John 15:23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also.
The Word doesn’t get any more plain-spoken than Jesus having to speak such a dark truth about himself. It’s stunning. Jesus was the perfect re-creation of God on earth. He was the prism that would bring the light of renewal to our relationship with…well…Himself. Light is the only way to combat hatred.
The word “prism” reminded me of this photo I’d taken. I had several small prisms placed in windows and throughout the day as sunlight would pass through them their rainbows of color would catch my eye around the house. I’d found this empty nest, filled it with pretend eggs and set it on the mantle window sill. I had no idea of how dramatic that ordinary nest could be until the sunlight through the prism lit it.
The primary message of my photo is pretty obvious. When Jesus is the prism that light is filtered through there’s a dramatic change that brings to mind God’s promise of the rainbow as a sign of His covenant. There’s an equally effective message for the dark half of the photo. Jesus came into the world “as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”
John 15:21 But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.
Hate and persecution were shocking words Jesus used just a few verses ago to warn his followers what they might expect “on account of my name.” Those who used Jesus’s name as a confession of their faith needed courage. Jesus warned them they were marked as different, and a risk to the existing state of conformity, by those who “do not know him who sent me.” The acceptance of that risk with eyes wide open was the necessary seal of their identity as a follower of Christ within a world of conformity.
John 15:19 ESV If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
The capacity of human nature to zero in on being loved is what makes “fitting in” to the world such a tempting option. Jesus warns us “fitting in” to the world is not a reliable indicator of love. We’ve just celebrated the birth of Jesus as the promised revelation of God’s love for us. Jesus is the pivot point for our world. Pivot points are basically a choice, an intersection [a cross?], that determines direction.
That promise is the mystery Jesus reminds us of with these words; “I chose you out of the world.” The fact is this world is God’s own choice for us. The mystery is solved by this: While we are chosen “out of the world” we still have to live our life IN it. Learning to live IN the world as visible evidence of that Pivot Point is what completely changes our understanding of God’s love and our interaction with the world too.
John 15:17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another
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 15:13 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 15:11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
Verse 11 is an unfamiliar place to look for a connection to Advent but we have history and hindsight to remind us God had a purpose in sending Christ as a new born baby. John recorded this statement as part of the narrative of the purpose of the life of Christ. Jesus clearly said what the purpose of His teaching was. That’s a lot of “purpose” from a one-sentence verse but when I read the definition of the two grammatical parts of “purpose” it became my purpose for this second Advent post.
noun: the reason for which something is created or for which something exists.
verb: have as one’s intention or objective.
God’s purpose for the birth of Jesus into our world as a baby was to provide a visual experience of new life and growth with all the perfection that had been lost back in the Garden of Eden. That is the renewal of purpose we celebrate during Advent. John is a respected expert on the purpose of the life of Jesus from the moment of His conception in the mind of God through His birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection.
Verse 11 might actually be the bottom line purpose of why we celebrate Advent year after year. There are so many good things that appeal to us emotionally and visually during the preparation for Christ-mas but don’t ever leave out that “-.” Christ was “created” and “exists” [the noun] as the reason for this season but His ”intention or objective” [the verb] for your life lasts far beyond Advent – “that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.