If You Really Love Me

Gospel of John 14:15-15:17

15 “If you really love me, you will keep the commandments I have given you 16 and I shall ask the Father to give you someone else to stand by you, to be with you always. 17 I mean the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, for it can neither see nor recognise that Spirit. But you recognise him, for he is with you now and will be in your hearts. 18 I am not going to leave you alone in the world—I am coming to you. 19 In a very little while, the world will see me no more but you will see me, because I am really alive and you will be alive too. 20 When that day come, you will realise that I am in my Father, that you are in me, and I am in you. Phillips

Chrysostom wrote around 290 CE, At all times it is works and actions that we need, not a mere show of words. It is easy for anyone to say or promise something, but it is not so easy to act on that word or promise. . . . “If you love,” Christ said, “keep my commandments.” . . . I have commanded you to love one another and to do to one another as I have done to you. To love me is to obey these commands and to submit to me, your belovedACCS

Jesus orders us to love, and Chrysostom adds that love is a verb; it is only love if there is action. Sunday church is all about refreshing ourselves to be ready for the week. But if we are not watching for opportunities to love someone with a kind word, a smile, an encouragement, then Sunday was wasted. Sunday, ask yourself, ‘what do I do Monday?’ If you are ready to practice love on Monday, it will be easier on Tuesday, next week, and next month.

We also need to be careful how we package our love. The old approach of offering the homeless a bed and a meal as long as they sit through a service of singing and preaching is counterproductive. Jesus did not demand obedience before he would heal, feed, or teach them. If people see us freely giving love, they will be more interested in joining that love.

We are not alone; Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to help us. We cannot see the Spirit, but we can feel the Spirit’s presence if we focus on living out the Messiah’s love. The ball is in our court, and we must do some heavy lifting. Strangely, the lifting gets lighter with practice.

We see the Holy Spirit throughout John. It is in the testimony of the Baptizer and the second birth of Nicodemus. The living water at the well is the Holy Spirit. When Jesus declared that the Twelve, except one, were clean, it was through the power of the Spirit.

In this passage, Jesus promises they will receive a parakletos, an advocate to assist them in their teaching, revealing, and interpreting Jesus to new disciples. This advocate, the Holy Spirit, will be the mediator of God and Jesus to us who seek to do the will of God. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels

Notice that Jesus identifies the Spirit as the Spirit of Truth. That should hardly need be said as the Spirit is of God and God is Truth. Any Word coming from God is Truth. And, any word coming from Jesus is Truth.

The world does not accept the Truth, nor does it even recognize the Truth. The world seeks its way apart from God. Living in the darkness, a person cannot recognize the light. That seems senseless in the dark/light metaphor, but look at it as a person standing at Kit Carson, Colorado, some ninety miles east of Colorado Springs. He cannot see the mountains, so claims they do not exist. If he goes west, he will know the truth.

In verses 19-20, Jesus tells us what life is. It has nothing to do with a big house, a nice car, a good education, a pleasant job, and a trip to the islands every year. You are in me, and I am in you. God and His Son are in me if I live in Jesus/Messiah. The fact that I have a job to buy a house and food, etc., is irrelevant to living with God. If I am homeless and hungry but living with God, I am wealthy. If I make a million dollars a year and share ninety percent of it with the poor, it only counts if I am with God.

21 The person who has my commandments and obeys them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him.” NET

Speaking of love, if we do not love Jesus, we do not love at all. To love Jesus is to both know his commands and obey them. What are his orders? Matthew 22: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” NIV

If burglars take most of your possessions and later you are mugged, beaten, and left for dead, will you still love God? Or if an eyewitness identifies you as the murderer and the court sentences you to life, will you still love God? Can you love the neighbor who throws rocks at your children, shoots your dog, and poisons your cat? How about the boss who puts you down in front of everyone else?

Life is not easy, nor is agapao.

I click on Youtube talks by atheists who explain why God does not exist. Many say that if God is all good and all-powerful, why would He allow so much suffering? They completely miss that we live in sin because we humans always seek to do things our way. Many former Christians make the same point, often because they suffered great losses at some time. It seems to be easier to blame God than to love Him.

Jesus is our example in his continued love for Judas, even as he knew the betrayal was coming. He never stopped loving Simon Peter in the face of his shortcomings nor even his thrice denial. Nicodemus left unconvinced but still loved by Jesus. He never condemned the several women living in sin but continued to love them.

