Sermon from 15th May 2022 (Easter 5)

John 13:31-35 (EHV)

31 After Judas left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify the Son in himself and will glorify him at once.”

33 “Dear children, I am going to be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34 “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, so also you are to love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Dear Heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit upon us so that we may learn to love one another as your Son, Jesus Christ, loves us. Amen.

There’s a story of a pastor who got up to preach one Sunday.

As he got up to preach, the people settled into their normal listening routines with their expressionless faces, folded arms, crossed legs, and expected to sit on their hard pews for a long time.

The pastor said: “Brothers and sisters in Christ, love one another!”

And then he sat down.

Everyone looked at their watches, looked at each other, and smiled! They started thinking about what they could do for the rest of the morning knowing they were getting out of church early!

At the end of the worship service, many shook the pastor’s hand and said: “Great sermon pastor!” The people gladly went their way to their coffee shops, picnics, fishing spots, or enjoyed watching more of their sports on TV.

The next Sunday the people prepared as usual for their pastor’s sermon thinking he’d probably settle back into his normal sermon length. Some of them wondered if he might come up with another short and sweet sermon.

The pastor got up to preach and said: “Brothers and sisters in Christ, love one another!”

And then he sat down.

The people didn’t check their watches this time, but their still looked at each other. They weren’t smiling as much. They had heard this sermon before! A whole week had gone by and this is the best the pastor could come up with, re-hashing an old sermon they only heard last week? Sure, the worship service went as quick as the previous week, but they were a little troubled by this repeated sermon.

Even though this sermon got glowing reviews the week before, it didn’t get as many good reviews this time. Anyway, the people didn’t say very much to the pastor and went about their normal post-worship routines as the previous week.

The next Sunday comes around. The people are curious, but a little wary, of what the pastor might preach this week. They sat back to listen to the sermon, but their faces showed a few more frowns than usual, just in case they were going to hear the same sermon for three weeks in a row.

The pastor got up to preach and said: “Brothers and sisters in Christ, love one another!”

And then he sat down.

While the people were overjoyed with this sermon only two weeks beforehand, they were now very angry at this same sermon! There didn’t seem to be much love in the room for the rest of the service. Quite a few of them by-passed the pastor and didn’t shake his hand. In fact, the people talked to the Elders about the pastor’s three-peated sermon and insisted they do something about it!

In response, the Elders stormed up to the pastor and demanded to know why he has now preached the same sermon three times.

The pastor quietly and patiently responded by saying: “Well, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I’ll stop preaching this sermon when you all do love one another!”

Now, many of us might think we love one another. After all, we all have the capacity to love and be loved. This is true for everyone, including non-Christians.

But how much do you really love the person next to you? How much do you love those you disagree with? How much do you love those who have let you down? How much do you love those who have hurt you through their words and actions?

If you had to look around at each person in this room and mentally note how much you love each of them using a scale between one and ten, how many of you would truly score each person a perfect number? How would each person score their love for you? If you had to score how much you love those who have hurt you, or abandoned you, or gossiped about you, how would you rate your love?

It could be we have very good reasons why we struggle to love one another, but notice what Jesus says about his three-peated command for us to love one another.

He said: “Just as I have loved you, so also you are to love one another.” Jn 13:34

Just as Jesus loves you and me. This is the love we’re to have for one another.

This then begs the question: If we’re to love one another as Jesus loves us, how does Jesus love us?

Well, imagine if the person next to you knew everything about you. And I mean everything! Every word you spoke when they weren’t around. Every detail about what you did twenty-four hours a day, every day. Every weird dream you had. Every judgmental and critical thought you had. Every second glance you made toward someone and what you were thinking at the time. Every desire and fear which motivates your actions.

How comfortable would you all be feeling right now if everyone in this room knew everything about you?

Would you start to worry if they’d still love you if they knew every evil thought, every hasty word, every selfish action, and every self-centred motivation of your heart?

Well, Jesus knows you’re sinful. He knows you’re selfish. He knows you’re weak and easily led astray. He knows all your negative thoughts about those he loves. He knows your struggles to believe. He knows every secret desire and fear of your heart which motivated your sinful responses to those around you. He knows everything about you, but still chooses to love you anyway!

If you’re to love as Jesus loves you (even though he knows all your faults and failures and frailties), you might find out things about those around you which disappoint you or make you angry. Your expectations of them will be shattered. When you get to know the people around you better, you may not want to love them anymore. You might feel justified in your treatment of them now that you know what you know.

But Jesus asks you to love one another in the same way he loves you. This means, even when you find out they’re not as good and helpful and honest and faithful as you thought they were, Jesus commands you to love one another anyway. You don’t love them because they’re lovable or worthy of your love, but because this is how Jesus loves you.

Jesus’ love for you cost him dearly. It wasn’t just that he knew something about you that you didn’t want him to know. He was deeply hurt by you.

Your common reaction to being hurt by those you love is to hurt them back, tell others about what they did, damage their reputation, or seek to avoid them. The last thing you want is to be hurt again.

But despite the fact Jesus knew how his own people would treat him, he entered our hurt-filled, war-ravaged, conflict-riddled world to suffer and die at the hands of the people he created. He endured insult and criticism. He watched his closest friends betray him, abandon him, and deny knowing him. He endured slaps in his face and whips on his back. And at no time did he complain their treatment of him wasn’t fair or for someone to come to his rescue.

As he hung on that cruel cross with nails bringing agony as they penetrated his hands and feet, the words he spoke to those around him weren’t demands for justice or cries about his innocence. Despite his pain, every word he spoke from his thorny throne were expressions of his love and compassion for those around him.

He made sure his mother was looked after. He comforted a criminal with a promise of living in Paradise with him. He forgave all those who didn’t know what they were doing (despite the fact they believed they knew exactly what they were doing). He announced everything needed for our forgiveness and salvation is finished.

His only words which expressed some concern for his own needs was when he expressed his thirst, how he felt abandoned by his Father, and his trust knowing his Father will receive his Spirit.

He endured the cross and the grave for you and me because he loves us. His death offers us the forgiveness of our sins because he paid the penalty of death as payment for our sin in our place. You and I are forgiven for the sake of his bitter suffering and death. His resurrection offers us the promise of eternal life with him. Even though he knows us and is often hurt by us, he still loves us enough to forgive us and grant us lasting life with him.

If you’re to love as Jesus loves you (even though you’ve often hurt him and his people), you shouldn’t be surprised people will hurt you. You’ll find this hard to bear. You won’t want to forgive them. You’ll want to hurt them back. You’ll want to avoid them so they can’t hurt you again. You’ll want someone to come to your rescue.

But, as recipients of Jesus’ love and mercy, he asks you to love one another as he loves you. This kind of love will turn the other cheek and lend without expecting a return. This kind of love won’t be surprised when people let you down or hurt you and you’ll be willing to forgive them. This kind of love considers those around you, including those who trouble you and frustrate you, as more important than yourselves as you humble yourselves to serve those in need. This kind of love will seek to love the unlovable, care for the careless, and show mercy to the merciless.

This isn’t because you’ve got the power or will to love them under your own strength. Your love is never that loving. But you love because, as a result of your trusting faith in Jesus, you’re simply bearing the Spirit’s fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control as you pass on Jesus’ love to one another. That’s how people will know you’re his disciples; not because you’re more loving than anyone else, but because you’re passing on the love of Jesus without fear or favour.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, love one another as Jesus loves you.

And may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.