Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1356
June 24, 2018 John 15.9-17
Rev. Dr. Ed Pettus
(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)
“Friends of Jesus”
Last Sunday I spoke on having a relationship with God the Father. In each of these sermons, I want to emphasize the relationship in terms of friendship. But, relating as friends is a bit different when it comes to Father, Son, and Spirit. In part it may be that we don’t see the parent/child relationship as a friendship, at least not in the early stages. And we may find it similarly strange to talk about friendship with the Holy Spirit for other reasons. But friendship with Jesus might be more welcoming in that Jesus was found in human form and Jesus Himself called the disciples and all who follow His commandments friends. And yet, because God is understood as the Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit, our God is a God of relatedness, even if we cannot completely understand the mysteries of the Trinity, we can understand the concept of God as relational and thus seeking a relationship with His people.
Today we see Jesus in John’s gospel calling His followers friends. Let’s take a look at how that friendship grows and develops.
A Hospitable Friend
First, Jesus is a hospitable friend. In John 15:9 we read, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” The term used here to abide has with it the understanding of dwelling in a particular place, to stay or remain in an abode. It is coming home to a safe dwelling place, the place where we know hospitality and care and love. To abide in Jesus’ love is to be at home in that love. And we all know there’s no place like home! Even if someone has grown up in a home that was not hospitable, Jesus can redefine “home” for all who come to Him. In the same manner that any one who did not have a pleasant home life because of their father, Jesus will redefine what it means to relate to the Heavenly Father. Any one who has never known the concept of a true friend, Jesus can be that friend. We all come home when we come to the love of Jesus Christ.
Love is often inspirational for us. When we come to love someone, we do things that we might not normally do. When we express love within families, it is unlike any other expressions. This love with Jesus, this hospitable friendship is all encompassing. That means it surpasses all other loves and enhances all other loves. Our love for one another is magnified because we share a friendship with Jesus. Our love for spouses and children and parents and siblings is all increased because we know the great hospitable dwelling of Jesus’ love. In His love we are immersed in the greatest love we can know. This love empowers all our loves.
One of the comments I read this week spoke of imagining “a swimming pool filled, not with water, but with Jesus’ love. When we find the courage to dive in, we will find ourselves in a new and different world—refreshing—quiet, cut off from the noise and distractions of the world—supportive, a place where we are upheld by Jesus’ love (https://www.sermonwriter.com/biblical-commentary/john-159-17/).
We might think in terms of going to a friend’s home and being offered a drink and food and a comfortable chair and good fellowship, the hospitality of someone’s home. We are made comfortable in a different environment than our own. Jesus makes us feel at home no matter where we might be. I like being at home. I remember several times feeling at home in Israel but so far away from all things familiar. I suppose part of that feeling was the people, but I also felt it partly knowing that I was in the place where Jesus welcomed so many to abide in His love.
An Obedient Friend
You might recall that obedience was a part of our friendship with God the Father and we read here in John 15:10 that obedience is also crucial to our friendship with Jesus. Just as Jesus has kept commandment so too are we to keep it. “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.” How does one stay in the dwelling of Jesus’ love, by keeping commandment. If you keep my commandment. I would guess that hospitality would run the same way if you invited someone into your home and they proceeded to break every rule in the house, you would ask them to leave. We don’t say in advance that we have house rules because we assume our friends will know that you can’t come in a break all the windows. Jesus provides the example of obedience having been obedient to the Father. The love depends on keeping commandments. It is not that Jesus would stop loving us, but we would not be able to abide in that love if we failed to show love through obedience.
I believe that the point is not about unconditional love, but more about what it means to truly abide in Jesus’ love. When we are in love we want to do things that please our lover. We want to be pleasing and follow the rules and do what is right. If a friend were to tell you that they will stick by you no matter what happens and then as soon as there is trouble of any sort they run off and abandon you, there is no obedience to that friendship. The disciples were disobedient when they scattered after Jesus was arrested. Sometimes our so-called friends do something that causes us to wonder, why would you do that? What kind of friend breaks the covenant bonds of friendship?
Jesus demonstrated the bond of love between Father and Son by doing everything the Father asked of Him. We want to do what we can for our friends, but even more so we want to do what Jesus commands because we know that keeps us in His love, and it keeps us in righteousness and peace and hope and love.