We also see Jesus withdrawing from people who oppose him. But he does not hate his opposers. He will speak the truth to them, and he leaves when they reject the truth.

There is truth and there is Truth. We must always seek God’s Truth. Humans want to know who is right in a disagreement when as often as not, both are at least partially right. There is no correct answer if the fight is about who should get the dwindling supply of freshwater—farmers or city dwellers. God wants all of us to have an abundant supply of water, but we live in a sin-filled world where bad things happen.

Learning to love in this world requires effort, study of Scripture, and constant prayer.

22 Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” 23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. NIV

You will remember that John did not give us a list of the Twelve as did the Synoptics, nor did he mention this Judas as one called. John alone brings him into the conversation instead of just one on the list. Yet, this name—Judas—is not certain. In the Four Gospels, this disciple is called Thaddeus, Judas, son of James, and Simon the Cananean. We know almost nothing about him before or after the resurrection.

The question Judas asked can be misunderstood. Back in verse 19, Jesus said that soon the world would not see him but the disciples would. When we get to the resurrection account, we will see that Jesus appeared to his disciples only, hundreds of them, but all disciples. This continues the idea of God versus the world. Here, the world represents darkness while the disciples represent light. Only those living in the Light of God can see the risen Messiah.

In answering Judas, Jesus expands the Presence of God to mean that God and His Son will live with all disciples. This statement seems to suggest a Presence even larger than the Holy Spirit, though, as we will see below, the Spirit is what he means. The Spirit is of God just as the Son of Man is of God. You see one, you see them all.

Jesus repeats his message that we are to love God and all humans; in return, God will love us and dwell with us. He does not say here what happens to those who do not love him, nor does he say whether God loves them or not. But I believe that God loves every human ever born; even those who died before birth. God’s love is without limit. But only those who love God and His Son and his believers are allowed to spend eternity with Him.

25 “I have said all this while I am still with you. 26 But the one who is coming to stand by you, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will be your teacher and will bring to your minds all that I have said to you. Phillips

When Jesus leaves, the Holy Spirit will fill the disciples [at Pentecost] and teach them. This also applies to us. We will have a hard time making sense of the Bible if we read it without the help of the Spirit. The Spirit comes from many sources: Bible commentaries, pastors, saintly friends, Sunday school and catechism teachers, even very carefully selected websites. As we grow in our knowledge, we need to test new ideas with trusted sources constantly. The disciples—including the hundred and more who were constant followers—had their memories refreshed by the Spirit. That is why, sixty years later, John could include so much detail in his account of his Master.

27 “I leave behind with you—peace; I give you my own peace and my gift is nothing like the peace of this world. You must not be distressed and you must not be daunted. 28 You have heard me say, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you really loved me, you would be glad because I am going to my Father, for my Father is greater than I. 29 And I have told you of it now, before it happens, so that when it does happen, your faith in me will not be shaken. 30 I shall not be able to talk much longer to you for the spirit that rules this world is coming very close. He has no hold over me, 31 but I go on my way to show the world that I love the Father and do what he sent me to do … Get up now! Let us leave this place. Phillips

The peace of the world is escapism, hiding in the darkness with the Prince of darkness. The peace Jesus gives us, in the words of William Barclay, is the peace of conquest. It is the peace which no experience in life can ever take from us. It is the peace which no sorrow, no danger, no suffering can make less. It is the peace which is independent of outward circumstances.

Verse 1 of this chapter opened with these words: “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.  Verse 27 ends with these words: Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraidESV We are at the end of chapter 14 before we read the first mention of peace. Jesus is telling the disciples they have a long road ahead. There is much to learn and understand. J Ramsey Michaels adds: In the same breath, he takes another opportunity to distance himself and the disciples from ‘the world’ and the way the world sees things. . . . Without quite saying so, he hints that persecution may await them, and that this would not be incompatible with the “peace” he is offering them, for the peace he offers is in their “heart,” not in their outward circumstances.

People who choose to follow the Jesus Way will suffer from the world’s sin. If there are no ‘slings and arrows,’ we may not be doing it right.

