John 15:12-17

Third Avenue Baptist Church

Sunday School — The Gospel of John Series

November 15, 2020



It was wonderful to see you this morning and wonderful to be able to turn to God’s Word together, and we’re continuing through our study in the Gospel of John. We’re in John 15, and we are in the farewell discourse of Jesus and thus issues are intensifying, and we are also in, as we shall see, a passage of scripture in which Jesus is giving what amounts to a final briefing to his disciples. And we have the honor by the Holy Spirit of observing this. Over hearing it. Let’s pray.

Father, we’re just so thankful that you give us the opportunity to hear these words even as the disciples heard these words from Jesus. And Father, this means that you intended these words for us, even as Jesus intended these words for his disciples, and may they have the same effect on us as they had upon the disciples. May we receive these words with great joy because we receive your word with great joy. And may we live it faithfully. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

So when we were together last, we worked our way to John chapter 15, verse 11, and you’ll recall that in verse 11, Jesus said, “these things I spoke to you that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full.” Now, one of the challenges we face in John chapter 15 in this farewell discourse is that it is the Farewell Discourse. It is Jesus knowing that in a very short amount of time, he is going to be arrested and taken away from his disciples. Before his crucifixion these will be the final words. Now what we have are three chapters here, John chapter 15, which we will conclude shortly. John chapter 16 coming, and then of course the high priestly prayer in John chapter 17. But that last part is the prayer between Jesus and the Father and the disciples were not a part of that.

So the time with the disciples is getting very short. The intensity is very high. We’re at a fever pitch. This is the greatest tension in the drama of what’s taking place in the life and ministry of Jesus as he has headed for the cross. And thus, the words that he’s speaking take on a particular poignancy. Now there’s something else that takes place in this farewell discourse, and that is that all of this belongs together, but it is not just a matter of Jesus going through an outline. It’s not like if you’ve ever been on a cruise ship and you have a briefing of what to do, if you have to go to the lifeboats and on every cruise, you’ve got to do this. You’ve got to go through the drill. It’s an international maritime rule. And so when you’re on the cruise ship, eventually like the second morning, you’ve got to meet out at your life boat posts and you have to put on the vest and you have to listen to what’s being told.

And, and yet, you know, it’s a beautiful sunny day. You’re in the Caribbean, you’re in the Mediterranean. No, one’s thinking about the boat sinking. The Titanic’s long in the past. And you know, you really do need to know this, but you really want it to be over. And it doesn’t go too long, and besides that, the people doing it are reading off of a clipboard so that they can check off everything that they’ve done. I think of that when I see airline pilots doing this, when I get on an airplane. I look back in the cockpit, looking for a little reassurance that somebody in there looks like he’s not 14, and that has some competence to fly this plane. And generally they’re going through a checklist. And I’m just thinking,” you know, if I did that two or three times a day, I might get a little careless. I’m hoping you don’t.”

This is not a checklist in the sense that it’s just going through a sequential order. Jesus here, the authenticity of the conversation, this discourse Jesus is having with his disciples, a part of the authenticity is how Jesus goes back to an issue and circles back and will say, “this is why I told you.” Now in looking at that, I have to say that I look at this passage differently as both a father and a grandfather than I probably would have looked at this passage at an earlier point of life, or as a teacher, I look at this differently. And it’s because when you are communicating the most massively important matters to people, you’re also reading them. And you’re looking at their faces. That’s one of the reasons why, and you have all these teachers saying that even in person, education is much more difficult because with these children wearing masks, it’s much harder to see, “do I have their attention? Do I not? What’s going through their minds? Is anything going through their minds?” You know, just the act of watching as one as communicating. And so what happens here is as we come to the passage that begins in John chapter 15, verse 12 is that Jesus is actually repeating much of what he said, but he adds something.

So as we saw the last verse was “these things I’ve spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” And remember, Jesus has told them, he’s getting ready to leave them in a little while. “You will not see me.” But now he says in verse 12, “this is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: Then someone lays down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I commanded you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing, but I have called you friends for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you so that you will love one another.”

