Love Like Jesus – Sermon for Maundy Thursday, 2015

Love Like Jesus

John 12:34-35

Maundy Thursday

April 2, 2015

Saint John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI

             Jesus left us a new commandment, a new way of doing things. That night in the Maundy-Thursday-Backgrounds-3upper room, after he had washed the disciples feet, Jesus turned to the disciples and said, “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.” Christians have held these words in high regard for centuries. They will know we are Christians by our love. We take pride in these words, we take pride in our loving actions. We set up food banks and hold clothing drives. We hold our tongue when that coworker is especially rude. We do our best to respect our boss or the other authorities in our lives. We genuinely want people to experience the love we have to share. We want people to know we are Christians by our love.

And yet, Jesus said, “Just as I have loved you, you are to love one another.” Pay attention over the next few days, for we will see exactly how Jesus loved us, and see what it means to love others in that way.  Pay attention over the next few days, for we will see what the world thinks of that love. Pay attention, for we will see what we can expect Satan, the world, and our sinful flesh to do when we set out to love one another just as Jesus loved us.

Jesus loved us by being betrayed into the hands of his captors by the kiss of a friend. Giotto_-_Scrovegni_-_-31-_-_Kiss_of_JudasWho has betrayed you? Do you feel betrayed by a society that was at one time more favorable to the Christian way of life, but now seems intent on tearing down every last vestige of the faith you hold so dear? Do you feel betrayed that God’s gift of the family is being assaulted on every side, that the notion of man and wife, which was once a fundamental part of the American dream along with a few kids and a white picket fence, is now viewed as out-of-date, oppressive, or downright silly? Do you feel betrayed that a society that at one time largely reflected Biblical morals and values in many spheres of life has turned in the opposite direction? Maybe we have been betrayed by our culture. Maybe we put our trust in the wrong place to begin with. Maybe the culture was never as Christian as we took it to be. Maybe we could speculate until we’re blue in the face. But all speculation aside, one thing is certain. Jesus loved us by being betrayed. If he has called us to love like he did, why should we expect anything else?

Jesus loved us by being put on trial for his confession of the truth. He stood before Pilate and was accused of many things which were true, but which did not sit well with the Jews or the Romans of his day. His confession of the truth made them uncomfortable. His confession of the truth threatened the way they wanted to look at the world.  “Are you the king of the Jews?” Of course he is. He’s the king of the whole universe. In him all things jesusandpilatelive and move and have their being. But they didn’t want to hear that. They were not interested in truth, they were interested in continuing to live the life they chose for themselves regardless of whether it was in line with God’s design or not.  They did not want to hear that Jesus is truly king, for if he is truly king, then they are truly his subjects. They have to listen to all that he said concerning their hypocrisy and empty rituals, about their being white-washed tombs, about the axe being at the base of the tree, about the branches being thrown to the fire.

If Jesus was put on trial for speaking the truth, why would we expect anything different? If we speak the truth about sexuality, why would we expect the world to greet our words any more favorably than our Lord’s? When we speak the truth about greed or contentment, about jealousy or pride, about envy, or anger, or life, or death, or anything else in our Lord’s Word, why are we so surprised when the world won’t listen? Why are we surprised when the truth is rejected in favor of the lie? It’s what happened to Jesus. It’s what happens today.

Jesus loved us by watching as the crowd demanded the release of a hardened criminal over his freedom.  The crowd was determined to get Jesus out of the way, to silence his voice and the words that made them uneasy, so they chose to release a convicted murderer. They chose a man of death over the Lord of life, for they were not prepared to live the life that the Lord designed. Why would we expect anything different? Why are we surprised when our world embraces the death of the unborn just so that it does not have to control its sexual desires? Why are we surprised when our world trumpets greed as a virtue with no regard for who may be oppressed or killed in the process? Why are we surprised when the world chooses tyranny to the self, becoming slaves to every passion and base desire known to man, and calls it freedom?  Is an addict free simply because he has the ability to drink or use whenever the desire presents itself? Or is the addict slave to the addiction? Are we actually free when we give in to whatever passion crosses our hearts? Or are we slaves to desire? How often do we choose slavery and call it freedom? How often do we choose death and call it life?  Our Lord loved us by watching as his own people chose death over life. This is how our Lord has called us to love the world.

