Living like Jesus – a Life of Love


Scripture: John 14: 15-29     Jan Savory


Saying Goodbye

Todays reading comes from the discussion between Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper in John’s Gospel. As Nigel told us on Maundy Thursday, John has a very different account of that time than the other 3 gospels. This discussion, the Farewell Discourse (chapters 13-17), is Jesus’ words of good-bye to his disciples. Aware of his imminent arrest, Jesus tries to prepare his disciples for what to expect when he is no longer with them.


It follows the classic form of a farewell speech: addressing the survivors’ needs and fears; giving instructions for their future behaviour; giving glimpses of the otherwise-unseen-but-present other world, and of immediate future events. Last words are important. It was common in the ancient world to record or to imagine the parting advice of a revered figure. It generated a type of writing called a testament

Typically John

And, like so much of John’s writing, it is not easy to follow his thread. John’s style is typically non-linear. He tends to tackle large themes and then illustrate them with specific events and collected (and often elaborated) sayings from the Jesus traditions. Often in so doing, he circles back over the same material more than once, saying the same thing in slightly different ways. This makes it very repetitive and difficult to follow for those of us who, like me, are linear thinkers. To follow any one theme trough the discourse, we need to read all of it, not just a few verses.

Theological development

Also, I think that we are watching the development of theology in this discourse. John is writing for and developing the themes for the post-Easter community. Many of them have not had a face-to-face encounter with Jesus.  But they still experience the risen Christ as alive and among them. It is an experience of love (v.23), obedience (keeping word, v.23), learning (v.26), remembering (v.26), being at peace (v.27), rejoicing (v.28), and believing (v.29).   John is writing for a community that is becoming, developing, growing in difficult times. And he is committed to helping that community become the loving, nurturing, proclaiming fellowship that he understands to be the embodiment of the teachings of Jesus.

For us, too

We are also a community of people who without a face-to-face encounter with Jesus experience the risen Christ as alive and among us. And the church as we know it is facing a difficult time. So, it’s worth the effort to unpack the ideas John is presenting in his rather rambling style.

Jesus starts his farewell speech by talking about departure, return, peace and joy. Jesus is going to the Father, but will send the “Comforter” for the disciples – we read part of this today. John returns to these themes later at the end of chapter 15 and throughout chapter 16

It’s all about Love

Todays passage is about love, keeping commandments and the Holy Spirit “If you love me, you will keep[a] my commandments’ Not conditional, but better said as Because you love me16  I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever”.   

Emphasis on “keeping commandments” might sound strange to us who are used to the language of grace and freedom from living by rules.  But in Jesus’ day and time, “keeping” the commandments was a perfectly normal way of expressing a life of faithfulness to God. “Keeping” God’s word meant internalizing God’s teachings to the extent that they shaped every aspect of one’s daily life; living in harmony with God’s truth and God’s justice, with God’s love and God’s mercy.  The emphasis is not on being judged for heaven or punishment when we die but on how we live in the here and now.

A life of love – for Jesus

So, God’s commandments permeated everything he said and did. We can’t just pick one or two verses and conclude that they are Jesus’ commandments. What Jesus expects from us is revealed by how Jesus lived.

How was that? Well, he lived a life of Love and through that he worked to bring God’s kingdom here on earth. He summed it up for us in a couple of places during the Farewell discourse, (although we didn’t read these portions today) with a new commandment, “that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

A life of love – for us

the holy spirit teaches a life of love

Love: that is the key. Our lives must be governed by love. Look at how often love occurs in this passage (9 times).  Sounds so simple, but hard to put into practice. That’s why we need help. Enter the Holy Spirit, referred to in Greek as the Paraclete, translated in the NRSV as Advocate, but it can just as accurately be translated as Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby. ) The Spirit will teach us and help us keep alive all that Jesus said and did.


The life of Love beyind the empty tomb

I find it significant that this gospel reading is located in the Sundays after Easter. All too often, we think of the  resurrection as a culmination or ending, rather than as a beginning. But our lives as Christians continue beyond a discovery of an empty tomb. The resurrection is the start of new life here and now. The presence and power of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, extend beyond the empty tomb, beyond Easter, and well into this next season we call Pentecost.

Abundant life from now to eternity

Full intimacy with God and Christ, is available now. Abundant life is available for living from this moment into eternity. At the end of each day, and during each moment of each day, for John, there’s only one question to ask ourselves: “In what ways did I or did I not love today?” As we reflect upon that, judgment happens. Where we did not love, there lies judgment. But that judgment is not about punishment but merely pinpointing where we can do better. And where we show love, the future is breaking in today with an alternative order known as the Kingdom of God. And we can learn to love, with the presence and help of the Holy Spirit, our helper.  Amen