Sermon Notes and Audio
Scripture Focus- John 13:31-38
What is love? If you remember the 1990s, maybe the Haddaway song and tune by the same title comes to mind. If it does, you can thank me later for getting that one stuck in your head for the rest of the day. He never did figure it out!
The answer one gets to the question, what is love, all depends on who you ask.
Brene Brown described it as “An intangible connection between two people that feels exceptionally good.”
Deborah Anapol said “Love is a force of nature.”
Charles Bukowski- “Love is kind of like a fog in the morning, when you wake up before the sun comes out. It’s just a little while, and then it burns away. Love is a fog that burns with the first daylight of reality.”
Iris Murdoch- “Love is the very difficult understanding that something other than yourself is real.”
Merriam Webster- “Strong affection arising out of kinship or personal ties; attraction based on sexual desire; warm enthusiasm or devotion; unselfish loyalty or benevolence.”
There is a lot of confusion about what love is! Ask ten people what it is, and you will likely get ten different answers. The love of the world tends to focus on emotions, and sentimentality.
Part of the challenge and error in understanding and defining love, is that people most often begin with a man centered, emotion driven understanding of it. There are several different words used for love in the Bible. The dominant word used for the love of God, agape, expresses the essential nature of God, and is the highest and purest form of love. This form of the word love is seldom used outside of the Bible. What characterizes this kind of love is that it is not primarily about emotions. Agape love is a mindset, that seeks the highest good of other people.
I John 4:7-8 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.
The love of God is rooted in His character, is unconditional, and is expressed through sacrifice, giving, and grace. The love of God is not an emotion, it is His disposition that is expressed in sacrificing for, giving to, and caring for others. Agape “describes a love that loves without changing. It is a self-giving love that gives without demanding or expecting re-payment. It is love so great that it can be given to the unlovable or unappealing. It is love that loves even when it is rejected.
Love is a strong theme in the Bible. The word is used over 500 times in its various forms.
Agape love gives and loves because it wants to; it does not demand or expect repayment from the love given – it gives because it loves, it does not love in order to receive. (David Guzik)
In John’s Gospel ‘love’ is found 12 times in John 1-12, but surrounding the death of Jesus and the cross, it is found 45 times just in John 13-21. The closer to the cross Jesus came, the more love is emphasized. John 13-17 makes up what is called the Farewell Discourse.
Jesus would soon be crucified. His time with the disciples was drawing to a close after about three years of time with them. Jesus gathered His disciples for the Passover Feast. The Passover Feast was a memorial feast that God had commanded Israel to observe to recall His delivering them from slavery in Egypt, some 1500 years before the birth of Jesus. The Passover was a symbol of what Jesus would accomplish as the sinless Lamb of God.
Vv34-35 I give you a New Command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
A New Command- The OT directed the people to love God, and people. Jesus had demonstrated His love for people, and especially for His disciples. His love is enduring, to the end. Not new in time, but new in experience. Jesus’ sacrificial love in going to the cross would demonstrate the depths of His love, and provide the ultimate example of love. The command was new because of its measure.
The new command is simple enough for a toddler to memorize and appreciate, profound enough that the most mature believers are repeatedly embarrassed at how poorly they comprehend it and put it into practice. . .The more we recognize the depth of our own sin, the more we recognize the love of the Savior. D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, 1991.
Jesus commands us to love as He has loved us. Let’s consider and apply three characteristics of the love of Jesus.
The love of Jesus is costly.
V34 Just as I have loved you. . .
God created Adam and Eve and they lived in the Garden of Eden, and communed with God. When they sinned, physical and eternal death came into the world. But God in His grace and mercy, provided the way of deliverance. God gave the Law in the OT, and animals were offered for sacrifice for every sin they committed. The sacrifices in the OT were only temporary, and were a foreshadowing of the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus.
Jesus came and lived and died, as the ultimate and final sacrifice. Jesus loved, and it cost Him deeply. He came and lived and died, as the ultimate sacrifice. He gave of Himself.
1 John 3:16 This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers.
Ephesians 5:1-2 Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.
A number of years ago, Northwest Airlines flight 225 crashed just after taking off from the Detroit airport, killing 155 people. One survived: a four-year-old from Tempe, Arizona, named Cecelia. News accounts say when rescuers found Cecelia they did not believe she had been on the plane. Investigators first assumed Cecelia had been a passenger in one of the cars on the highway onto which the airliner crashed. But when the passenger register for the flight was checked, there was Cecelia’s name. Cecelia survived because, even as the plane was falling, Cecelia’s mother, Paula Chican, unbuckled her own seat belt, got down on her knees in front of her daughter, wrapped her arms and body around Cecelia, and then would not let her go. Nothing could separate that child from her parent’s love—neither tragedy nor disaster, neither the fall nor the flames that followed, neither height nor depth, neither life nor death. Such is the love of our Savior for us. He left heaven, lowered himself to us, and covered us with the sacrifice of his own body to save us. Bryan Chapell, In the Grip of Grace (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992)
The cross was costly. It is impossible to think of Jesus’ love and not consider the sacrificial nature of His love. He often sacrificed His time when dealing with large crowds. He made a great sacrifice in being separated from the Father as He dwelt here on earth. His greatest sacrifice was clearly His offering of Himself on the cross for our sin. He loved us enough to take our place, bearing our sin and suffering the righteous judgment of God.
