“Abide in My Love”

(John 15:9-17 – Easter 6 – May 9, 2021)

John 15:9-17 – 9“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. 10If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. 17These things I command you, that you love one another.”

Dear Redeemed in Christ, who loves us:

On Mother’s Day, we can all be thankful for our mothers. Through the godly vocation of motherhood, not only has our Creator given us the gift of life; but through our mothers, God also has provided love and nurture in our lives. As we honor our mothers, one of the first things that comes to mind is their love. How thankful we can be for mothers who have shown unconditional love, by being there for their children in good times and bad times, doing what is best for them, even willing to make sacrifices to serve their good.

We especially thank God for mothers (and fathers) who have pointed us, in word and deed, to the greatest love of all. It is the love of God for each of us in Christ. It is the boundless love of God that led Him to make the greatest sacrifice of His Son to save us from sin and death. It is the unconditional love of God, by which He does not treat us as our sins deserve, but forgives us daily and looks on us with favor through Christ. It is that eternal love of God, that will never end, the love we will share forever with all the family of God in Christ in heaven.

Here Jesus leads us to contemplate that love of God for us, to take it to heart and live by it. As He says “Abide In My Love,” He invites us to 1) Trust His Love and 2) Share His love.

1) Trust His Love

If we knew nothing of Jesus’ self-sacrificial love as our Savior, we might interpret His words the wrong way. It might appear that His love was conditional – that we must somehow earn His love by our obedience. For when He saysAbide in My love,” He also says: “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” (vs. 10). Does our remaining in Jesus’ love depend on how well we are doing at following His example and obeying God’s commandments? If so, where would that leave us?

For His part, Jesus is the perfect Son of God, begotten of His Father from eternity. And He is the perfect Son of Man, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. As the only perfect Son who has ever lived, Jesus was able to keep His Father’s commandments without one misstep. From the earliest days of childhood, growing up in the home of His earthly parents, Jesus kept the Fourth Commandment; He loved, honored, and obeyed His father and mother. Through His entire earthly walk, Jesus kept every commandment – loving God above all, and loving His neighbor as Himself. Therefore He could even challenge His enemies, who wanted most to find fault with Him: Which of you convicts Me of sin?” (John 8:46). And no one could.

But it is not so with us. We have failed to love others perfectly – even those whom God has put closest to us in life – be it our parents, siblings, spouse, friends, coworkers, fellow students, neighbors, and so on. Our sinful nature is self-centered and self-serving. Above all, we have failed to love and serve God perfectly – honoring Him and obeying His will over our own. Therefore, if abiding in Jesus’ love depended on our obedience, our following His perfect example in love, we would all be in deep trouble. We would have no relationship with God.

But this is not the meaning of Jesus’ words. Look at the situation in which He speaks these words. He is in the upper room with His disciples, the evening before His crucifixion. He is speaking tenderly to those whom He loves, those whom He calls His friends. Notice that before He says, Abide in My love,” He first expresses that unconditional love which He already has for them. He says: “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you.” Can you imagine a closer kind of love than that which God the Father has for His Son from eternity? There is no question whether the Father loves His Son. Likewise, there is no question whether Jesus loves His disciples.

And He was about to prove that love. Here Jesus lets His disciples in on God’s loving plan of saving sinners. Like a close circle of friends, Jesus tells them what is about to happen:Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” In just a matter of hours, He would lay down His life on the cross to pay for all their failures to obey and love.

Here Jesus reveals His love for each of us, too, even when we have not deserved it. The Son of God has gone to the cross to lay down His life for us. He shed His innocent blood to pay for all our failures to love God and each other. He has suffered the death caused by our sin, so that we will rise one day to live with Him forever in heaven! Greater love has no one than this self-sacrificing, all-giving love, which the Son of God has for us!

Now in place of all our sin and disobedience, God looks on us through the perfect life His Son lived for us. It was for us that Jesus honored His earthly father and mother. It was for us that He kept every commandment of His heavenly Father through His earthly walk. It was for us that He loved God above all and loved his neighbor as himself. And now, God counts His Son’s perfect life of love to us for our righteousness. So God’s love for us does not depend on our merit or worthiness. It is that unconditional love, that grace by which He has saved us.

In love and mercy Jesus came to us, and by His Gospel He graciously called us to Himself in faith. Now He calls us His disciples and friends. He reveals to us that closest kind of love, saying to us: “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (vs. 9). Yes, what our Savior wants most for us is that we remain in His love, by trusting His love.

That is why Jesus continually draws us near to Himself through His Gospel of our salvation. Like those disciples long ago, He gathers us around His Word and Sacraments to reveal His love to us and strengthen our faith. He is making us His understanding, inner circle of friends. As Jesus says:No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (vs. 15).

If Jesus had not brought us near to Himself by calling us to faith, we would still be outsiders, not knowing God’s forgiveness and love. We would still be servants of sin. We would only obey outwardly, when compelled by fear of punishment, or when trying to earn God’s favor.  But apart from faith in Jesus our lives would remain sinful and fruitless in God’s sight (John 15:4-5).

But now in His Word, Jesus has made known to us “all things” that He heard from His Father – all things that He has now accomplished for our salvation and eternal life. He says: These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (vs. 11). Now that Jesus has called to faith and made us part of His inner circle of disciples and friends, we have new motivation for loving Him and obeying His commandments. We have the joy of living in His love each day, the joy of sharing in His eternal life.

As long as we live in this world, we can respond to Jesus’ love by bearing the fruit of faith, living to the glory of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. This is what He has called us to. As He says:You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (vs. 16).

2)  Share His Love

One of the ways we bear fruit that will remain is by sharing His love with others. This is what our Savior wants, as He says: that you love one another as I have loved you” (vs. 12). And so, we abide in Jesus’ love first by trusting His love, and then by sharing His love.

Wherever God has placed us in life, in our daily callings, may it give us great joy to share His love with one another in Christ! When a Christian mother cares for her children, doing what is best for them in good times and bad times, whose love is she sharing? Is it not that unconditional love of her Savior, shining through as a fruit of her faith? When a Christian husband provides for his wife, giving up his own interests to care for her needs, whose love is he sharing? Is it not that self-sacrificial self-giving love of His Savior, shining through as a fruit of his faith? When Christian children honor their parents, obeying them while growing up in the home, and in later years seeing to it that they are taking care of, whose love are they sharing? Is it not that eternal love of their heavenly Father, as a fruit of their faith in His Son?

As we live in this world, carrying out our daily callings in our home, in our workplace, in our school, in our neighborhood, in our church, it is not always easy to love those around us. Sometimes people are not so easy to get along with. How do we share Jesus’ love then?

First, we can remember how God demonstrated His love for us; in that, we were still sinners, He sent His Son to die for us (Romans 5:8). Then we can pray for His help to share His love. In whatever challenge or need we may have, Jesus invites us to pray with the promise: that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you” (vs. 16). We know it is God’s will that we share His love with one another, as a fruit of our faith. So He will answer our prayer and help us to do so. It may not be easy at first. But as we commit all things to God in prayer, He will lead us to share His forgiveness and love in Christ, even with that difficult person. Even by simply praying for that person, we have already begun to share Jesus’ love for them in our heart. And He will strengthen us and guide us to share His love in more and more ways. Sharing His love this way will bring us true joy. For then we are putting ourselves in His shoes. The depth of His forgiveness and love becomes all the more clear to us as we share it.

Thankfully, we have a love higher than our own to share. We have the love of God in Christ for us – that unconditional, all-giving, eternal love which He has first shown us; that love which will never run out, no matter how much we share it.

As we share God’s Gospel of forgiveness and love in Christ with others, we share His gift of eternal life with them. All else that we can share in this world is passing. We can give the most expensive gift to a loved one, but one day it will perish with this world. But Jesus says: “My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35). When we share His of love and salvation through His Gospel, we are sharing the greatest gift of eternal life. We are bearing fruit that will remain forever.

“Abide in My love,” Jesus says. In His love for us, He has called us to faith and eternal life. He calls us His disciples and friends. He has made us children of our heavenly Father. Just think of what it will be like in heaven, as one great family of God in Christ, where we will share His perfect love with each other in never-ending joy. Even now in this world, the faith that abides in His love is a living and joyful faith. Jesus wants our joy to be full this way. There is no greater joy than to trust His love, and then share His love. For then we are truly abiding in His love!

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. Amen.