Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my 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. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 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. 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. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” (John 15:9–17, ESV)
(From a sermon by Glen Neilson.)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus calls us his friends. Right in the middle of this reading we hear him say to us, “you are my friends. Right there in the middle of all that talk about doing what I command, obeying the Father, bearing fruit, Jesus says we are his friends. He says that he has a relationship with us, actually being our friend.
We all know how precious and rare a good friend is. We all need someone to be friends with. There are times when we need a friend to discuss the troubles in our life. We all needs someone to sit with for a cup of coffee, shop with, and even commiserate about life, kids, work and school. We know how important is it to have a good friend to do all those kind of things with, and yet, we also know how really rare good friendships are.
Today, friendships seem to be extra hard to build. They take time, and time is a luxury we seem to have so little of these days. Everyone is so busy, with school, work, family there’s little time left to develop a good friendship. And even when there’s time we often lack the energy. Life today is full…
There’s another problem too. Lot’s of people really don’t know how to be a good friend. All too often people use relationships for their own benefit, and their own purposes. People want you around and call you a friend when you can do something for them. They want you to be there when you can make them feel good, but as soon as a little trouble starts or as soon as you’re not useful anymore they split. Friendship is difficult when you get used, in the process.
Friendship makes you vulnerable. That’s just the nature of the beast. Friends see us for who we are, with our masks removed. We let our guard down and tell them things we don’t tell anyone else. When the true you comes out you put yourself in a position to be hurt easily. That’s another reason why friendship is rare.
Friendship is so rare that maybe it makes Jesus’ offer of friendship a little difficult to accept. We do what him to be with us, after all we gather together here Sunday after Sunday to come into contact with him. We want him to listen to our problems and he promises to do just that. He promises that nothing is to small a matter for him, and we can confide in him anytime. He always has time for us. He always treats us right. He promises to give us whatever we ask in his name. He actually was the friend who gave his very life for his friends. Jesus loves us, in spite of who we are. He promises to fill us with joy. He knows us for who we are and never turns us away. Jesus is the kind of friend we really want. What a precious gift it is to be chosen as a friend of Jesus. “You are my friends” Jesus says.
Unfortunately we aren’t good friends in return. We don’t spend the time and energy necessary for this friendship. We know what the pressures are. It’s difficult to get everyone up and around in the morning, just in time to catch the bus, or off to work. Who has time for adding an extra half hour, or even fifteen minuets for devotions? Sunday is a day to rest and catch up. No wonder our minds wander from the task at hand in worship. There’s so much to do today, especially on a confirmation Sunday! And meals are all too often around the TV instead of the table. Family devotions don’t fit very well during commercials. And it’s our friendship with Jesus that suffers. Not time. No energy. No will to do it.
Maybe his friendship with us isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? Does he really treat me right? Does he really hear my prayers? All of them? Being chosen as a friend of Jesus hasn’t made my life any easier. Where’s that joy that he promises anyway? I’ve got pain in my life, and lots of it. And Jesus, “my friend” seems a long way away. My friendship with Jesus is filled with doubt.
Jesus, our friend, shows us all our weaknesses. Especially when we compare ourselves to him. He is perfect. We are not. He does everything right, we constantly fail. He loves perfectly. We give our love with conditions. He is a good friend. We are simply friendly. Who wants to hang around someone who is always opening those wounds? It’s easier to avoid Jesus, and let that friendship with Jesus die.
And we’d let it die. But Jesus is too good a friend for that. Jesus considers his friendship with us so precious that he won’t let it die. He didn’t choose for friends so that we’d wither up and die, like dead branches on the vine. He wants us to bear fruit. He promises joy and that’s what he gives with his friendship.
Jesus is a true friend. He gives his time to us fully. As a matter of fact he lived his whole life only for us, his friends. He obeyed his father’s command, that was, to give his very life for us, even when it meant death and execution. He did what was best for us even when it meant his own death, even when it meant sacrificing himself. That’s true friendship, to lay down your life for your friends. Jesus laid down his life for you, his friends, on the cross. His friendship takes him to the darkness and pain of death. He has that “greater love” that he was talking about. But that love doesn’t stop in death. He takes his life up again. That’s where the joy is. It’s Easter joy! Jesus friendship for us didn’t die in the tomb. He rose again, and came alive. He isn’t a dead friend who gave up everything for us. He alive. He is our friend forever. He will never leave us or forsake us. He knows who we truly are and he is still our friend. He knew us before he died. He knew us on the cross, and he still died for us. He knows us now and still calls us his friends.
What a friend we have in Jesus! Do we need a friend to talk to? Take it to the lord in prayer. Do we need a friend to walk with? He is with us through his Word, we simply need to open it up and read. Do we need a friend to accept us? We can go to his table and eat and drink with his blessings. He welcomes us there just as he welcomed tax collectors and sinners. Do we need a friend to love us? We can go to Jesus and remain in his love always.
Do we need a friend? Yes we do. We need Jesus. He is our true friend. He has chosen us to be his friends. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.