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LSB Easter 6B Sermon – John 15:9-17

May 25, 2015

May 10, 2015 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“You are My friends if you do what I command 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.”

Friendship is emphasized in our culture and society. It’s a theme that forms the core of the novels we read and the screenplays that become the films that we watch. It serves as the inspiration for songs that top charts or accompany television shows and movies: “You’ve Got a Friend,” “Thank You for Being a Friend,” “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.” Great value is placed on having true friends. So much so, that when friendship is betrayed or is lacking, great sorrow is caused.

Jesus speaks about friendship. He says that He has friends: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command 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.” Jesus identifies His disciples as His friends. He confers that status to them: “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.”

Jesus’ statements reveal the relationship that the disciples have with Him. It’s just like what Jesus did when He called Himself the True Vine and His disciples the Branches. That statement told the disciples how they were connected to Him as their source of life. When Jesus says that these disciples are His friends, He tells them that a bond exists between them and Him. That bond was established as Jesus worked for them; it is maintained as they live in connection with Him.

Recall how Jesus spoke about love: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus is declaring what He has done for the disciples. He had said that He had loved them in a particular degree: “As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you.” The love that the Father has for Jesus was shown by Jesus to His disciples. No greater love exists. That is what the disciples were going to realize over the next three days, as what Jesus says on Thursday evening is fulfilled by Him on Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday. For in Jesus’ crucifixion, He lays down His life for His friends. That is what establishes the bond between Jesus and His disciples.

The disciples’ status of friendship with Jesus brings the understanding what He has done for them and what the Father desires. Jesus says that the disciples are not His slaves who simply do what they are told. Jesus doesn’t have an army of robots who obey whatever command He gives them because He controls them. But Jesus has a group of friends who have been given to know what His work is and how it affects them: “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.” There is an intimacy between Jesus and His disciples. They know things that others do not: all that Jesus was given by His Father to say, they have heard.

Friendship with Jesus is created for the disciples as He lays down His life for them. That status brought them into His circle of trust, as they heard all that Jesus was to make known about the Father. These two actions done by Jesus for His disciples lead to the statement about the friendship that He has with His disciples: “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” 

Jesus’ statement is not a non sequitur, but is completely tied to the other two actions. What Jesus does shows the value of the relationship that He created for His disciples. He has shown how much they are worth by laying down His life for them. He has granted them the benefit that they know things which they previously had not and that others don’t know. Jesus tells them how that relates to keeping His commandments: “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. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.”

Keeping Jesus’ commandments demonstrates a person’s friendship with Him. That is done because of the friendship that Jesus has established with the person. Keeping Jesus’ commandments also brings joy to Jesus, just as Jesus’ keeping the Father’s commandments brought joy to the Father. But not only does it bring joy to Jesus, it brings joy to the friends of Jesus who show that they aren’t breaking the bond of friendship that Jesus established with them.

This concept is the foundation for your following Jesus and keeping His commandments. What Jesus did for the first disciples was also done for you. Jesus laid down His life for you. The events of Holy Week were not just for the people of ancient Jerusalem; they took place for all humanity: “To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” Jesus has made known to you what He heard from the Father. What Jesus spoke in ancient Judea has been proclaimed to the world, just as Peter did in Caesarea: “He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that He is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.” And Jesus calls you to be His friends by keeping His commandments: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments.”

You have been made Jesus’ friends. That happened when you were born of God. You become Jesus’ friends when you hear the Gospel that testifies to what He has done and how that has brought about your redemption. You become Jesus’ friends as you receive the new birth that the Holy Spirit brings down from above. You become Jesus’ friends as you listen to His teaching that establishes your way of life and you abide in it. So the statement Jesus made to the first disciples becomes a description of 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.”

The abiding fruit that you bear is the product of being Jesus’ friends. The laying down of Jesus’ life for you has established that bond of friendship. It has also made you righteous before God the Father, so that you are called well-pleasing to Him, just as the Father calls His Son Jesus well-pleasing. When Jesus made known what the Father said, He revealed the Father’s will and shows shows you what is good and right. None of this is not kept secret from you. All the dimness of mind or deafness of heart is removed. What is said about the Father is true: “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him.” And that is what you know from Jesus.

So you strive to keep the bond of friendship that Jesus has created in you: “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” You understand that being Jesus’ friends has value. It is beneficial to you. You also know that betraying friendships or breaking that type of bond is detrimental. It causes pain and suffering when those whom you have brought into your circle of trust show themselves to be enemies instead of friends by their behavior. The same holds true for those who have been brought into Jesus’ circle of trust, then prove themselves to be opponents of Him instead of disciples.

But maintaining the bond of friendship does not cause pain and suffering. Instead, it brings joy and gladness. Jesus alluded to that when He said: “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. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” This joy and gladness that keeping the bond of friendship between you and Jesus brings turns the matter of keeping His commandments from an onerous duty to something that you are pleased to do: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”

This is what Jesus wants you to know. His work has changed you. You are no longer enemies of God. But you are not His pawns. You are not servants who are enslaved and compelled by a superior being. Instead, you are God’s children. You are Jesus’ disciples who know what He has done. You are His friends who both understand what He wills and want to carry it out. That is what the redemptive work of Jesus has accomplished in you. It is His gracious desire: “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.” That gracious desire will be fulfilled, as you abide in His love: “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…. You are My friends if you do what I command you.”

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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From → Sunday Sermon

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