John 14: 15-21
If you love me....

 This Gospel reading is a continuation of the gospel reading we read last week, Jesus’ farewell discourse.  Jesus is preparing his apostles for the time when he will no longer be physically with them.  He knows his time to leave is close, and that the disciples have come to depend on him, this very special Rabbi and healer.  They left their lives behind to follow him, for three years they travelled with Jesus, and soon he would be gone.  So of course, they will be upset and lost without his earthly presence, and he is reassuring them that they will not be alone, that he will not leave them bereft.  Last week we heard Jesus tell them not to be troubled, but to believe in God and in him, because he is going to his Father’s house, where there are many dwelling places, and they will know where he is going.  When they ask him how they will know,  Jesus tells them that he is the way, the truth and the life, and that he is in the Father and the Father in him.  And if they have trouble understanding how that can be, he says, think of the amazing works they have seen him do—things which only one with the power of the Almighty could possibly do.  And that whoever has seen him, has seen the Father.  Have you ever wondered what God would be like if God was human?  This is your answer.  If God was human, he’d be just like Jesus—so much like Jesus, in fact that Jesus was God incarnate.  The person of Jesus was God in the flesh.    

And now, today’s gospel reading continues Jesus’ words of farewell and preparation:  Jesus tells the disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”   If you love Jesus, if you love God, you will do the will of Jesus, his teachings, fulfill his commandments. There are, of course the Ten Commandments but let’s do a brief review of what things Jesus specifically commanded of his disciples:  

o   To love the Lord your God: 

o   To love your neighbours, your enemies as you yourself would want to be loved

o   To heal the sick, feed the hungry, visit the prisoners

o   To preach the word; baptize and teach

o   To pray unceasingly o   and the new commandment he gave his disciples on the day we now call Maundy Thursday:  that they love one another just as Jesus loved them.  A commandment of loving service to others, and he showed them how to do that by washing their feet, the job of the lowliest of servants. 

So why would we do these things?   Well, verse 21 gives us a clue: 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.When we give God’s love to others, God’s love comes to us as well, and we receive a deeper understanding, a deeper level of God’s love too.  Amazing thing, this giving of oneself out of love and to others, isn’t it!  It is in giving that we receive.   When we give out of love, we’re giving because of our love of God, the love God has given us, we’re in essence giving God’s love away, and that opens up more space within us for God’s love to fill us up again, for God’s love to come back to us.  To know God is to know God’s love, to receive God’s love, and then to share God’s love. Living Jesus’ way, by Jesus’ commandments is to live out our love for Jesus, for God. It is actively living out our faith.  By acting on Jesus’ teaching, it’s an expression of our love for God, the one who created us, our heavenly parent, the one from whom all blessings flow, and for Jesus, the one who redeemed the world by giving his life for humanity.  Living our lives by Jesus’ commandments is who we are as Christians, as God’s children, living not just to and for ourselves, but for the coming about of God’s Kingdom.   And God knows that’s not always an easy road to walk.  So, Jesus told his disciples “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.”  (verse 16) Jesus knew he was soon to leave them, and he wanted them to know that they would not be without a divine presence to accompany them on the way ahead, as he had been them on their three year journey together. God would provide another advocate. Did you catch that?  Another advocate, which can only mean of course, that Jesus was their first advocate.   Advocate, a word that we don’t frequently use these days.  It’s a very legalistic sounding word, a direct translation from the Greek word “paraklete”.  Let’s break that Greek word down.  It’s a two part word, ‘para’ means with or along-side; like in the word parallel.  And “klete” comes from the Greek word ‘kaleo’ meaning to call.  “The Holy Spirit, according to John, is the one who is called to come alongside us.”[1]  Someone who comes alongside us, to be with us as a support.  This advocate can have a various roles, and so other words are used in different biblical translations, like comforter, encourager, counsellor or intercessor, rather depending upon the function of the Holy Spirit at the time[2].  Can you imagine how this would have made the disciples feel knowing about this other advocate’s coming after Jesus had left them?  Jesus was sending them a supportive presence to walk alongside them in their faith journeys as they took Jesus’ message forward into a world where his physical presence would be no longer.  I imagine the whole gamut of emotions would have flooded them.  Anticipatory grief at the thoughts of losing Jesus, fear of the future without him and his divine presence, and then probably a sense of relief and thankfulness knowing Jesus loved and cared for them so much that he wouldn’t leave them to continue his work without a helping, supporting divine presence.  He would not leave them orphaned he said; another interesting word.  He would not leave them parent-less, without the love, care and support like we receive from our Fathers, our Mothers.  An interesting thought to ponder about Jesus on this day when we’re thinking of our mothers and celebrating motherhood.   And you know what?  The Holy Spirit is still with us, still walks alongside us, we who are Jesus’ disciples today.  When we do God’s work, when we do what Jesus commands, Holy Spirit, God’s Advocate is with us, to comfort, to defend, to encourage, guide and stand up and support us and is with us forever, Jesus said.  The promise of the presence of the Holy Spirit is that we are not alone! This gospel passage begins with and ends with love, and the revelation of God’s love, Christ’s love and Holy Spirit’s love, is with us and we are within that circle of love.  Jesus is inviting us into that love relationship with himself, the Father and the Holy Spirit.  And within that relationship we are one with the triune God -- upheld, supported, loved.  The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth Jesus called it, is within us, it abides in us, and so we abide in the Spirit.    Abide; another of John’s favourite words, and another unusual one.  To abide in this context is to stay with, to be with, to remain with.  It connotes a sense of deep togetherness and connectedness.  We are connected to God, to Christ, through the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit abides in us, is in us and is inviting us into the same love that they share.  Abiding in God’s love is more than just showing others God’s love, or just loving people. Abiding in love is how you are in the world, it is who you are when you’re in the world.  Abide in, live fully in God’s love.  It is connecting, in essence, to a piece of our true selves, that bit of us that is God, that is Christ, that is the Holy Spirit, the piece of God, our Creator that is in each one of us.  We are all of God, we are all connected to God and to each other, in God’s love.  It is that love that carries us forward as we too are sent into the world, with the Holy Spirit as our companion.  It is the invitation, to take the love of God in Christ, with the strength of the Spirit outwards into the world and share it.  And Jesus’ commands show us how; tell us how to do that, and in so doing, we are then connecting that divine force to those whom we reach out to in God’s love.  In a world that has become so contentious and angry, and so divisive and self-serving, where it feels sometimes like the very social fabric we live in is unravelling, having a community that is connected to and bound together by the love of God in Christ, in the comforting strength of God’s love is offering an experience of peace and love of our Lord; providing an oasis of care in a hostile environment.  So let us reach out to others, and offer what we experience in this place, we offer God’s love and invite others into this community where we experience God’s love, share God’s love, and abide in the Holy Spirit, by living the ways of Christ’s commands.  The farewell discourse goes on for a number of more chapters in John, if you wish to read more.  But I’ll end now some more of Jesus’ words of reassurance to his frightened and grieving disciples which we to can take to heart: 27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14. 27) Amen

[1] Karoline M. Lewis. John. (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, MN) 2014. 191 [2] Lewis 192