Finally, Jesus loved us by being executed in our place. Even though he had done Crucifixnothing wrong, he allowed himself to be spiked to a cross, stricken, smitten, and afflicted. He did not speak up in his defense, for he knew his purpose. He knew that he was headed to the cross from the moment he became submissive to his Father’s will and agreed to leave heaven. He always intended to show his love by dying for us while we were yet sinners, by loving us while we were yet unlovable. And that is how we are called to love the world. That is how we are called to love one another – to love the unlovable, for the unlovable has been loved in us. To forgive the unforgivable, for the unforgivable has been forgiven in use. “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

This is the life we are called to live. This is the love we are called to love. One of betrayal. One of trial. One of rejection. One of self-sacrifice. And ultimately, a love that overcomes all these things. For Jesus overcame all these things for you, even death itself.

Jesus lives. He loved us in overcoming death, overcoming the betrayal and the rejection. And because he now lives, we also live. For on the night in which he was betrayed, our Lord Jesus Christ took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “Take and eat. This is my body for you.” In the same way also he took the cup and, having given thanks, gave it and said, “Take and drink. This is my blood of the new testament for you.” As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we are united to and participate in the body and blood of Christ himself. As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, I no longer live, Christ lives in me. And if Christ lives in me, then Christ loves through me. Just as Jesus loved me, so also I love others, for Christ lives in me and loves through me.

When the world betrays me, I rest in the knowledge that it betrayed him first. gal-2-20-home-wideIndeed, it betrayed him worse, for he had done nothing wrong. We are by nature sinful and unclean. We deserve the betrayal that we experience, for in our hearts we betray others all the time. We betray the confidence of another with careless gossip. We betray the people around us by selfishly seeking our own needs above the needs of others. We betray the people of God when we greedily cling to our dollars rather than supporting the work of the kingdom. Yet for all my betrayal, Christ lives in me to renew me, strengthen me, and use me in service to his Gospel. I no longer live, Christ lives in me, and Christ loves through me.

When the world puts me on trial for the truth, I rest in the knowledge that it tried him first. Indeed, it tried him worse, for he spoke genuine truth. Often my words are tainted with the residue of mixed emotions. So often my sinful flesh would rather listen to the words of the world and believe the lies, for the lies let me justify myself. The lies make me comfortable. The lies excuse my sin rather than deal with it. Even when I do speak the truth of the Scriptures, I have my moments where I struggle with doubt. My words may have the veneer of truth, but often the wood is rotting underneath.  Not so the words of Jesus. His words are not just true, they are truth itself. His words bring life, they bring life to me as the rain brings life from the clouds. For all my doubts and double speak, Christ lives in me to renew me, to speak through me. I no longer live, Christ lives in me, and Christ loves through me.

When the world chooses to embrace death over life, I rest in the knowledge that it did so for Jesus first. When the world ignores the life-giving gospel of forgiveness and instead dives headlong into its sin and self-deceit, we recognize that it did so for Jesus first. And he took it. And he suffered the consequence, dying to redeem the very ones who condemned him, winning life for those who chose death. And now, I no longer live, Christ lives in me, and Christ loves through me.

So come be fed by the body and blood of the Lord. Be united to your living Lord and Savior. For through this precious meal Christ now lives in you. Christ now loves through you with a new and perfect love, a selfless and self-sacrificial love. “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.”  As we approach the celebration of the Resurrection, as we hear again of the betrayal and suffering and death of our Savior, know that as Jesus loved you, so also you now love the people around you. In spite of their betrayal, in spite of their ridicule and accusation, in spite of their mockery, you love them with like Jesus. For Christ lives in you. And Christ loves through you.

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