John 15:9-17 Common English Bible (CEB)
“As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete. 12 This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. As a result, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. 17 I give you these commandments so that you can love each other.
In the Gospel of Luke, Luke tells the story of Peter. He is in the courtyard of the High Priest, Caiaphas. Hoping to hide in the darkness, Peter wanted to find out what was happening to Jesus. In the shadows he was recognized three different times. Since the questioners were unsure, Peter denies knowing Jesus - three times! The last time went like this. “About an hour later another man insisted, “This man must have been with Jesus. They both come from Galilee.” 60 Peter replied, “I don’t know what you are talking about!” Right then, while Peter was still speaking, a rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered that the Lord had said, “Before a rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will say three times that you don’t know me.” 62 Then Peter went out and cried hard.”
Here is Peter stumbling through the darkened streets of Jerusalem, blinded by the tears of his failure, of his short-sightedness, of his arrogance. The Revised Standard Version says, “he wept bitterly.” Rewind: this is why Jesus knew we needed LOVE. It is love that brought Peter back from despair.
This is the 4th in our Lenten series, “The Need For …”. We have been exploring the things Jesus knew his disciples – and us – would need to face the future. On the first Sunday of Lent we looked at our need for cleansing. Through the servant act of washing the disciple’s feet Jesus spoke of their need for continual cleansing. Then, in the second week Jesus emphasized the need for Belief. AS we believe in God and also in Jesus, we gain a magnificent hope. Last week we explored the need for connection. To abide in Jesus and abide with each other is to find fully a part of the vine of faith - our wills and actions fully in line with God.
This week Jesus points to our need for Love. Let me remind you of John 15:1-8 – in those 8 verses we are called to abide or remain in Jesus. The core of that abiding is centered in God’s love in Jesus Christ. John 15:9 and its bookend, John 15:17 set the stage. John 15:9 says, “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love.” This is a qualifier to the first 8 verses. Then in John 15:17 Jesus says, “I give you these commandments so that you can love each other.” Do you recall the eight verses I referred to on the first week? In chapters 13-16 Jesus tells the disciples why he is saying all this to them. IN various forms is sounds something like “I’m telling you this now …” and then gives a reason. In our passage this morning, Jesus says the fourth of the eight. In John 15:11 Jesus says, “I have said these things to you so that my joy will be in you and your joy will be complete.”
Joy was the furthest thing from Peter’s mind as he was watching this tragedy unfold as he was stumbling in the dark. But the joy that comes from God’s love is exactly what he needed. He would discover it in a few short days.
Notice between the bookends, Jesus says, “This is my commandment (v. 12) …” and “I give you these commandments …” (v.17). In the midst he talks of servants and friends.
Think about friendship for a moment. At its best, friendship is life giving; it is caring; in is thinking more of the other than of the self. Jesus turns the tables on us when he calls us friends. He begins by saying he no longer calls us servants. To be a servant was the highest honor someone following God. Moses, Joshua, and David all identified themselves as “servants of God.” The servant only has to do the bidding of the Master. Even these “greats” of the Old Testament expected only to do what God said. They didn’t presume to know why God said it. But a friend is different. Richard Bensemer, in Praying on the Journey with Christ” said it this way: “The church has preferred the servant passages of Scripture over this one of being a “friend” to Jesus. It is far easier to be a servant than a friend. A servant only has to do the bidding of the Master. A friend has to care, has to love, and do the bidding of the Master. As friends of God, we are called to a higher calling than a servant of God. As friends, we have no time off, no limits to our task, no hesitancy to be wherever God wants us. As friends we are partners with God, “in on” his work and purpose, and not mere pawns to do his will.” Isn’t that an amazing position to be in? It takes abiding in God’s love to stand in that place! Pay special attention to the word, “chosen.” First of all, it is God doing the choosing! “You didn’t choose me, but I chose you…” [v.16] Second, going back to verses 1-8, Jesus says we are to “produce fruit.” Abiding in God’s love drives us to live in ways that produce fruit for God. That fruit will be loving fruit, powerful fruit!
Notice the change from 15:9 to 15:17: “As the Father loved me, I too have loved you. Remain in my love,” and “ I give you these commandments so that you can love each other.” In the image of the vine, God’s love pours out to us through Jesus Christ, and it pours through us to the rest of humanity – from root, to trunk, to branches, to leaves, to fruit. All are affected by God’s love as we remain in it.
The great enterprise of God runs on love – not skilled oratory or compelling words – but on LOVE. Being a disciple is always more than words. It is action! When we love we help others remain in God’s love.
Note verse 16, “You didn’t choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you could go and produce fruit and so that your fruit could last. As a result, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.” We are appointed to go and produce fruit that will last. That is, to invite others to become disciples. Forty times in John’s gospel alone Jesus stresses the importance of being sent – appointed to go!
Love is our motivation; Love is our fuel; Love is the ultimate purpose. We are partners with Jesus is his Kingdom enterprise!
Our current situation put me in mind of something that J. I. Packer wrote in his book, Knowing God.
“What matters supremely, therefore, is not that fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it – the He knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of His mind. All my knowledge of Him depends on His sustained initiative in knowing me. I know Him because He first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when Hid eye is off me, or His attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when His care falters. This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort … in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good. There is tremendous relief in knowing hat His love is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me” … and the best of me. An no matter, His love never fails!
As in verse 11, Joy springs from this amazing, momentous knowledge.
One of our members invited us to a call to action. After this broadcast service in ended, I call on each of us to take 15 minutes in concerted prayer for:
the defeat of this virus …
the well-being of our community …
for persons whose livelihood has dwindled or stopped all together …
for all those who must be in the public right now to provide essential services …
for the tireless efforts of so many to find vaccines and treatments …
for our State and Nation …
for the whole world …
One last word: The church still has ministries we are doing, all be it in unique and unfamiliar ways, and we have our continuing bills to pay. If you are able at this time to continue in support of the church and its ministries you can:
Send checks to 244 N. 6th or P.O. Box 826 …
Make offerings through your bank – Banks have a “bill pay” service that is free, and they will send a check to the church.
Pray for your church in the awkward and stressed time.
Pastor Paul Grossman