You must also love one another. . .
Romans 12:9-10 Love must be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Show family affection to one another with brotherly love. Outdo one another in showing honor.
Love honors, serves, and gives, expecting nothing in return.
The love of Jesus is caring.
V33 Children, I am with you a little while longer. You will look for Me, and just as I told the Jews, Where I am going you cannot come, so now I tell you.
Jesus addressed His disciples as children, also translated as little children. This is the only occurrence in the Gospels. It is used in 1 John where he uses it seven times. The love of Jesus is caring toward His creation, and toward sinners.
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin.
The love of Jesus is caring and He demonstrates it when Jesus and the disciples went to a city called Nain, south of Nazareth. As they approached the gate of the city, they met a funeral procession. A young man had died and his mother, a widow, was burying her only son. Jesus had compassion on the woman and her son and said, stop weeping. Jesus said young man, arise! The love of Jesus is caring, ministering to the grieving.
He encountered the Samaritan Woman at the well. He knew everything about her, including her sordid history with men. He met her where she was, and offered her Living Water. Jesus cared by reaching out to the marginalized. An arrogant Jewish lawyer, trying to justify himself asked Jesus, who is my neighbor? Jesus proceeded to tell the parable of the traveling Samaritan who encountered a wounded Jew. The hero of the story is the despised Samaritan who was moved with compassion against his enemy (Luke 10). A traveler was robbed, stripped of his clothing, and beaten and left for dead. First a priest and then a Levite came by and both avoided the man. Finally a Samaritan comes by. Samaritans and Jews despised each other but the Samaritan helped the man.
Matthew 9:36 When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. The love of Jesus is caring and He demonstrated it by reaching out to the marginalized.
The love of Jesus is caring and He demonstrated it by loving the lost.
The love of Jesus is commanded.
vv34-35 Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
Jesus commands His followers to love one another, even as He has loved us. You can’t do it in your own strength.
Tertullian (AD 155-220) quoted the pagans as saying of the Christians, “See how they love one another?” And how do we evidence that love? By doing what Jesus did: laying down our lives for the brethren.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: If One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised.
Love for one another in the family of God is a strong. We need one another. Love is a powerful witness to the world.
The film “127 Hours” tells the true story of then 27-year-old Aron Ralston. In 2003, while hiking in Blue John Canyon in Utah, Ralston was trapped by a chockstone that pinned his right arm to one wall of a crevice. After surviving for five days on 500 ml of water and exhausting all other options, he fashioned a homemade tourniquet and with a blunt pocket tool cut off his arm and stumbled out of the canyon to find help.
At one level, this film sounds like just another gory action movie, but more deeply, this film explores what it means to love. At the beginning of the film, Aron barrels into the canyon, music blaring in his headphones. He arrives there after ignoring phone calls from his mom and sister and brushing aside his boss’ queries about where he was headed. Ralston acts like a completely self-centered loner, incessantly snapping pictures of himself and flirting with girls he meets on the trail. Clearly, Ralston doesn’t need or want anyone else in his life.
But by the end of the film, he’s motivated to fight for his life by a memory of his ex-girlfriend looking at him with a mixture of pain and pity and saying, “You’re going to be so lonely, Aron.” At the time, he wanted the loneliness, savoring freedom from entanglements. But remembering her love and thinking about the possibility of starting a family provides the motivation to pull out his pocket knife. He realizes he’s made a terrible mistake by isolating himself, and he wants another chance to live differently. So he cuts off his arm and escapes to freedom.
Near the end of the film, when Aron has made it out of the canyon and is on the trail with his severed arm, he sees some other hikers a little way ahead. Barely audible at first he says, “Help me.” Then, bellowing hoarsely, he cries out, “Please Help Me!” The hikers hear him, and turn around puzzled. Then, seeing what’s happened, they come running.
It’s when Aron asks for help that the film reaches its climax. “Please help me” is itself a form of “I love you.” The two cries belong together. Ralston’s vulnerability, his plea for rescue, is what leads him back into the arms of his family, back into relationships with people, back to love. Adapted from Wesley Hill, “Love Is a Cry for Help,” Critique (2011:2), pp. 14-15 Preaching Today
1 Corinthians 13:4-8a Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs. Love finds no joy in unrighteousess but rejoices in truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
How can we, as followers of Jesus, follow the commandment of Jesus, practically?
Love grows as we focus on God. We should seek to grow in our understanding of, and depth in, our love for God. This strengthens our common unity because of where the focus is.
Love deepens as we forgive one another. Forgive as you have been forgiven.
Love exercised, seeks the wellbeing of others. Be willing to sacrifice on behalf of people you love.
Love like Jesus!