John 15:17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another
John 15:16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. [NRSV]
“Bear fruit, fruit that will last” is the curious qualification for the “whatever” in the response “SO…the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.” I’ve spent hours and typed many paragraphs these last few days trying to explain to myself what that specific “fruit that will last” is because it’s so important to that “whatever.”
In the end I’ve discovered to bear “fruit that will last” is something far simpler and more personal and it’s my tie-in to Advent. Jesus is our gift of faith. “Bear” usually implies the power to sustain without flinching or breaking and faith is the only “fruit that will last” long enough to make “whatever” a reality in our life.
John 15:15 No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. [NASB]
Moving from slave to friend is a progression. Long before I was even aware of a thing called a “personal” relationship with Jesus, I believed Jesus was God’s son and I was a faithful church member. Faithful in the sense I was there and I was active. There were very good reasons to be there. Church was a place where people put their best face forward. The activities were at an obvious level of insulated kindness and integrity. It was a place we went every Sunday as a family without question. I was a willing, and content, “slave” to religion. Thankfully that was enough to keep me there because as it turns out “religion” is the very busy place the Spirit of God often chooses to reveal the truth that Jesus was born for slaves in the midst of religion!
That’s the progression of how my friendship with Jesus became a reality. Friendship is what connects John 15:15 and my Advent celebration this year. It was friendship that revealed the Cradle as more than the destination of an annual Advent celebration. That long-ago Cradle is where God revealed His desire for our future: Jesus, God in-the-flesh, born to be our pathway from slavery to salvation and friendship.
John 15:14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. [NRSV]
I’m still working on the idea of shared DNA. The celebration of Jesus’s birth is our annual reminder that God did in fact replicate His own redemptive DNA. If God is the ultimate creator of us all, then we share that same DNA. That is our proof we are personally “related” to Jesus. Friendship and obedience are like genes on that redemptive DNA string that can produce amazing similarities and distinct differences. Genes spell out the information they contain but interact differently with one another and may affect the traits the gene controls. So while the DNA may contain the same information the results may be different.
Some may read John 15:14 and conclude that IF we do what Jesus commands, we are His friends. That is certainly true, but just as true is the conclusion that BECAUSE we are Jesus’s friends we will do as He commands. Christmas activity is filled with cookies, cakes and candy. This cute word play helps makes my point about the variation John 15:14 addresses: “stressed” spelled backwards is “desserts.” It’s a humorous way to say we’ve got the DNA and we’ve got the genes but they don’t always spell the same thing. Advent is God’s reminder to us our relationship to Him is not an either/or option. It has to be both friendship and obedience. God placed his own DNA in that Bethlehem cradle long ago to reveal our relationship to Jesus is our genetic connection to Him that makes that possible.
John 15:13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
I ended my last post, Love Story, with this statement “His [Jesus] own future on earth began with His willingness to trust that the humanity He entered would become a part of building His life on earth so that His love would become their salvation.” That reality of Advent explains John 15:13 too. But wait, there’s more to the story.
Culturally those connections are of great interest today. We’ve “discovered” DNA [a self-replicating material present that’s the carrier of genetic information] that confirms connections that have been lost in our lives. I know because it’s happened to me both on a real life level and spiritually. Jesus entered a world He’d been part of creating. In that long ago moment He surrendered His place of intimacy with God to choose companionship with humanity in the flesh. The cradle was where Jesus willingly laid down His own sovereign authority to become the “perfect” rebirth of God’s genetic connection with mankind for the second time. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Jesus’s birth is our annual reminder that same redemptive DNA has been replicated in each of us. Within us lies the power of Jesus to transform and save those who will abide with Him.
John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. [NRSV]
I read that the word “love” appears in the Gospel of John more often than in the other three gospels combined. We may be familiar with many stories of Jesus showing love during His life as he taught, fed, healed and prayed for people. We’ve learned our lesson well that the complete expression of that love is the death of Jesus followed by His resurrection. That’s the ending.
We celebrate the birth of Jesus during this time of Advent as the embodiment of God’s love for His creation. It almost seemed too simple to even try to write about until another thought entered my mind. Jesus was always present with God. He wasn’t a Heavenly go-fer who did God’s bidding. He was God. That certainly deals with the idea of simple doesn’t it? Jesus knew full well what becoming human meant for Him. He knew His future right from the get-go. We begin this annual celebration knowing the end of the story, Jesus was willing to surrender His own life for us. The beginning of the “love” story is the part that makes this Advent a reality. Jesus loved us enough to enter our world as a helpless infant. His own future on earth began with His willingness to trust that the humanity He entered would become a part of building His life on earth so that His love would become their salvation.