Easter 6 – May 5 & 6, 2018
Jesus says: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit…
This is My command (how you bear fruit): Love each other.”
What is this love? Listen to the lyrics of today’s modern “love songs” and most often it involves a) sensual feelings that come and go; b) conditional love (I’ll love you as long as you make me feel special) and most often they are c) self-centered and selfish. The world does not have a clear definition of true “love.”
God’s Word says, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) Even in our sin-filled world, we have examples of “sacrificial love” shown to family, friends, for the defense of one’s country – shown to those who have loved us first. But God’s love is UNCONDITIONAL. It is totally dependent on what HE HAS DONE.
Jesus says: “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love… My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you…” (John 15:9, 10, 12) Jesus must “command” this because we were all born with-out this “true love.”
One day a man came into his pastor’s office and said that he didn’t love his wife, that he wanted a divorce. The pastor listened and simply replied, “Good!” This shocked the man, knowing that God’s Word speaks against divorce. But his wise pastor continued, “You know, if you FEEL that way about your marriage, I wonder if your wife might also FEEL that way?” The man admitted that he had not thought about his wife’s FEELINGS. Then the wise pastor challenged the man to join his wife in getting a divorce – not from each other, but from the kind of marriage in which the two of them were involved. The pastor asked, “What would it mean for the two of you to ‘divorce’ yourselves from the past and start building a brand new relationship based on Jesus’ love?
Love is much more than a feeling, love is a choice. First it is God’s choice. God chose to create a perfect world, He chose to create man and woman as His “crown of creation” to live in perfect fellowship and love with Himself and each other – perfection.
But this perfection was ruined by a very bad “choice;” a sin-full choice, a selfish choice – the selfish, sinful choice to try to be like God. Sin came into the world through Adam & Eve’s sinful choice – and that totally destroyed the perfect love relationship with God and with each other! However – in His GRACE God made another CHOICE – OUT OF DIVINE LOVE – God promised to send a Savior to pay the full price for our sinfulness, and in exchange – HE CHOSE to take the full punishment of all our sin and give us HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS.
We read in 1 John 4: “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) And we read in this weekend’s reading of Jesus’ UNIQUE LOVE – from 1 John 5: “Jesus Christ is the One who came by water and blood… (so important, he repeats it) He did not come by water only, but by water and blood.” (1 John 5:6) Do you understand what John is writing?
Water symbolizes baptism and blood symbolizes death – these represent the “book-ends” of Jesus’ public ministry. It is of highest importance that Jesus CHOSE to come by water – in His baptism, Jesus became the greatest sinner of all; not because of any sins He had or would ever have, but because He CHOSE to take upon Himself the sins of the world. When Jesus came to be baptized; John the Baptist “tried to deter Him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to Me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Matthew 3:14-15 God’s Word through Paul writing in 2 Corinthians 5: “God made Him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Jesus CHOSE to “shed His blood for you and me”. The shedding of blood symbolizes death. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Hebrews 9:22 Without Jesus’ death and resurrection, everything else that Jesus did – His Baptism, His healings, His teachings, all His promises – would be WORTHLESS. Jesus is the Promised One who took the full punishment for the sin of the world / all time / all people – through the shedding of His holy, precious blood – we have life – “abundant life!” Again this weekend: “Take eat, this is My body… take drink, this is My blood… given and shed for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.”
Yet, many CHOOSE to live apart from God – and apart from God we can only choose to selfishly love ourselves; but as we remain in Jesus we are empowered to choose self-less love.
She was 18 and he was 19 when they got married. After six years and three children, she decided one day, while standing before the kitchen sink piled with dirty dishes and a pile of dirty diapers on the floor, that she just couldn’t stand it anymore. She left everything and walked out the door.
She called home often to check on the children, and every time he would tell her how much he loved her, and he would ask her to come back home. But every time she refused.
After a week had gone by, he hired a private detective to find his wife. He was told that she was living in a second-class hotel in Des Moines, Iowa. He packed his bags, placed the children under the care of a neighbor, and drove to Des Moines. He found the hotel and made his way to her room.
When he knocked on the door, his hand trembled because he didn’t know the kind of reception he would receive. His wife opened the door, stood for a moment in shocked silence looking at him, and then fell apart in his arms.
Later, at home, when the children were in bed, he asked her a question that had long troubled him: “Why wouldn’t you tell me where you were when you called? You knew I loved you. Why didn’t you come home?” She replied, “Before, your love was just words. Now I know how much you love me because you came.”
Jesus CAME to us – “by water and blood” / Jesus COMES to us – Word and Sacraments – Jesus is COMING AGAIN.
Jesus assures us in His Word to us again today: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that HE LOVED US and sent His Son as an atoning SACRIFICE for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) and He assures us: “You did not choose Me, but I CHOSE YOU and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last.” (John 15:16)
Love is a choice: First, God’s choice of loving us, and now as we are empowered and filled with God’s love, we choose to love others as we remain in Jesus’ love. We pray God that we might daily divorce ourselves from selfish, self-centered love, to live and practice God’s greatest love and so joyfully fulfill Jesus command: “Love one another” not only with words, but also with our actions.
I pray to see you in worship with our fellow believers this coming weekend.