The Sixth Sunday of Easter (A)
“The Commandment Connection”
May 21, 2017
Sermon Text: John 14:15-21
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from our victorious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
It is a literary device that has been used by many writers for thousands of years which, when one is aware of it, can bring even greater meaning and understanding to what is being said.
It is called a “chiasm” or “chiastic structure” that was employed by both the writers of the Old as well as the New Testament… all under the gracious guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Please turn with me to the Gospel lesson located on the back of today’s bulletin. The first verse… verse fifteen reads, [Jesus said:] “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) If you would like, you can put a pen or pencil line at the end of the verse.
Then drop down to the last verse… verse twenty-one, and put a line at the start of it where our Savior says, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21)
My friends, the connection is clear between these two passages… the connection of what is said, namely the same message, but more importantly, the connection between loving the Lord our God and keeping His commandments and the fact that the two go together. They go hand in hand. You cannot have the one without the other… though many try. You and I show no true love, have no true love for the Lord if we are not keeping… do not keep… His commandments.
Put another way, our supposed love for the Lord is no love… is at best a hollow love… false love… if we are not perfectly, completely, doing what He has called us to do… “commanded” us to do or not do.
This raises the question then as to who can truly love God in that we all daily sin, we daily… hourly… break one or more of the Ten Commandments and go against parts and portions of what God says in His Holy Word?
The answer is simple and it is, in fact, “sandwiched” in between the first and the last verses of our Gospel lesson… part of the chiastic structure that I mentioned to you… the part “B” if you will, with the first and last verses being part “A.”
Read again what this middle section says, what Christ our Savior says, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.” (John 14:16-20)
What gracious and loving words are spoken here… truly comforting words which our Lord shares with us shortly before His ascension into heaven. And in these words, our Lord shows us the means by which we can and do truly love Him… the means by which we can and do keep His commandments. And it all by the power of the Holy Spirit… the “Helper” that is mentioned in this middle section which Christ promised to send and did send to us… all out of divine love for us.
The Spirit… the Helper… who now dwells richly in you… in me… and all of the faithful.
The Spirit… the Helper… whose manifestation we will soon commemorate and celebrate on the Day of Pentecost.
The Spirit… the Helper… who works mightily in Word and Sacrament… He who instills saving faith in us in Holy Baptism… He who has washed us clean… clean from every sinful spot and stain and continues to do so on infinitum.
You see, one thing that many Christians do not get, realize or forget… is that our Baptism is not a one-time washing, but an all-time, all of the time washing… a perpetual tide that flows over us where we are constantly cleansed and made clean throughout our life from that first moment at the baptismal font until we breathe our last.
It is true. We truly keep God’s commands… we truly love the Lord our God… through what was instilled in us in baptism, that saving faith I mentioned… a living faith in Jesus. It all comes down to Jesus. It all centers in Jesus… He who kept the Commandments perfectly for us… Who lived the perfect life for us, in our place, as our substitute… as true Man, flesh of our flesh, and true God, begotten of the Father from eternity.
We truly keep God’s commands… we truly love the Lord our God because Christ did and we are in Him. What He did has been accounted to us. His righteousness is our righteousness. His holiness, our holiness.
The importance is clear. Our living and dwelling in Jesus, dwelling in His Word and the Sacraments which come to us here, right here, in His Holy Body, the Church.
Here, where we joyfully come… can’t wait to come… to confess all of our sins and iniquities. Here, we heartily say with David in Psalm 51, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:1-2)
Then come the sweet words… the sweetest of words… where God Himself personally declares us forgiven… personally declares us cleansed and clean… as Holy Absolution is pronounced upon us by His called and ordained servants.
And then forgiven, it is our joy to go in the Spirit’s power to lead as best we can the Christian life… to do what God has commanded and humbly serve Him all of our days.
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Jesus said.
“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” Jesus said.
Reading on in the Gospel of John a few verses after our text, we find our Lord again saying, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” (John 15:10a)
The connection could not be clearer or more important… essential, indeed, that we take heed… that which is recorded in both the first and last verse of our text, but also, what is in the middle which can be rightly considered to be the “meat of it all” … that which is sandwiched in… which is all about God’s love for us.
John, in his first epistle, declares, “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Make no mistake about it. It all starts with the love of the Lord… is carried out in the love of the Lord, with the Lord, through the Lord and the power of His Spirit. And it all ends, will end… in the love of the Lord.
His love… first and foremost… toward us…followed by our love for Him… and for all. Such is the Christian life. Such is our life in Jesus. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“The Commandment Connection”
5/21/17 The Rev. Mark H. Hein
St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL