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Jesus Loves us as the Father Loves Him
The verses of John’s Gospel that we have heard this morning deserve to be read slowly. Indeed, they may need to be read slowly, for they contain some deep wisdom and some surprises. They are of course about love.
And we all know what love is, don’t we? Taking a look at the Oxford dictionary of quotations and confining myself to those entries that begin “Love is ….” there are more than fifty citations among which are “Love is: a passion, a disease, the greatest mercy, a spirit, a man of war, better than wine and a universal migraine. This last is from Robert Graves in his poem called “Symptoms of Love.” However, none of these matches what Jesus says:
“As the father has loved me so I have loved you.”
Now Jesus, the son of God, himself God sent to do his Father’s will, who will die on a cross and be resurrected, is undoubtedly worthy in every way of the Father’s love. Indeed, our concept of the Trinity is that love flows inexhaustibly, indivisibly and perfectly between these three, yet Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” We, who are so demonstrably unworthy, will be loved by Jesus in the same degree as God loves his own son.
And we all know what friendship is, don’t we? “A friend in need is a friend indeed, and from our own reading, greater love has no man that he lays down his life for his friends.” But let us listen once more to what Jesus says:
“I do not call you servants any longer ... But I have called you friends because I have made known to you everything I have heard from my Father.”
Note again how complete this is and how rooted in the relationship between Jesus and his Father. The idea that there should be no secrecy between friends is a very ancient one. An ideal of friendship, as explained by Greek philosophers Seneca, Cicero and others, was that they were open and honest with one another, not withholding anything. This was the way that Jesus taught the disciples; he taught all he knew of God, holding nothing back from them or us.
And we all know that we must take up our cross and follow Him, don’t we? Listen though to what Jesus says:
“You did not choose me, but I chose you.”
So it was not because of the overwhelming goodness and wisdom of Peter, James, John, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, James, Simon, Judas, Judas and Thomas that they followed but because they were chosen by the favour and grace of Jesus. We might think that a holy calling is our choice in whatever way that might be, but Christ’s choice is always prior to ours and by his promptings and callings he determines and directs it.
So in summary I might reverse the order of things as John wrote them and say, Jesus chooses us, Jesus calls us his friends and Jesus loves us just as God loves Him