That’s a very tight passage. And there are about four huge issues here each of which you could say would be deserving of a book unto itself, but because of the context and the fact that this is a temporal tension, the time is running out. Jesus gives the disciples these truths. And he does so in such a way that he obviously is not saying everything that he might say about them, but some of these things he’s spoken of before. So for example, in verse 12, when he begins by saying, “this is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you,” this is the same Jesus who said, “if you love me, you’ll keep my commandments.” If you love me, you will keep my commandments. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And we saw the fact that this is not only the fact that Jesus has commandments, this is Old Testament biblical theology coming alive in the New Testament. Only God may give commandments. And so this is a clear assertion of the deity of Christ, as he is here speaking to his disciples, and he doesn’t give them maxims and principles and rules and regulations, he gives them commandments. And that is as God the Father gave the commandments to Moses. And we know most famously is the 10 Commandments,

But what commandments has Jesus given? When we looked earlier, John 14 and 15, that Jesus has commandment, we saw that he’d given many. We think of the Great Commission, just to give an obvious one. But there are actually something like 400 commandments that Jesus gives, and they’re not given in the same spirit of the law, they are instead indeed principles that he has commanded. They are attitudinal. They’re action. But he gets right to the heart. “This is my commandment.” So this is the summary. If you say,” this is the law.” If you have an attorney making a case before a jury or a lawyer making a case for the oral arguments before the United States Supreme court. And, there are two senses in which that lawyer may make reference to the law. He may make specific reference, as he may say, “as in US criminal code, you know, section two, paragraph three,” you know, he may make specific reference as to whether or not that law is actually in play in this. But even more often before the Supreme Court, you will hear attorneys make reference to “the law” as one body. As making basically one argument: it is the rule of law. And so you say, “as the law teaches us. As the law constrains us.” And the same thing is true in the Bible. You need to say, “well, this is the law of God.” Well, God gave laws and God gave commandments, but you can speak of the law and say, there’s a distinction between the law and the gospel. Which law do you mean? You mean all of it. The body of the law. And that’s exactly what Jesus is doing here.

He says, “I’ll tell you what, I’ll tell you what, everything I’ve taught you comes down to. It’s not that I haven’t given you other commandments. I’ve given you other commandments, but I mean,” and by the way, some of Jesus’ commandments are attitudinal, “such as “fear not,” but you’ll notice here he says, “this is THE commandment.” In other words, you’re going to summarize everything here. Now in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus summarizes all of the Old Testament law, the law and the prophets, when he was asked, “what is the most important of the commandments?” And he says that “you should love the Lord, your God with all your heart and soul and mind” going back to Deuteronomy. But then he goes to Leviticus and he says, the second is likened to it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commands, hang all of the law and the profits.” So everything comes down to this, but now Jesus speaks of his own commandments. And he says, “it all comes down to this. My commandments, come down to this, that you love one another, as I have loved you.” Now, that’s one of the sentences that rings in our ears with such familiarity. “You shall love one another as I have loved you,” because we know It’s familiar to us and John will come back to this in his epistles, but what are we to do with this right now?

Well, we’re to read it as an entire sentence. And that’s where it gets dangerous, because he doesn’t just say “you shall love one another.” The Bible has already told us that. His commandment is that we love one another as he has loved us. Now, things get dangerous.

This is a command that’s far more revolutionary than we dare teach our children in Sunday School When they first learned it. If we say that Christ’s commandment is that we love one another. Well, and that seems almost axiomatic, but Jesus taught us that we are to love one another. I think that is just about the second or third Bible verse I learned as a child. And God is love was the first. And then you just, you just think about the outworking of this. God loved us first now we’re to love one another. What are the limitations upon loving one another? That’s the key question. And the disciples were always concerned with what is the limitation upon this command? And look sometimes I can remember as a teenager, seeing the, you know, the disciples asked how many times must I forgive and you know, the answer to that’s coming, and it’s just embarrassing that the disciples would ask it. You know, you’re going to look bad asking this question. Don’t ask. And it’s like, you know, you’re 14, you’re reading the Bible. And you think maybe if I opened the Bible next time they won’t ask that stupid question. Oh, yes, they do.