The end of verse 28 has been a difficult read for two thousand years. My Father is greater than I. We preach that God and the Son of Man are two parts of a whole, along with the third part, the Holy Spirit. If they make up a whole, how can one be less than the other? I believe part of the difficulty is that Jesus describes a Heavenly existence in worldly terms. In his human form, Jesus was less than God. He said that he only spoke the words given to him by the Father. With his human body and brain, Jesus had to depend on God the Father to help him face the Prince of darkness. While we know little about Jesus as he grew up, the Devil knew him and, no doubt, attacked him at every opportunity. With the help of God, he survived every challenge.

The Devil still has no hold on him. We will look more closely at the role of Satan in the crucifixion, but up to that event, Jesus was protected.

I go on my way to show the world that I love the Father and do what he sent me to do. Can we do less?

15 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. NIV

This is the seventh and final ‘I am’ statement. The image is of the grapevine, a common sight in Judah. The vine is also an ancient symbol of Israel; it is the vine of life. The only idea new in this statement is that Jesus applies it to himself.

Pruning is not always the term used in the OT, but it best describes the idea of God separating the wheat from the chaff, the unproductive from the productive, the loyal from the disloyal. We find the most direct pruning example in Isaiah 18:5-6. The nation God will prune is Nubia (Ethiopia), rulers of Egypt in the eight century BCE.

For before the harvest, when the blossom is gone,

and the berry has ripened, becomes the bloom,

He shall cut away twigs with pruning hooks,

Lop off, take away the slack branches.

They shall be left together for the mountain vultures,

And for the beasts of the land.

The vultures shall summer on them

And all the beasts of the land winter on them. Alter

Jesus wants us to understand that he is the way to God, the protector of those who walk in his path, and the viticulturist who can prune away our faults to help us grow even closer to him and God.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. NIV

Apart from me you can do nothing. Let me illustrate Jesus’ meaning with John D. Rockefeller, at the risk of offending some. He died in 1937—amid the Great Depression—with a net worth of $1.4 billion. No one has ever approached that wealth when considered in terms of percentage of GDP. John senior’s was 1.5%. Jeff Bezos’ is 0.008%.

But, did John D walk the Jesus walk? If not, his life was a waste. I am in no position to judge. I will say that, as he aged, he started giving millions to churches. He also set up his only son, John D Jr., with the task of giving away as much of the wealth to worthy causes as he could. When Junior died, the Rockefellers were worth more than when he started his handouts.

Each of us must look at ourselves in the mirror, so to speak, and decide—am I doing the kind of good work that Jesus was doing? Do I treat people as equals and with respect? Am I willing to spend time with people who … ‘are not my people?’ Is the job I do for the paycheck a help to others, or does it hurt them? If my job pays well, do I spend all of the money on my family? If I work three jobs sixty hours a week and still earn below the poverty line, do I envy, complain, curse, slap my kids, kick my dog?

Money was not even the way to measure walking in the Jesus Way in the first century. Many followers were poor, many were slaves, a fair number were wealthy. Those who had money shared with those who had too little. We tend to forget that many slaves in the Empire did not need money as their masters provided very well for them. The churches were in the homes of the wealthier Christians, but they all met as equals, though some left the meetings as slave and master.

Verse 7 causes many to get the wrong idea. I could ask for a million dollars, but it will not drop out of Heaven. Our asking does not depend on our wishes but on Jesus. We cannot forget the second part of verse 5. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. It is ALWAYS about Jesus. Our only requests should be about bearing good fruit.

I am not a defender of Mohammad, but I like one feature of alms. The teaching includes that the poor should accept the gift so that both can be blessed. We Americans have a strong spirit of independence, and we often needlessly reject help.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. NIV

The rule of love is the building block for all that Jesus has told us in the preceding verses. God loves His Son; His Son loves all of us. All we have to do is keep his commands. Many people hear commands and think of the Ten Commandments. Jesus was not talking about that. It is still the love commands. If we love, we will not violate the big Ten.

Did Jesus violate any commandments? He consistently said that there is one God. He never misused God’s true name. He did not worship idols. He did get into trouble for failing to keep the Sabbath, but that is another lesson. He did honor his Father and his father and his mother. No murders, adulteries, theft, false witness, or coveting. I do not know how well Jesus did with the remaining commands of the 613 that Pharisees said God gave to them.

Love covers it all.

12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. NIV

Disciples of Jesus are his friends. Friends are willing to die for one another.

Be Righteous and do Good

Mike Lawrence

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