Gospel: John 14:15-21 (Easter 6: Series A)

Reading Time: 3 mins

But notice one thing. When Jesus speaks of commands, He does so in the context of love.

“My father always told me to wear a coat,” she said, laughing as she put it on. It was beautiful outside. She certainly did not need a coat. But her comment, and the joy with which she said it, reminded me of the love she had for her father. Her dad had died too soon. But, if he were alive to see his daughter following his advice, he would have smiled. Her life was filled with small moments that would make her father proud.

Following rules is not something we do well in our culture. Just watch people boarding the plane with their carry-ons and you will see how well we follow rules. There are signs about how many carry-ons you can have. There are small boxes where you can place your carry-ons to measure and make sure they fit. There are pictures demonstrating how to properly store carry-ons in the overhead bins. Yet, there is always someone who has one too many carry-ons... and that carry-on is two sizes too big... and so they stand there, delaying the flight, as they try to shove it into the overhead bin.

In our culture, people do what they want when they want, regardless of what anybody says. Such radical expressions of personal freedom only create more rules and regulations. Our public spaces become filled with more signs, more warnings, and more instructions, yet we only see more chaos as individuals resist the laws in a willful expression of their individual freedom.

If you want to know how people feel about rules and regulations, just listen to what they say. “Rules are made to be broken.” In our culture, people live by that proverb and do whatever they want.

All of this makes it hard for us to hear Jesus in our text today. It is really difficult to listen to Jesus and understand what He says because Jesus is talking about rules. He speaks about commands, and the mere mention of commands causes resistance to rise.

But notice one thing. When Jesus speaks of commands, He does so in the context of love.

Jesus tells His disciples, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Later, He repeats the idea, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word.” Love is connected to keeping the commandments. Commandments are kept not because of fear, not because of force, not because of threats, and not because of punishment. No, commandments are kept because of love. Love leads to a delight in the Law.

No, commandments are kept because of love. Love leads to a delight in the Law.

Consider how strange that sounds to our culture today. Rules are made to be broken, not kept. And when it comes to keeping rules, we do so only because of penalties and policing. Jesus, however, has nothing to say about penalties and nothing to say about policing. Instead, He talks about love, a deep and everlasting love which leads those who follow Him to obey His commands.

In our text, Jesus is preparing His disciples for a time of deep sorrow. They have been with Him, experienced His love, and loved Him in return. But soon, He will be going away. He is about to show them the radical nature of His love. He will endure the suffering of the cross, the punishment of all sin, and be crucified and buried. They will lose the one who loved them unto death. But this same Jesus will rise and reveal the power of the everlasting love of God. Sin, Satan, and even death itself cannot separate Him from His people. He will rise from the dead and ascend into Heaven. There, He will sit at the right hand of His Father and rule over all things. His rule, however, will not be imposing laws, rules, and regulations on people. He will rule through a relationship of love.

Jesus promises us an intimate relationship of love with Him. He promises He will send His Spirit to live within us. His Spirit will be our helper in times of trouble, our counselor in times of difficult decisions, our comforter in times of sorrow, and our advocate in times when we need defense. His Spirit reminds us of Jesus and draws us closer to Him. This Spirit recalls His words to our minds and His works to our hearts.

So, when we hear the commands of Jesus, they are the words of someone who loves us with the deepest love. To love is to live in His Word and follow His commands.

Unfortunately, Christians can sometimes approach the commands of God more like travelers in an airport and less like my friend with her coat. That is, Christians can find the commands of God burdensome. They can speak about them as rules we have to keep, penalties that make our travel in this world burdensome, and policing which restricts our freedoms and makes life less fun. We can resist these commands and do what we want.

In our text, however, Jesus invites us into a way of life that is more like my friend with her coat. She recalls the words of her father, she remembers his love, and she follows his commands because they draw her closer to him, closer to his desires for her, and they assure her that in what she does in life she remains under his protection and is near to him.

“If you love Me,” Jesus says, “you will keep My commandments.” Our life of following Jesus is not done to earn His love or to win His approval. We do not need penalties and policing to get us to follow. Why not? Because we have His love.

Loving Jesus, we delight in following His commands and living in Him.


Additional Resources:

Craft of Preaching-Check out our previous articles on John 14:15-21.

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching John 14:15-21.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach John 14:15-21.

Lectionary Podcast-Dr. John Nordling of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through John 14:15-21.