But actually, it’s a question that is necessary for us to ask. What is the extent of how we’re to love one another? This could be very costly. It could be very inconvenient. So Jesus puts the restriction on it here. “This is my commandment that you love one another, as I have loved you. Well, it turns out there’s no restriction on it. Jesus has loved us infinitely. And as the New Testament tells us, he loved us until the end. And, of course, he died for us.
So what Jesus is saying here is “I’ve got good news and bad news.” I’ve got good news: “The most important summary of all that I’ve taught you is this: You are to love one, one another.”

Here’s the bad news: “As I have loved you.” So this is a manifesto for the Christian Church. The kind of love that should be present in the Christian Church is the kind of love in which believers love one another, as Christ has loved us. Now, we are incapable of loving, as faithfully, as Christ loved us. We are incapable of loving, as infinitely, as Christ loved us. But we are to love as intentionally. And as genuinely as Christ has loved us.

The disciples are about to be absent from Christ. They are going to face the hatred of the world. That has been made clear. Jesus is now going to make it far more clear in the passage that follows, the paragraph of our concern this morning. Jesus is going to tell them the world hates you. The world doesn’t dislike you. The world’s not irritated by you. The world hates you because the world hates it’s me. But we are not there yet. But preparing them to hear of this message of the world’s hatred, he reminds them it is to be contrasted with the picture of their love for one another.
And so just think of two different spheres. And we don’t know about that second one yet, except we do. We know it’s coming, the world’s going to hate us, but in the church we find love. And as Christians, we’ve got to settle for that. As Christians, we have to understand that the repudiation of the gospel is to get those two spheres reversed: To live so that the world will love us, but the church may hate us.

And Jesus will be very clear. You’re not going to be able to earn the love of both the church and the world. And that’s a devastating realization. I think one of the greatest temptations to Christians is to want to be loved by both the church and the world. But in the end, that will turn out to be impossible.

So the first big thing for us to see here is the command of Christ and the lack of any limitation upon this: The example of his own love for the disciples as how the Christian is to love other fellow believers. The passage continues: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” So again, Jesus is calling us as friends. It’s very sweet. He’s about to make that clear what he’s saying, but you’ll notice that even as Jesus said “this is my command to that you love one another as I have loved you” and “greater love has no man would that he lay down his life for his friends.”

So it’s not like we have to imagine where Jesus is going with this, because Jesus tells us explicitly the very next sentence. Jesus says, “oh, and by the way, I’ve told you that you’re to love one another as I have loved you. And the love that I love you is taking me to the cross for you.” And there is no greater love.

So that’s bracing. We are to love one another even unto death. Jesus says “you are my friends. If you do what I command you.” And he said that already. In at least two different sessions when we’ve been together, we’ve been looking at paragraphs from either the farewell discourse or the passage just before the farewell discourse. And we’ve seen Jesus say over and over again, if you love me, you will keep my commandments. He comes back to it this time. He says, “you are my friends if you do what I command you. Now that’s the same thing. No, it’s not. No, it’s not the same thing at all.

If you look at the Old Testament and imagine Moses at Sinai. And imagine all the children of Israel gathered there–Sinai is often referred to as Mount Horeb–and you’ll recall the theatrical of the occasion. The children of Israel and even their animals were told not to approach the mountain less they touch it and die. And the mountain itself is trembling with an earthquake. And it is surrounded by clouds and out of the clouds comes fire, and out of the clouds and the fire comes the very audible voice of God. And God spoke to the children of Israel and Moses will remind them they heard his voice. And then Moses is uniquely called upon the mountain where he goes to be with the Lord. And he comes down with the tablets. To actually follow through the passage closely, he comes down with the law, and another time he comes down with the tablets, it’s kind of in our imagination, we put it together.

