration of the forgiveness of all your sins He gives you new life, Christ life, Christian life. And the Holy Spirit is given to you in the gift of Holy Communion, where eating the body and drinking the blood of Jesus, He strengthens and keeps you in this new life, Christ life, Christian life.
Notice that the Holy Spirit is a gift not just given once, and then we are left on our own to live, and take care of, and sustain this Christian life. No! For you know that is impossible! You know how much you continue to sin, and fall away, and fail to live this Christ life. As we considered at the beginning of this sermon, we do not keep the commandments. They do not describe our life. We fall and we fail, you know it and I know it. And so the Holy Spirit is the gift that keeps on giving. Because we continue to sin, fall away, mess up our love and fail to live the Christ life, the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts. And He keeps on coming. He keeps giving forgiveness. He keeps giving life. He keeps giving Christ. He is not here today and gone tomorrow, but as Jesus said, “he lives with you and will be in you.”
When does God love you more? When you are watching pornography or reading your Bible?
When does God love you more? When you are gossiping or talking to God in prayer?
When does God love you more? When you are yelling at your kids in frustration or when you are praising God in church?
When does God love you more? The answer is that He never loves you more … and He never loves you less. In addition to this statement: “He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him,” Jesus also says in John 17: “I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (v 23).
God has the same love for you that He has for the Son. That is dangerous. Not because it is a wrong teaching, but because of our ability to abuse that love. “I’m good to go. I can do anything I want. God loves me the same now matter what I do or how often I do it.” Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? (Romans 6:1) No! How idiotic and unchristian to knowingly and willfully commit a sin, just because we can count on God’s abounding love and gracious forgiveness.
If you are a Christian who really loves the Lord, then you won’t think like that. Instead, seeing your sin rightly, and seeing your Savior rightly, will cause you to want to sin less. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
Scripture says, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) Imagine that! The Lord Jesus thinks you are so precious and valuable that He was willing to die for you in your messy state. He didn’t wait for you to clean yourself up first. He died so you could belong to Him. If he thinks you’re valuable, then you must be valuable. If he thinks you’re worth dying for, then you must be precious indeed. If He sends His Holy Spirit to live within you, then you are not helpless. If He loves you, then you can love others.
Though we make a sticky, wet mess of our lives, Jesus is there to clean us up, hold us, comfort us, teach and help us. And now, with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we are able to have life, new life, Christ life, the Christian life of love. And that’s not a command. That’s a promise. Amen.