A Joyful Friend
Jesus then says, “I have spoken these things to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be made full” (v. 11). Dwelling in His love, obedience to His commands is not a tiresome, “can’t have any fun”, drab life, but it is one filled with joy. Not just being happy, but sharing in the joy of Jesus Himself. It is joy in discipline, joy in love, joy in forgiveness, joy in relationship with God the Son. It is the joy of friendship. It is the kind of joy that is known even in hardship. An athlete trains and works and pushes the body to experience the joy of winning. A mother cares for herself for nine months and experiences the pain of childbirth in order to also experience the great joy of childbirth. That is to say that joy is not always absent of hard times, but joy is lasting and joy is promised in the end.
When I picture Jesus walking with His disciples on an ordinary day, as if He ever had an ordinary day, I picture Jesus laughing and giving and receiving joy in the friendship they shared. What amazes me about this verse is not that we will have joy, but that our joy may be made full because Jesus’ joy remains in us. His joy dwells in us. His joy fills us. I got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart! His joy runs deep and gives life and peace and utter delight.
A Loving Friend
v 12-13 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. Jesus gives the command to love one another and then he says, as I have loved you. How did Jesus love the disciples and how does Jesus love us? In this passage the answer is in verse thirteen, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus literally laid down His life on the cross. But Jesus also laid down His life to come as He did. In Philippians 2 we see that He emptied himself, taking human form and coming as a servant. He laid down His life from the beginning of His earthly life and culminating on the cross. He gave us the example of servant love because that is how He showed love to the disciples and to us.
He has loved us through His entire life, death, and resurrection. He has loved us in calling us friends. He has loved us in choosing us. He has loved us in forgiveness and grace and blessings and life in abundance. His love is in word and action. His love is the expression of God’s love for the world. Now we are called on to love as Jesus has loved us. It is sometimes a difficult act, but it is in service to one another that we show love. Yes, we can speak of our love but that word is also fulfilled in our acts of love. The world knows nothing of this kind of love. It defines love in getting more than giving. It defines love incorrectly in only that which brings us pleasure. The love of the world has no sacrificial service, no laying down of one’s life...the world only knows love in what John describes in 1 John 2:16, the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life. This is not the love or the friendship we seek with Jesus. In fact James says that this worldly love makes us an enemy of God. James 4.4, You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Jesus is our loving friend and has shown us His love through His sacrifice. He has shown us love by service to God and to all those with whom He came in contact. We see Him heal the sick, teach the truth, wash the disciples feet, all acts of love and service. He has loved us as well in these ways. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.” Without Jesus and His love, we are truly incapable of love.
Friends of Jesus
14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 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. 16 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. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
We are friends of Jesus. What a great thought that is. No longer servants, but friends. And yet, service is a part of friendship. The difference is that a master and servant do not share in things together, the master servant relationship is one of command and obedience only. In friendship Jesus does require obedience, but He also shares things with us as friends. Jesus communicates as a friend and not just as our Master. He desires a personal relationship in love. He is still Lord over our lives, but it is unlike any other Lordship and unlike any other friendship.
This is a particular friendship that Jesus has chosen – to follow commandments, to know the Father, to bear fruit, to receive from the Father what we ask, and we will spend the rest of our lives learning through the Scriptures what it means to share in this friendship.
One question we might seek is how do we cultivate friendship with Jesus? I cannot suggest any new insight, but it is much like how we cultivate friendships with all our friends. We spend time together – in this case, in the Bible, in prayer, in worship. We listen to what Jesus tells us in the Bible. We seek to learn His ways and what he taught. We strive to follow Him and obey His commands. I also think about using our imagination, how we imagine Jesus with us and how we might do the things that please Him. We devote our lives to Jesus just as He devoted His life to us. We find ways to develop a God consciousness and a Jesus consciousness. I feel like an old man saying this, but the younger folks used to call one another BFF, best friends forever. They probably still do, but there is really only one best friend forever. All our friendship on this earth will one day end. But friendship with Jesus is truly forever. Let us cultivate love in all our friendships, but remember that only one friendship is forever and only one friendship feeds all our other friendships, that is the one we share with Jesus Christ, our friend, our Lord, and our Savior. What a friend we have in Jesus! Amen.