But nonetheless, the point is, God does not refer to Israel as his friend. He’s commanding them because they are his subjects. They’re his chosen people. They’re his elect people, his elect nation. Yes, but he does not refer to them as his friends. You know, as a matter of fact in the Deuteronomic formula, it comes down to “I’ve set before you life and death, blessing and curse. So choose life and live, obey the law and you live, disobey the law and you die.” Jesus says, you are my friends. If you do what I command you. You’re my friends. This is the second big thing in this little paragraph. “You’re my friends.”

Once again, I think of being a child, you know, who, who are your friends? Well, you know, they’re the people who are your little buddies and friends and acquaintances. And you’re never sure exactly what a friend means when you’re a little child, because you’re told to be friendly to everybody and you’re introduced to someone here’s a new friend. Well, maybe, maybe not. We’ll see. But that’s the way you’re kind of presenting it: Friendship is an obligation.

And then it is very interesting and kind of a developmental understanding of friendship, as one reaches the older elementary school ages, and personality develops, and social skills develop. Children begin to develop friendships that become genuine friendships. You’re a friend with the little people when you’re a little because you’re put with them, and you’re told these are your friends. And little children tend to be extremely friendly. But it is not as if they’re deeply concerned with one another and it’s not necessarily because they have any particularly important shared interests. I mean, if they put blocks in front of them, the interest is blocks. If you put something else in front of them, that interest is that.But older children can develop friendships based upon common interests. By the time early adolescence arrives, not to mention adolescence itself, it comes with an intense need for friendships. And those friendships become very, very, very intentional, and extremely important. And in some cases unhealthy.

But then as you go through life, you realize that friends are a matter of choice, really. We have lots of acquaintances, but being friends involves risk. Friend means investment and priority. If someone really is a friend, then that means that not only you think friendly thoughts about them, but that you would act on their behalf. You would take care of them. You are concerned for them. Shared interests? Yes, of course. But shared responsibility. Jesus here refers to the disciples as friends. Now, just to be honest, that’s reassuring to hear, but that’s not the first thing we would have thought of, is it, when thinking of Jesus and the disciples? I mean, after all, there’s a very clear distinction. There’s Jesus and his disciples. The disciples are the ones to whom the commandments were being given. Very interesting. Again, go back to Sinai, back to Horeb, go back to thunder on the mountain. Jesus has given these commands and this one commandment that he’s just summarized here just as authoritatively as the Father gave the commandments to Israel through Moses.

So what does it mean that he calls us his friends – if we do what he says, if we do what he commands us? Well, it’s a transformation of our understanding of God’s love for us. It’s a transformation of the relationship that we have with the Father by Christ. So here’s something that we need to keep very much in mind: we are not the friend of God the Father by any right, except that we are the friends of the Son. And so this is an intensely Christological truth, Christological relationship here. We are at peace with God entirely because of the atoning work of the Son. Even right now, we are the privileged, elect, secure, blessed sons and daughters of God because Jesus Christ right now sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty as our mediator and intercessor. But we are the friends of the Father and considered as friends of the Father only because we are the friends of the Son. The Father receives the friends of the Son as his own. And that is incredibly powerful. It’s just incredible that Jesus would refer to his disciples as friends, especially at this point, as he is speaking in commandments. You would think when you are given a commandment, that’s when you are least likely to be defined as a friend. I mean friends don’t give friends commandments, right? That’s a strange friendship, you know. Instead there’s equality there. Not equality here, but there is an intimacy here. We’re invited to demonstrate ourselves to be the friends of Jesus, because the text actually says that you are my friends if you do this. So we show ourselves to be the friends of Jesus by the fact that we obey his command. In fact, involved in verse 14 is all that He’s commanded us.

In verse 15, Jesus says “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” I will tell you, honestly, this is one of the most revolutionary sentences in the New Testament. It also gets to a doctrinal, polemical and apologetic obsession of John, the apostle. The first and most pernicious heresy that threatened Christianity is known as the Gnostic heresy, G-n-o-s-t-i-c. And a Gnostic heresy has always hung around Christianity and in every generation it’s there. It may be disguised as one thing or another, but it’s there. It came very, very early in biblical Christianity, so early it shows up in the New Testament itself. The heresy of Gnosticism was based upon the idea that salvation comes through a knowledge, a gnosis, the Greek word for knowledge. It’s an enlightenment. And we are surrounded by people who also believe that salvation comes by an enlightenment.

