Expanded, Explained, Elucidated – Thursday, 5th Week of Easter – Acts 15:7-21/John15:9-11
This unit is best read as one composite (John 15:9-17) but the lectionary has broken it up into two, as if to say this is the heart of this discourse, introduced by Jesus in John13:34 but now expanded and explained and elucidated. Today we relish these three verses that take us to the cusp of the new commandment.
In yesterday’s text (John15:4) Jesus invited us to abide in him as he desires to abide in us so that we may produce not just a fruit but much fruit. Today we are invited to abide with Jesus not just for what we could produce externally but what we are called to be internally; a people of love, a people filled with joy.
The teaching begins with the words, “as the father has loved me …” The words ‘just as’ or ‘as’ (kathos in Greek) appear 31 times in this Gospel within the context of a relationship with the father. So just as the father loves so does the son love and so must we love. The word love is scattered four times in three verses, the word love is scattered countless times in the Bible; it is with love that Jesus embraces his cross. There is no Christianity without love and a Christian who does not opt to love professes empty words.
The measure of Jesus’ love is not some halfhearted love. It is given in full as he received it. Jesus says, “just as the father..” He gives us the father’s love in its entirety as he has received it. It is often easier to identify with the love that Jesus has for us but Jesus just made it as easy for us to identify the love of God for us. ‘Look at how I have loved you and that’s the way the Father loves you’, Jesus says.
Jesus also provides us with a model of obedience. He has come to do the will of the one who sent him (4:34; 6:38; 8:29). He keeps the Father’s word (8:55). He does the Father’s will so that the world might know that he loves the Father (14:31). The Father loves Jesus because he lays down his life in obedience to the Father’s command (10:17-18). Jesus promises to love the disciples if they obey his commandments.
Jesus then says, “I have spoken these things to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be made full” (v. 11). Jesus is not calling us to dreary, lock-step obedience but to joy. The joy of Jesus isn’t the same as what is commonly understood as happiness or excitement. The joy of Jesus is not the pleasure of a life of ease or the joy that dissipates as soon as things change. It is not the hollow joy of luxurious surroundings and sated appetites. It is, instead, the joy of the disciplined life. It is the exhilaration of being right with God, and consciously walking in His love and care. We can have that joy; we can have His joy and have it as an abiding presence.
Yet, when the disciple fails to abide in the love of Jesus and thereby fails to keep His commandments, that disciple will not experience the fullness of joy Jesus promised to those who do abide in His love and obedience. Christianity does come with clauses!