15[Jesus said:] “If you love me, you will keep my commandments …21Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.” Both the opening and closing verses of our text speak of keeping God’s Commandments. Further, they both speak of commandment following as an expression of love. Love is a tricky thing. To receive love is one of the greatest gifts you can imagine. To give love is one of the most difficult works a person can undertake. One that none of us does as well as we should. Love is pure Law and sweetest Gospel all wrapped up in a wonderfully frustrating package. And the command to love wraps up this section of Jesus’ teaching to the disciples on that night He would be betrayed for love. By beginning and ending with the command to love Jesus is actually bringing the Gospel – found in between – into sharper focus!
Yet verses 15 and 21 do more than just serve as a frame. The opening verse sounds as if our keeping Jesus’ commandments is the proof of our love for Jesus … which is absolutely true. We need to stop excusing ourselves. If you love someone you will treat them properly. If you love God, your actions will show it. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. When you choose to do otherwise it is either because you don’t really love Him as you should, or because you love someone or something else in His place.
None of us are as loving as we should be. Our many words and actions, our very lives are all too often the shameful proof. That is why it is so important not that the closing verse simply repeats that same point, but rather that it also then introduces Jesus and the Father’s love for us as the one thing that makes any such love from us possible. The Gospel is the power to energize our keeping of the commandments. Jesus knows the stunted nature of our love, but it doesn’t limit His love for us one little bit! He is here to help.
If you need further proof look back to the text and see how encased in this frame work of Love and Commandments are two major major Gospel premises. The promise in verse 19 connects us back to Easter and the loving gift of our resurrection and eternal life. The other connects us forward to Pentecost and the promise in verses 16-17 of the Holy Spirit’s coming and indwelling.
18“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. They were so afraid that Jesus would leave them orphaned, helpless, unable to look after themselves. His death is only a few short hours away. But His love for them – and us – is stronger than death itself. Death will not win. It does not last. And it will not remove Him from them.
Note that Jesus does not say: “I will return” but “I am coming”. As we spoke of last week, not even the darkest of hours and most tragic of events will separate us from His love and His support. He is the truest and greatest helper we have. We are never torn away from that love or help. It is always coming for us when we need it most. But what coming is He referring to? He came first in the incarnation with the promise of salvation in his earthy hands. He came again in the Resurrection with the proof of that salvation pierced into His glorified hands. He will come again on the Last Day holding forth the sword and the scroll of judgement and victory. The promise connected to His “coming” grows each time. As does the help He offers to overcome sin, death and the devil. But in between these comings He does not leave us on our own.
16And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even 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. This of course is the promise of the coming day of Pentecost. Yet also note carefully the words: “Another Helper” that is, a second helper in addition to Him! Where Jesus is, there the Holy Spirit is also. And this Holy Spirit does not come to be an advocate to plead our cause (Jesus already does that before the Father), but rather a counselor to comfort and guide and instruct in the Word of God. He does not come to replace Jesus but to lead people to Him.
In the proclamation of the Gospel the Spirit comes and makes His dwelling in the hearts of man. In the waters of Holy Baptism, the Bread and Wine of Holy Communion, the Spirit is binding us to Christ. Opening our hearts and eyes to the Truth of God’s Love which otherwise would pass all our understanding. Where the Spirit is, there Jesus truly is also!
20In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you … 21And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. On the day of Pentecost they would finally understand more fully the Love of the Trinity for fallen man. Understand that such love binds Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in will and in deed. From the moment of creation, to the incarnation, suffering, death and resurrection. They have been – and will continue to be – one another’s helpers in our salvation. One day soon the disciples would come to understand that such godly love was theirs in Christ, binding them to God just as surely as they were bound to Jesus.
In fact, if we go just two verses past our text we find that still another person of God, the Father, comes to us and lives in us (23) “If anyone loves me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. As the Holy Spirit and Jesus provide comfort for us, so there is another, the Father who bestows on us His love.
In an apparent moment of doubt John the Baptist once asked of Jesus “Are you the One, or should we look for another?” You can well imagine that the same question must have been floating through at least a couple of the disciple’s minds that fateful evening … Just as it sometimes does through our own in bleak and troubling moments. “Are you the One, or should we look for another?” Well here is your answer, and it is a resounding YES! To both parts of the question. Yes, Jesus will indeed come to help, just as He did in the incarnation, resurrection, and one day soon the final judgment. But so will another – the Holy Spirit, just as He did on that day of Pentecost, and again on the day of your Baptism. And so will another – God the Father! It’s the kind of help you just can’t buy. But then that’s the point isn’t it? It is the kind of love, however, that you can receive time and time again, right here in the Word and the Sacraments. A love that you can return in joy and thanksgiving, by keeping His commandments.