Without going into politics, it is at least interesting, just because this could be on the right or the left, right now the language is on the left. But you’ll notice that we’re living in the midst of the “Great Awokening”. I mean the whole idea of woke means enlightenment. And now, in certain circles, you’ve got to give testimony of when you became woke. The Gnostic heresy was rooted in thought that came before the incarnation of Christ, but became extremely powerful in the time of Jesus in the first century, and then of course, powerfully attractive in a deadly sense to the Christian Church thereafter. The idea is that one became, basically, one of the enlightened and you’re separated from all the rest because the rest are in ignorance, darkness, you are in the knowledge or the light. You have been now introduced into the secret mysteries. So Gnosticism had its own mystery cults. And one of the problems with the Romans trying to understand Christianity is that Christianity at times might appear like a form of Gnosticism or a mystery cult. Because it has an inside and an outside, you’re either in or you’re out. And not only that, but knowledge has a great deal to do with it. As Paul will say, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. But here’s another point, and this has relevance in a day of conspiracy theories and all the rest. The point of New Testament Christianity is that it is a knowledge that is necessary for salvation, but it is no secret knowledge, it is a public knowledge. And, so over and over and over again, and every opportunity in the New Testament, it is declared that this is public truth. This is not some mystery we are keeping unto ourselves. Christianity is not a mystery cult in which when you get in, you are told the truth that people outside don’t know. That’s completely alien to Christianity. Instead, the apostle Paul, for example, will over and over again in different contexts say this is the mystery that has in this age been revealed.

This is not a mystery that we keep unto ourselves. This is public truth. What we say here, we declare publicly to all men. Jesus didn’t say, “Go into the world and form little batteries of little groupings of the mystery cult. No, He said “Go into the world and make disciples.” And over and over again, you had the apostle Paul who makes very clear – the opposite of a mystery cult is what Paul does in Acts chapter 17. He goes to Athens and said, “You are wondering what these mysterious teachers are teaching, here it is, and I’m saying it right here on the mountain of the philosophers in Athens, in public, here it is.” To Felix or to Festus, “You want to know what it is we believe? Here’s what we believe, here it is.” It is a knowledge that was – and here’s Paul in 2 Corinthians, sophisticated, sophisticated passage in 2 Corinthians, look at three and four, where Paul says – it was a hidden mystery, but it is not hidden now. It was veiled, but the veil has been removed. And that’s pointing to the incarnation of Christ, and particularly to his death, burial, resurrection. The mystery is now publicly declared. Christianity is not a mystery cult.

Jesus says here, “You are my friends, if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants”. Why? It comes down to knowledge. It’s stunning what Jesus says. Well, why does he call us friends? Why? Why does he not just say, “Hey, you’re my disciples. You’re my servants.” Why not go and use the New Testament word doulos, “You’re my slaves. You are mine. You belong to me. Therefore, you’re going to do what I command you. And if you don’t do what I command you, then you’re going to reveal yourself to be a false disciple, and we will kick you out.” By the way, the Bible does say that. But that’s not what Jesus is saying here. Jesus is saying, “I call you friends because I’m telling you what these things mean. If you were merely my servants, I would just tell you what to do. I’m not just telling you what to do, I’m telling you why.”

