Language is a funny thing. When you look at words, how they’re formed, what they mean, it is interesting to see how they came to be. There are words that long and words that are short. We have words that are easy to pronounce and words that are not easy to pronounce. One word in the English language is 28 letters long, antidisestablishmentarianism. It’s a word that you won’t hear a lot. There’s even a 45-letter word, but I won’t begin to try to pronounce that word. But there is one word in the English language that is a very difficult word for us to comprehend. That word is not a long word; rather, it is only 2 letters long. The word is “if.” It is conditional. It indicates that should you do this, then you will receive that. It requires action, usually on your part, to receive the intended results that you desire.
That is how Jesus begins His discourse here. He says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we don’t love Jesus. Because of our sinful nature, we want absolutely nothing to do with God. We utterly despise Him and everything that He stands for. We can’t love Jesus on our merits or work, and we surely can’t keep His commandments. That should be the end of it all. We don’t want God, we hate God, and we despise God. So in turn, God should not want us. God should hate us. God should despise us. But that is not the way it is. God chose to love us when we were unlovable in our sin. Through His great love and mercy, He gave to us His only-begotten Son. By the work of Jesus Christ, we have been given the gift of Jesus and His forgiveness, won for us on the cross.
Jesus knows that we cannot love Him. God knows that we cannot love Him, yet that doesn’t stop them from loving us. God loved us when we were unlovable and promised Jesus. Jesus loved us when we were unlovable and gave Himself to us and promised the gift of the Holy Spirit. We have been promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Here, Jesus tells us, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” Really? God would promise us a Savior for breaking His one command of not eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Jesus would give to us Himself even when we are incapable of doing what He says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Speaking for myself, I know that I’m not perfect. And speaking for all of you, I know that you’re not perfect either. None of us are perfect, nor has there been anyone who is perfect, except for Jesus Christ. He is the one and only who has ever been or ever will be perfect. You and I are far from perfect. In fact, we are so far beyond perfect that the only thing you and I should receive is death and damnation. Yet, despite all of that, God still loves us. Despite our grievous sins, God still loves us enough to send to us a Savior. Despite our grievous sins, Jesus still loves us to send us the gift of the Holy Spirit for the building up of our faith.
Through the gifts of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, Jesus continues to come to us, just as He says He would. Through these simple and ordinary means of water, bread, and wine, Jesus gives to us that which we need most – His forgiveness, His life, His salvation. He gives to us freely and gives out of His great and abundant mercy.
You are His disciples, and because you are His disciples, He promises to keep you in His care and does so through the gift of the Holy Spirit. However, there is one problem with that as well. On account of our sin, we fall short of keeping God’s gifts as we should. We neglect to be in God’s Word, both privately and corporately. We do not hunger and thirst for the Sacrament which Christ gives of His own body and blood. We do not love our neighbor as we should. There is a reason for this: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” From the greatest to the least, we all have sinned; we all have missed the mark. But the Lord knows that the only way we can even begin to keep His gifts holy and sacred is if we receive help, so He sends another Helper, another Advocate. The Holy Spirit is our second advocate. He helps us in our weakness. He especially helps us by bringing to remembrance the words of Jesus, by bearing witness to Jesus, and by taking what is Jesus’ and showing it to us. He helps us by giving us the truth, the true knowledge of God, and by actually remaining not only alongside us, but in us, for “he dwells with you and will be in you.”
It is through this Helper, through the Holy Spirit, that you and I are given the miraculous gift of faith, faith not in ourselves, but in God who is the One who makes promises and keeps them.
Christ promises to keep His disciples in His care by coming to them directly. How does He come to you? He comes in the ways that He has promised – through His Word and through His Sacraments. The writer to the Hebrews says, “In many and various ways, God spoke to His people of old through the prophets. But now, in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son.” He comes to us through His body and His blood, in a meal that you feast upon for the strengthening and nourishing of your faith.
To have Christ means that you have the victor over sin, death, and the power of the devil. Having Christ, then, is to live in faith. And when we have Christ, we also have the Father.
Jesus didn’t just say that He loved you; He showed His love to you. He kept you and keeps you. He kept you from being destroyed by sin when He died for you. He kept you from being destroyed by death when He rose for you, and He keeps you today in His Word and in His Spirit. By Christ and His actions for you, He has shown the love of God to you, and because God has loved you, now you are able to love Jesus, because He has removed from you all of your sins and made you holy by His blood. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.