What Jesus Does for Us

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : John 15:12-17

For almost fifty years now, this has been one of my favorite Bible passages. In a few lines, it seems to speak volumes. I see here both the wonder of what Christ does for His people and the heart of what He looks for in response. Listen. I’m reading from John, chapter 15, at verse 12:

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. This I command you, to love one another.

HE CALLS US FRIENDS

Think first of this as something Jesus does for His followers: He calls them friends. Isn’t that a mind-stretching thought: friendship with the Lord of heaven and earth? I can remember the wistful feeling I had when I first read in the Old Testament how God referred to Abraham as His “friend” and how the Lord spoke with Moses face to face “as a man speaks with his friend.” That seemed such an incredibly marvelous act of grace on the part of the Almighty. But I feared that such friendship might only be for Abraham, the Father of the faithful, and Moses, the great leader of God’s people. But here Jesus says it to the ragtag group He had gathered about Him as His disciples. And so also, He says it to any who seek to follow Him now: “I have called you friends.”

Jesus makes a distinction here between a servant and a friend. The servant of a good master is loved, protected, cared for. His life is good. But as a servant, his task is simply to obey. He does not share his master’s vision and is not consulted about his master’s plans. Jesus now says to His followers, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing, but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Friends are those to whom we speak our hearts. No reserve is needed with them. Whatever vision the leader has, whatever sense of destiny and mission, he can share it all with those truly close to him. He can admit them into his counsel, making them a vital part of his plans.

Jesus did that with His disciples in walks through the countryside, around nighttime fires, in desert places and upper rooms. Whatever He learned in communion with His Father, He communicated freely to His disciples.

And now, through the gracious provision of the Scriptures, He does the same for His followers today. As we study His Word, as we seek the guiding of His Spirit, as we commune with Him in our prayers, He takes us today into His confidence and shares with us the open secrets of His purpose. In what must be the greatest privilege ever given to human beings, the Lord of glory counts us His friends. He takes us into His confidence. He commits Himself to us. He trusts us with what is dearest to His heart. Can anything else possibly give to a human life as much dignity and grandeur as that? By His grace, by His choice, by His call, we are the Lord’s friends. Hallelujah!

HE LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE

Jesus Himself takes the initiative in this friendship. He demonstrates at the deepest level what it is to be a friend. His word is, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” A few short hours after speaking these words, Jesus will enact them. He will give His life freely on behalf of those He loves.

Remember the bloody violence in Moscow some weeks ago, the sad days when Russian tanks shelled the beautiful Russian parliament building? A young American lost his life then, shot in the neck. He was trying at the time to rescue a wounded American journalist. In a real sense, he gave his life on behalf of his countryman. There is no greater love, says Jesus, than that.

God’s venture into human life in the person of His Son was a mission to save. Jesus came to die for His people. This world was not friendly to God when He came. Crucifixion was the welcome we arranged for Him. Jesus gave His life for rebels, for sinners, for enemies in order to reconcile them to God, in order to make them friends. This was the full measure of His caring, what Paul calls the “breadth and length, and depth and height . . . of the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:18).

What does Jesus do for us? He identifies Himself with our lot. He stands in our place. He bears the stroke of judgment due to us. He gives Himself up to die for our sins so that we may have life. Think of it, friends. We who had done nothing to deserve this, we who had done so much that caused Him grief, we were the objects of His suffering love. Greater love was never seen or known than this.

HE GIVES US PURPOSE

But there’s more. Jesus calls us His friends. He lays down His life on our behalf. Then He appoints us to a great mission. Listen again: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

It was common in the Israel of Jesus’ time for aspiring students to choose the rabbi under whom they would study. With Jesus, it was the other way around. He approached the men He desired to call. He sought them out and summoned them to follow. No one of the twelve was a volunteer. All were draftees, claimed by His beforehand love.

And so it is with us too. We sing it: “I sought the Lord but afterward I knew, he moved my soul, to seek him, seeking me. It was not I who found, O Savior true, no, I was found of thee. I find, I walk, I love, but O the whole of love is but my answer, Lord, to thee. Always thou lovest me.”