It is one of the kindest sentences in the entire Bible. It is contrary to what we see in the Old Testament where God often conceals his will to Israel. There’s not often an explanation of the why, but Jesus here in the greatest intensity of the teaching with his disciples says, “I’m calling you friends. Do you want to know why I’m calling you friends? It’s because I am telling you why all these things happen and what they mean. I am telling you what the master is doing. I’m telling you exactly what’s going to happen. I’m telling you why. I told you from the beginning that these things would happen. I told you that my hour is coming. I do not leave you in the dark. I want you to understand, not only what I’m doing, but what I know these things mean.”
It’s such an incredible privilege. We’re not just the recipients of the saving work of Christ. We are his friends, in which he explains these things to us. He tells us what the master is doing, speaking of himself. But of course, ultimately of the Father. “Here’s what the Father is doing.” And then we will have, of course, even a greater explanation in detail, theologically, by the time we get to a passage like Romans 3:21 and following where the mystery of the cross is explained to us. And we’re taken into the inner logic of the gospel and of the atonement. The inner logic, we’re even given a glimpse of the inner Trinitarian relationship between the Father and the Son in a passage such as Philippians chapter two. You realize, when you look at the New Testament, it is a ‘friend book’. The New Testament, just as Jesus here is teaching his disciples, is what God gives his friends. If we were merely his servants, then all we would have is a to-do list. And, you know, sometimes you give friends a to do list, but you explain why. You say, “This is what this means. We’re doing this great thing. We’re about this great work – You are my friends and you understand what I am doing. You understand why I am going to the cross. You understand why it is that now that my hour has come, you now see me, but in a little while, you will not see me. You understand why all these things are happening.” It is such a beautiful, stunning passage because it comes in the very same context of this very clear assertion of Christ’s deity in which he, as the Father commands, but he doesn’t merely command subjects or servants, he commands his friends.

Now again, the passage is so beautiful because then you think, well come to think of it, that redefines what we read in the very first verse. “This is my commandment that you love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” So the word friend is all of a sudden elevated in this massive way, almost infinite way, right before our eyes. It’s elevated because it’s demonstrated in the fact that Christ dies for us. God’s own Son dies for us. And he dies for us, not merely as the passive subjects of his saving love, but as his friends. And this is another issue of biblical theology that we missed. When did we become the friends of Christ? When? Well, temporally, we become the friends of Christ when we hear him and believe him and obey him and follow him, that’s temporally when we become Christ’s friends. But beyond that, when did we become Christ’s friends? It has to be in eternity past. And that will also become very clear in this passage because we were Jesus’s friends when we didn’t know it. When he died for us without our knowledge. When he came in order to save his friends, He knew who his friends were when He came.

How do we know this? Because He tells us. “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, He may give it to you.” Okay, just less there be any misunderstanding, Jesus here is speaking to his disciples, at this point to the eleven. Judas is gone. Speaking to the eleven, he says, “you didn’t choose me. I chose you.” But this is not just to the eleven. It is to the untold many who will come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and be his disciples down through all the ages. In the same sense that they did not choose him, but he chose them, that has to be true of us because this is God’s word for us. And furthermore, how could it be that he chose them, but we chose him. It’s an illogic that is embarrassing. And of course, this is an underlining in the sovereignty of God. It’s a very clear reference to the doctrine of election. It’s very reassuring. If we’re Christians simply because we chose him, then we can un-choose, but we didn’t choose him. He chose us. And we will be told he chose us before the foundation of the world. So, Jesus here says, “I call you friends and not merely servants because I tell you these things.” A king just says to a servant, do this, do that. “But even as you’re my disciples and you are my douloi, you’re my friends, I tell you why. But even as I’ve told you that, just remember, you didn’t choose me. I chose you.”

