"We Get to Love One Another"
Fifth Sunday of Easter
St. John 13:31-35 (alternate Gospel reading)
May 6, 2007
(Baptism of Isabella Lincoln)
31So, when he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him. 32If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and glorify Him immediately. 33Little children, I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, 'Where I am going, you cannot come,' so now I say to you. 34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
IN NOMINE JESU
Christ is risen! HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!
It was Maundy Thursday evening, a remembrance already shelved into our memories, only to appear again next year. The Lord had just instituted His Supper. Judas had just departed, looking for an opportunity to betray the Lord into the hands of the chief priests and elders. It was Holy Week, and a lot of unusual things had taken place, with even more to come. For the disciples, this was a week of anguish. Their Teacher had foretold of His death, which, at this point, was less than a day away. The words the Lord used were heavy, and their hearts were even heavier from the weight of His words. In our text, the Lord was telling His disciples that He was leaving them, for He had been glorified, as His Passion had begun. The Lord told them that He would be with them only a little bit longer, words He repeated in the main Gospel reading, three chapters after our text. There was so much more that the Lord wanted to say to His disciples, but they could not handle any more heavy words. Their hearts were near their breaking points. Their Master and Teacher, with whom they walked and talked and from whom they learned every day for three years, was about to leave them. He was about to die, just as He had told them. It was too much for them to accept. They had yet to understand that He would rise from the dead on the third day. Even as the Lord would rise from the dead, His relationship with His disciples would change drastically, for He would no longer be their Master and Teacher, but He would be their risen Lord, King of kings and Lord of lords. When they would again see the Lord in His victorious, resurrected body, they would rejoice; their sorrow would turn to joy, and no one would take away their joy, not even as He would soon ascend into heaven and be seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. The disciples, soon to be apostles, we filled with joy, even as their risen Lord ascended into heaven, as the blessed Evangelist St. Luke notes, "And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God" (Lk. 24:50-53). After that moment, they would no longer see their Lord face to face until the days of their respective martyrdoms, except for St. John, who died a natural death. Until they died, they were filled with joy, preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus' Name. They also had the command to love one another, with the same love with which He loved them, the love that is self-giving and self-sacrificing, agape love.
While the Lord has given to His undershepherds, His called and ordained servants of the Word, the charge to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins, He has given us all the opportunity to love one another. The Lord is not speaking in terms of erotic or even brotherly love, but with the love that He showed us, a love that brought Him to the cross to die for our sins and the sins of the whole world, the love we get to show others as we tell others the Good News about Jesus and as we bring them here, that they also would receive the gifts He won on the cross and now gives through His Word and Sacraments. The beloved disciple, St. John, writes:
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.
Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.
If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. [1 John 4:7-20]
But we do not love, do we? Our love for our neighbors is not as it ought to be, for we do not love our neighbors as ourselves, and we hate ourselves on account of the sin that lives within us. Our sin turns our joy into sorrow, for we sorrow over our sins, and we despair in them. Our sinful nature causes us to weep as those who have no hope. We weep in this way because we not only do not love our neighbors as ourselves, we do not love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, or strength. We do not fear, love, and trust in God above all things. We lack a clean heart before God and do not have a right spirit within us before Him. According to our sinful nature, we deserve to have the Lord cast us away from His presence and to take His Holy Spirit from us. Without the Holy Spirit at work in us, we would have no way of hearing the Word of the Lord and keeping it. We would have no way to believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or to come to Him. We would have no way to properly receive the gifts the Lord gives in His Word and Sacraments, as His pearls would be cast before us swine. Even the Baptism of little Isabella would have been pointless this morning.
The refrain of one of our great Easter hymns has these words: "Had Christ, who once was slain, Not burst His three-day prison, Our faith had been in vain: But now has Christ arisen, arisen, arisen; But now has Christ arisen!" (LSB 482:refrain). Our faith and our hope would have been in vain, and our coming here would have been pointless. But instead of weeping as those who have no hope, we weep with tears of joy, for our risen Lord has turned our sorrow in to joy. Our Lord has risen from the dead. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the risen Lord, as He came to them hidden in human flesh—hidden in His risen body. By the Holy Spirit at work in us, we rejoice as we behold the risen Lord coming to us in His Word and Sacraments. Young Isabella has the joy of the Lord coming to her through water and the Word, a joy we continue to have through the daily confession and forgiveness of our sins. We rejoice this day as our risen Lord comes to us today also through His body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. The words our Lord spoke in His revelation to St. John in our Second Reading ring true for us today, as John writes:
Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." Then He who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." [Rev. 21:2-5a]
Yes, the tabernacle of God is with men, for the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us. His tabernacle is where He is. He is here, coming to you through His Means of Grace. He comes to you in the hidden forms of water, word, wafer, and wine, Baptism, and His body and blood. He dwells with us, and by the Spirit we are His people. He is with us and is our God. For His Son's sake our heavenly Father wipes away our tears, turning our sorrows into joy. Moved by His great and indescribable love for us, our Lord sends His Holy Spirit into our hearts, that we would love others as selflessly as He has loved us, to act with the mercy and compassion He has first shown us. The song line, "They will know we are Christians by our love," will ring true, as the Lord Himself has said. Those who do not believe in Christ will be convicted in their unbelief even as they see divine mercy at work in the hearts and lives of His people. Those who are in Christ will see, through faith, these works of love being performed out of the faith the Holy Spirit has given us, disciples of the risen Lord.
Christ is risen! HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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