Jesus chooses us not only to be forgiven and to be His friends, but also to go and bear fruit. When I became a Christian as a teenager, captured by the love of Jesus Christ, this is what spoke most powerfully to my heart, this verse: “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you and appointed you that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (kjv). My friend gave it to me on a little Scripture memory verse card. It has been etched on my heart, as it were, ever since. The Lord who had loved me and redeemed me was giving me a mission. There was a something I was meant to do. That changed everything for me. It gave me a sense of destiny. I felt like an ambassador of the King of kings! And that, I guess, is what I was, sent by Him to do His bidding, to bear His message.

With that commissioning came the assurance that my work would not be in vain – it would remain.

All of us, I suppose, sense a longing deep inside that our lives should count for something. We’d like to feel that we’ve made a difference, that the world is somehow a better place because we’ve lived in it, that we will leave behind us something of enduring worth. Jesus promises that we will. We will bear fruit that remains.

He was soon to die, then triumph over death in resurrection. He would ascend to the throne of the universe and send His Spirit to the hearts of His followers. They would be joined to Him in a living bond, as branches in the vine. And, because of their union with Him, their lives would become fruitful. They would manifest the fruit of Christian character. As fishers of men, they would reproduce themselves, win others to the faith. Because He would live in them and work in them by His Spirit, their lives would be richly fruitful. Their contribution would still remain when all of earth’s empires had crumbled into dust.

As the crown of their fruitfulness, these followers of His would be given power to pray. We usually think of prayer as a preparation for service and witness, which it surely is. But Jesus gives it here an even greater prominence. There’s a sense in which we bring forth the fruit of likeness to Christ and the fruit of effective witness, so that we may pray. That becomes our highest contribution to the work of His kingdom, our supreme ministry in His name.

I hope you realize that, those of you for whom active ministry and witness seems impossible. Perhaps because of your health or your age or your restricted circumstances, it seems that you cannot go and bear fruit. As John Milton, writing on his blindness, said, “They also serve who only stand and wait.” Yes, and they also serve and serve best perhaps, who call upon God from the heart, for His kingdom purpose, for the needs of those He loves. What most can give our lives significance, according to Jesus, the heritage most enduring, is the faith-filled prayer we offer in the name and power of Jesus.

HE LOOKS FOR LOVE

These marvelous gifts of the Lord, redemption, friendship, and purpose, come with an overarching command. Jesus ushers in His words with this: “This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.” And here’s how He concludes the paragraph, “This I command you, to love one another.”

Like all of God’s commands, this is in a setting of grace. Remember how the Ten Commandments begin? “I am the Lord thy God who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Exod. 20:1, kjv). It’s in the light of that that they are to keep the ten words. Now the fitting response of these disciples, so graced by the Lord, is that they should love one another as He has loved them. This is the heart of His desire. It can be offered as His commandment, the one thing needful. Do they long to fulfill His purpose? Do they want to show themselves grateful for the supreme gift of His life for them? Do they want to be His true friends? Then let them love one another.

The apostles learned this from Jesus, that love is the one thing needful. Speaking with the tongues of men and angels, possessed of mountain-moving faith, performing great acts of benevolence and even self-sacrifice are nothing, says Paul, without love. There’s no substitute for it, nothing we can do that somehow makes up for its absence. Do we want to please the Lord? Have we pledged a grateful, deathless love to Christ? Then let it be shown in the way we esteem, minister to, care for, forgive and be patient with, our fellow Christians.

So is it a quid-pro-quo arrangement here? Does He do this for us and we do that for Him? In a sense. But at a deeper level, even the called-for love is a rich gift of grace. We love because He first loved us. Love is not only a duty but a power breathed into us by His Spirit. It’s Christ’s own life coming to expression in us. And it’s a way of joy.

So add that to the things Jesus does for us. He frees us from the prison of our self-concern. He banishes the misery of envy, takes away the burden of an unforgiving spirit. He so shares His life with us and calls us to the path of love that we begin to deal with others as He has dealt with us. In the miracle of His grace, we become a people who behave in a way utterly foreign to our unredeemed nature. We become people willing, ready, to lay down our lives for one another.

That won’t always mean what Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion.” We may not be called upon to die for someone else. Maybe it’s in something as menial as washing feet or changing bed pans. Maybe it’s putting up with the disagreeable ones or forgiving the person who has hurt us most. But this is how the world will know that we are Jesus’ disciples. We will have learned from His self-giving how to live like real friends.

Prayer: Lord, for all You have done for us and continue to do, we bless You. Give us truly grateful hearts. Teach us what it is to love and to live like real friends. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.