The passage concludes with Jesus saying, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide”. Again, we just had the passage about abiding in Christ. About Christ the vine and we the branches, and the purpose of the branches is to bear fruit. So again, as I said in the beginning of our time this morning, there’s a circularity. Jesus comes back to that. “These things I command you, that you love one another.” That’s another one of those Bible verses I learned so early. We love one another, love one another. But “Love one another” is often an empty, vacuous term. If you just think of it in human, horizontal terms, it’s pretty good thing for children to be taught, but it doesn’t hold Christ’s church together because horizontal love, as important as it is, just is fairly fragile. But we are to love one another as Christ has loved us. And, “These things”, Jesus says, “I have commanded you, so that you will love one another.” Now again, what’s the logic of this? I mean, how do we make sense of that last sentence actually, because we read the phrase as if it makes sense. But let me ask you, does it? “These things”. What would these things be? Everything that he said. “These things I command you.” Well, now he’s back to commanding. So even as He is, as God the Father commanding, it’s a clear statement of his deity. He’s commanding, but He’s not commanding mere servants and slaves. He’s actually commanding us as His friends, but nonetheless, as the sovereign Lord of the universe, He is commanding His friends so that we will love one another. So explain this “so that”. Well, I think at least a part of this has to be that we love one another because He first loved us. And we will often have to tell ourselves that. It’s a part of ecclesiology. We have to keep reminding ourselves we love each other because Christ first loved us, because I mean, frankly, sometimes our fellow church members are lovable and sometimes they’re not. And it’s also true that the longer you get to know people, even the people closest to you, the more irritating certain things become. The longer you know people, the more you think you’re going to get over that first impression, and then 20 years later, you figure out, nope, that was pretty accurate.

We are going to let each other down. We’re going to disappoint each other. But, we are to love one another as Christ has loved us. The mark of the church is love. Francis Schaffer, probably far better known for his apologetic writings, wrote a book entitled “The Mark of the Christian”, making very clear, it is love. And the absence of love means the absence of gospel. So as we think about these things, “These things I have commanded you, so that you’ll love one another”, why is it that we love one another? It’s not just because Christ has first loved us. We were told that, yes, but it’s because Christ has also commanded us this multiplicity of commands and the doing of those commands means that we actually will love one another. It comes down to the minutiae of faithfulness. It comes down to the thinking of none of ourselves greater than the other. It comes down to seeing one another’s needs as more important than our own. It comes down to common obedience in order to reach a community for Christ. It comes down to common obedience in order to reach a world for Christ. It comes down to the care of widows and orphans. It comes down to working in a nursery. You know what? You work in a nursery and you’re taking care of someone’s kids, you like the parents better. You understand them in a whole new way. You love their kids and love them. And you are on a committee with someone or you share a task with someone, or you share a pew with someone. And over time you realize “I’ll be very disappointed if they’re not in that pew this morning. If they’re not there, I’m going to want to know why they’re not there. If there’s something wrong, I want to know how I can help.”

This is why we have the flurry of emails, knowing how we can help one another. And this is when Christians turn Jewish. I grew up with a friend in high school whose father was a rabbi and mother was the wife of the rabbi. And I got to be around them. It was an eye opening experience. They were very gracious to allow this little Gentile in their home. But, there was one response that was always axiomatic. Whenever there was tsurus, Yiddish for trouble, whenever there was trouble, the rabbi would be filled with consternation and his wife would say, “I’ll make soup.” That’s what she did, you know, because whatever the trouble, somebody is going to need soup. This is what we do. We take care of one another. We take one another food, somebody needs soup. In fact, we just, we might as well be armed with soup, just keep the soup ready, somebody’s going to need it. And you just look at this and you recognize this is this the way that we know how to love. If we had to come up with what it meant to love one another, it’d be a real awkward, geeky kind of thing, but we’re actually shown how to love one another, because of all the commands Christ has given us. And if we obey those commands, guess what, we’re going to love one another. It makes love tangible.

“These things I have commanded you, so that you will love one another.” Oh, and we’re going to have to love one another because the world hates us. And that’s the very next word Jesus is going to speak. It’s not a word of warning. “Hey, you know what? You’re going to face some opposition out there in the world because there are some people who aren’t going to understand the message and they’re going to be somewhat resistant.” No, it’s Jesus saying, “If the world hated me, here’s a clue boys and girls, the world’s going to hate you.” The servant is not greater than his master. Oh, now we’re back to servant and master. We’re his friends, but this is not egalitarian discipleship. No servant is greater than his master. If the master is hated, the servant will be hated also. So how is it that we can withstand the hatred of the world? It is because first of all, the Lordship of Christ. It is because first of all, he is the vine and we are the branches. The branches, Jesus says, “No branch that bears fruit will be cut.” We’re safe. But it’s also because we need each other. And these things, Christ has commanded in order that we would love one another.