Tuesday, March 19, 2013

John.13.31-35; Fifth Sunday in Lent; March 17, 2013;

Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;

When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”” (John 13:31–35, ESV)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

“Love one another.” That seems simple enough. Jesus says we are to love one another. In fact, it seems easy enough that a little child can memorize it. “Love one another.” Jesus says. It was a new command from the lips of our Lord. But we should realize that it’s not new because it was different from before. After all just look at the Ten Commandments. Any confirmad will tell you that the summary of Commandments 4 through 10 is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And it’s like a passage right out of the book of Leviticus,

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18 ESV)

As soon as God sets down the commandments loving one another is a part of them. It was all about who they were as God’s people. Jesus says the very same thing.

The Pharisees come to Jesus and ask, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus gives them more than they asked for. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And there’s a second command which is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. These commandments sum up what God’s Word is all about.

And yet even though it’s a simple commandment to understand Jesus sets the standard very high. “love one another: just as I have loved you.” Youch! There’s nothing like setting the bar high. “… as I have loved you.” Those are pretty loaded words, when we think about them. Right before Jesus gave this “new command” he washed the disciples’ feet. Jesus took a water basin and towel and knelt at the feet of each of them and actually washed their feet. It wasn’t his job to do it… It was the job of a servant to do it. “Do you know what I’ve done?” he said to them. “I’m your teacher and yet I’ve washed your feet. This is to be an example to you, wash one another’s feet.” I think it would be quite a lesson for us if we’d actually do this one. I mean if we all just took off our shoes and socks and washed each other’s feet. Some of you’d probably leave; some of you wouldn’t want anyone to see your feet. And for most of us it’s a job we’d rather just not do. And that’s exactly the point Jesus is making. It’s exactly what the disciples were thinking. “But, I don’t want to wash people’s feet!” If we can’t even do that simple thing without cringing, how are we supposed to love one another just as he did? How are you supposed to love the person three rows back who has noisy children? How are you supposed to love the person who just doesn’t dress up to the occasion of church? How are you supposed to love the person who you’ve had an argument with?

You know, that every time we use Jesus as an example we will always fall short. Imagine how the disciples felt just a few hours later when Jesus was dead. They had denied him. They ran away when Jesus needed them the most. They didn’t want to wash feet, but Jesus goes way beyond pouring water and drying feet. Jesus sets the standard that is actually impossible to reach. He gives up his very life, and suffers and dies a horrible death. We can’t even wash feet! In comparison to Jesus we see how deep our sin really is. When we see how deep it is, how it really fills us completely, we see really how great Jesus love is. The more we appreciate the love of Jesus the higher the standard is set, and the more we realize that we are indeed poor miserable sinners, in great need of a loving Savior. One who would serve us in such a way, that he was willing to bow down and wash our feet. One who would serve us in such a way, that he was willing to bow down his head in death for us.

Well, that is the depth of Jesus love. That he was willing to die for you and me. Jesus loves those of us that only God can love (and by the way that’s all of us). In spite of our deep seated sin; in spite of the ugliness that lives right here in our hearts; God loves us anyway. God’s great love for us is shown in the fact that Jesus died. Really that’s not the whole of it either. It wasn’t just an ordinary death. Our failure to love one another is really based in our failure to love God. We plain just don’t do it with our whole heart, with our whole soul and our whole mind. We’ve put too many other things in there to do that. We love our houses, our families, our money, our status, our… our… ourselves most! When God gave us everything for our benefit, we turn our back on him in favor of ourselves. God’s hand should reach out to us in punishment. But instead he stretches out his hand to us in love. He stretches out his hands on a wooden beam where nails were driven through them. Jesus stretches out his hands and receives God’s punishment for our selfish love. God’s love is shown to us when we look on the cross and see God himself suffering and bleeding and dying there. Out of his great love he suffered, but it wasn’t just physical punishment that he suffered it was spiritual also. God poured out, onto those outstretched hands, the eternal punishment of hell that was due to you and me, that was due to everyone who has ever lived and will ever live. In his great love, Jesus took it all, and suffered it all, and paid it all in full.

In the light of that, what are a few feet? Actually I’m not asking you to start taking off your shoes, that’s not really what Jesus was talking about either. Jesus wants you to be a servant, just as he was a servant. He did the most menial job that there was, a job only “fit” for a slave. “just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

First of all, we have to remember that love isn’t a bunch of feelings in our heart. That’s not the example that Jesus gives us. His example is His life. He fed, healed, taught, ate, and laughed with people; all kinds of people, but especially people that no one else wanted to spend time with. We’ve been conditioned to believe that love is a feeling, a deep desire to reach out and hug someone; an irresistible magical force, or a destiny that can’t be denied. But love isn’t a feeling at all. It’s action. It’s a way of living that makes connections with people. It’s a life style that says that people are worth something. People are worth something. Jesus life, death and resurrection show us that.

“Love one another.” It’s a tall commandment. In fact you and I will never do it perfectly. That’s why when Jesus says By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. The “if” there isn’t a condition, it does happen, we maybe should think of it as a “since” or a “because.” The love that Jesus shows you he gives you to give to other people. And there is plenty of his love to go around. You can and do love one another, even if you feel like keeping your distance, even if you just don’t like the cloths they wear, even if you don’t want to wash feet. Because you see, love doesn’t come from in here in our hearts. Love comes from right here, in the palms of Jesus hands. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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