Archive for the ‘John 13:31-35’ Category

It Was Love… A New Kind of Love!

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Easter 5C, April 27th, 2013

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A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. [John 13:34, 35]

What was it that moved Christ to go from the upper room, to the garden, and then to His suffering and death upon the cross?  It was love; a new kind of love; a type of love that before was impossible for human flesh, sinful human flesh to express!  But Jesus is God—what does that have to do with us?  Simply this, Jesus said we must now have and express this kind of love.  “A new commandment I give to you that you love one another, as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

This means, we are to express a type of love that costs, even hurts at times.  We are to love each other with a sacrificial kind of love.

A grumpy old man called a church one-day and explained to the pastor that he was looking for a new church, as his old church no longer met his needs.  He said that he wanted to join a church that didn’t press him to get involved, a place where only the old hymns are sung, a church that didn’t keep calling him at home checking to see if he was alright, simply because he missed a few Sundays.  He wanted to be a member of a church that didn’t issue offering envelopes or keep track of his giving.  He then asked the pastor if his church fit the bill, and if not, could he recommend one.  The pastor was silent for a moment and then responded: “Well yes, I think I know just the place for you.  Do you have a pen and paper?”  The man said yes, and then wrote down the exact address of a local church that the pastor gave him.  The man got in his car and went out immediately, only to find a church that was boarded up, closed down and for sale.

That story is simply an illustration that points out the problem with each of us, if left on our own; we want life and all of it’s circumstances to meet our needs; we want everything to be done in a way that makes us happy.  It’s as if we are saying, “OK, I’ve been baptized and I have Jesus, now leave me alone and let me rest in His glory until He calls me to my mansion.”  Let’s call this way of thinking and living a theology of glory.  But that is not the love, the life that Christ calls us to live out.  He said, “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

This morning in our gospel lesson (John 13:31-35), Jesus teaches us a new theology; a theology of the cross.  His love took Him to the cross; the emblem of suffering and shame; a place where all mankind’s glory is destroyed and made empty and meaningless.  In the cross, God calls a thing what it is; He says that our sin, even our sinful flesh is vile and rotten and it must be destroyed.  But here is the amazing part; He doesn’t want to destroy our sinful flesh, but instead He destroyed the perfect flesh of His only begotten Son.  And even more amazing, the Son agrees that only this self-sacrificing love will save sinners like you and me.  And now from the cross, Christ calls out to each of us… follow Me!

Does this kind of love make you nervous or afraid?  If so, good; you should know what you are getting into.  Or, you should know what you’ve already signed up for.  This is love, not that we love God, but that He first loved us, and proved it upon the cross.

In our first lesson (Acts 11:118), some of the “holiness” brothers that were of the circumcision party, heard that Peter was hanging out with dirty gentiles, and even calling them brothers.  So they conveyed a board of inquiry to get to the bottom of this scandal.  But when Peter spoke of how even the gentiles were repenting and turning to Christ alone for salvation, they were quieted and then let go of their own agenda, and glorified God.

How were these Godless gentiles able to receive the Holy Spirit, the very Spirit of Jesus and be saved?  Well the same way every one does; through the Gospel message that Peter shared with them.  When they heard about their sins, and the penalty of death God imposes because of those sins, they were at first terrified.  But when they heard about the Son of God, Jesus Christ willingly taking upon their sins upon Himself, and suffering and dying for them, they were grieved, but then… once they realized that this meant peace with God, they were over joyed that God truly loved even them so much, that He gave His One and only Son, that if they believed and received Jesus’ gift of the cross, they would be forgiven.  And they were; and there after they too were baptized and renewed by the love of Christ.  They were remade to love as Christ loves.

How did all of this happen?  Through the gift of repentance and the gift of love.  Repentance is simply agreeing with God that He is right and we are wrong.  It is simply turning to the only means that God has made to save us from our own sins and the sins of others.  Contrition and faith, or Law and Gospel, which come through the Word of God, are the only means God chooses to turn our hearts from love of sin (love of self) and then turn them to the cross of Christ where we are all equally given full pardon and love for God and each other.  Where ever, when ever, and to whom ever God’s means speak to the heart of a sinner, new life is given.

Now what we must remember is that while this new life is invisible, because it exists in our soul, it is always expressed in how we live out our physical lives.  For those of us sinners who know how much we have been forgiven, we will certainly be able to demonstrate a love for Jesus that is empowered by this new kind of love.  And that new love will express itself first in our confession of faith, then our consistent worship of Him, next in our prayer life, and finally in our service to His church and each other.

But what about the good life; what about the glory of walking and talking in blessings with Jesus?  Now in that question is exactly where and how the enemy the devil tries to deceive us.  Nowhere did Jesus say that the life of faith is one without suffering and pain.  Nowhere does He say that once you’ve been baptized life will be easy; in fact He said the opposite.  Jesus said that, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33]  But Jesus does promise that there will come a day, perhaps sooner than we know when all of our suffering and pain will cease and then we will forever rest in glory.

Listen to this hope expressed in our Epistle reading (Revelation 21:1-7): “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Sounds good doesn’t it?  That is your promised inheritance, but for now, we must wait for that glorious day; but we aren’t waiting like a bunch of lost lambs bleating for their shepherd.  No, Jesus has sent us the Helper, the Holy Spirit who since the day of our baptism, continues to dwell richly within each of us.  Through this indwelling of the Spirit, we also have Jesus real presence, and together with the Father, Jesus truly has made all things new, even you.  It is a done deal; complete and finished, lacking nothing but the fulfillment of time.

To the thirsty, those who thirst for true love, Jesus as the Good Shepherd, calls us to drink in His Word and dine at His Holy Table.  We may fill ourselves with as much as we can hold, without cost, because Jesus has paid for it all with His very lifeblood.  And you will need every bit of this spiritual nourishment, because it alone gives you the strength to hold onto Jesus until the last day.

If you will remain in Him, through these God appointed means of grace, Jesus promises not just complete forgiveness, but also the ability to love others as He loves them; a love for even the unlovable; the kind of love that is willing to take risks and even receive injury.  On your own, you could never truly have or demonstrate that kind of love, but with God living and working within you, you will be able to watch in amazement how unexplainably it flows out of you.

How did the church go from a bunch of self-serving cowards to powerful and unafraid conquerors of sin, death, and the devil?  It was love!  It was the radical movement of love envisioned and empowered by our Lord, and today and everyday, it begins with us.  This morning, behind the closed doors of this church, God continues His campaign to save the world with His love through forgiven sinners like us.

Filled with the Holy Spirit of God, our relationship with one another becomes a strong witness to the world of just what true love is.  We are not just to open the church doors and shout out what love is, but we are also to open the doors and let the world look in and see what love is; let them see true love at work in us; changing and rearranging us.  We aren’t just to preach love, but we have been empowered to practice it, and not as the world knows love to be, but a new kind of love born out of Heaven that experiences being loved by the Lord of love.

Dear friends, we can testify about love until we’re hoarse, but until the world can see that love alive and lived out among us, and personally experience that love through us, all of our witnessing about love will be in vain.  As followers of Jesus, we live behind glass doors.  The world constantly looks into see what we are like.  If we show a new kind of love, the world will know it and investigate it.

Isn’t that an exciting challenge the Lord has left us?  Can we actually do it?  Yes, if we continue to follow Jesus and remember that it is He who works within us, forgiving, loving and teaching us how to do the very same thing.

Now, you who have been forgiven so much and loved so greatly go out and allow the Holy Spirit to do the same through you.  And if you should fall short this week, come back next Sunday to be forgiven and renewed for love!  I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!