The Sixth Sunday of Easter May 21, 2017
Text: John 15:9-17 3 Year Revised Series B 17:2013
Theme: You Are My Friends. Dwell in My Love.
Did you hear what Jesus called you? It’s a very special title…“Friend”? He says to those who believe in Him, “You are my friends…I no longer call you servants….but I have called you friends.” That’s special. “You are my friend.”
What does it mean to you when the Lord Jesus says, “You Are My Friend”?
Back in February I told the story of a teacher who was leading her young class in a study of word definitions. She would read a word, and the children would respond with their own meaning to it – each in his turn. All the words were based on personal relationships like uncle, aunt, cousin, neighbor, etc.
It seemed like the students were all very well prepared for the quiz that morning. To everyone’s delight they were getting every word right. Then it came little Jimmy’s turn and it seemed like their splendid record of right answers was going to be broken. He was the first to hesitate and fumble with his word. He was given the word “friend.” Try as he might, he couldn’t seem to define it. Finally, after much effort, he blurted out in childlike fashion: “A friend is someone who likes you, even though he knows you.”
I figure that definition will never find its way into a dictionary. Yet, it’s quite good, don’t you think? It has insight which is not usually found in dictionaries. Isn’t a part of friendship the fact that a person continues to “like” you in spite of your shortcomings and faults? Truly, a friend likes you, even though he knows you!
How true that is of the friendship that lives in the heart of God for us sinners. It goes beyond merely liking you; God loves you, even though He knows exactly what you are. No one knows you better, yet loves you more than God the Father and God the Son. In fact, they know and love you so dearly that Jesus compares their love towards you to the love which the Father and the Son have together. Theirs is a divine love, a closeness that exists only in the Godhead of the Trinity.
Jesus said, “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.”
That’s quite a statement of His affection for us. The only problem is I haven’t kept God’s commandments like Jesus did. He yearns for us to be holding onto and doing what He says. He yearns that way for us all, even the worst people.
A few hours after speaking these words, Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane when one of his disciples came with a company of soldiers to capture Him. As Judas stepped out of the crowd of soldiers to greet Jesus with a kiss, the Lord Jesus asked, “Friend, why have you come? Are you betraying me with a kiss?” (Mt.26:50; Lk.22:48)).
Whenever that scene in the Garden of Gethsemane unfolds before me, I want to shout, “Judas, how could you? What a way to be remembered. Every time people hear the words, ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ on the night He was betrayed,’ they will think of you and your hypocritical, unloving kiss.” That’s what I want to shout.
But it would be far better for me to concentrate not on Judas but on the One whom Judas kissed. Even as the traitor steps forward, note what the Savior called him: “Friend.” I might have roughly shoved Judas away or blasted him with explosive words of rebuke. But to the one who fingered him for death, the Savior offers friendship and forgiveness. Jesus held out hands of love to him. Sadly, Judas turned away. But that did not make Jesus’ love for him any less real. In this fleeting moment Jesus would let Judas know that in spite of his treachery, in spite of his cruelty, in spite of his sin and ungodliness, Jesus still longs to be his friend, eager to forgive if only Judas would return in repentance and faith. Sadly, Judas didn’t.
There are times that we, too, have sold the Savior for our own “30 pieces of silver” – more times than we like to admit. Is there any reason for Jesus to love us more than Judas? Yet, the Bible comforts us with these words, “God shows His love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
If it is true, as little Jimmy said, that “a friend is someone who likes us, even though he knows us,” then, what a Friend we have in Jesus! He knows our weakness, yet His heart goes out to us in compassion and affection. He who said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends,” proved the immeasurable nature of His love by going out and dying for us.
And now He turns to each one for your assurance, even though He knows you in all your faults, and says, “You Are My Friend – loved by my Father and Me. Dwell in My Love.”
Dwell in my love. What a neat phrase. Live in it. Abide in it. Remain in it. It conjures up pictures of home life, putting down my roots, staying for a while in the place that I call home. Home is where my thoughts are; home is where I’d rather be; home is where the heart lies. Jesus uses words that picture His love in terms of my home. Oh, how comfortable I am at home. But I also have a job to do while I am there. I don’t just sit around the house. There’s work to be done. What kind of work does Jesus have for me to do while I am dwelling in His love?
He said, “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….This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you….You are my friends if you do what I command….Love one another.”
As His friends, love with the same type of love that exists between the heavenly Father and His dear Son. Love with the same type of reaching-out love Jesus had to those whom He saved.
How desperately our world is in need of our love to others. You can hardly pick up a newspaper or turn on the television anymore without seeing and hearing headlines of hatred and strife everywhere. Cars driven into crowds, storefronts smashed and ruined, jealousy, murder, stealing, unfaithfulness, backbiting, gossip and more abounds. Do such things mirror Christ’s redeeming love for us? Even in our own smaller circles of relationships, how much bitterness remains!
But why? Why should we for whom the Savior laid down His life harbor any ill will towards another? The same Savior, who loved us and called us friends, loved him as well. The same Savior, who gave His life for us, gave Himself for him as well. Could we hate or continue to harbor ill will toward anyone whom our Savior loved and for whom He died? In the political turmoil in which our country is embroiled today, we as Christians, need to let this fruit of faith show forth – love and prayer for the good of others.
There is a legend about the Apostle John which we have no way of knowing is true or not. But it surely reflects the words Jesus spoke to John here to pass on to us all. It goes like this.
When he had grown old and feeble and could hardly walk any more, John would be carried into the meeting place of the congregation in Ephesus. Although he could no longer address them with a sermon, he was called upon to say a few words to the worshippers at the close of each service. Rising slowly, he would smile at the group, stretch out his arms, and with thin voice would speak just one sentence: “Little children love one another.” With that said, he would slowly seat himself again.
One day he was asked why he always said the same thing. John replied, “Because there is nothing more to say. It is the Lord’s command, and if only this would be done, it is enough. If we love one another as Christ loved us, it is everything.”
How badly our bruised and bleeding world stands in need of this heavenly insight! How badly you and I stand in need of it, too! In a day of short tempers, frayed nerves, and angry outbursts; in a day of petty jealousy, bickering, and backbiting; in a day when prejudice fills men’s hearts with unreasoning fear, hostility, and hatred, how important that we give ear to the Savior’s urgent plea: “As I have loved you, love one another. Do this and you are my friends. Dwell in my love. Make it home. Reflect it to others.”
The old apostle, who in his youth stood at the foot of the cross and beheld the miracle of redeeming love from God, knew that we would have to go back to that cross time and time again, to have our hearts emptied of hate and filled with love. “As I have loved you,” Jesus said, “love one another. You are my friends if you do this. Dwell in me. Remain in my love, and you will be loving.”
And as we do, here’s another great promise from the Savior: “The Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”
Oh, what a Friend we have in Jesus. He likes us even though He knows us. In love He counts us His friends by faith forever. God grant it to us as we abide in Him. Amen.