The 6th Sunday in Easter AD 2021
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Kurt E. Reinhardt
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.  If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.  These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays 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.  These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
“This pandemic won’t be over until it’s over everywhere.” is what Mr. Trudeau has to say every time he talks about sending help to other nations, because he knows some people aren’t going to be happy about our resources being shipped offshore. He’s got to convince people that helping others is somehow helping themselves.
Why? because our sinful nature isn’t keen on helping out our friends let alone a total stranger - if it costs us something. My cottage neighbour often laments what he sees as most people’s attitude these days, “What’s in it for me? And why should I care?” Yes, Mr. Trudeau has got a hard sell with many these days with foreign aid in this pandemic.
Christ’s word to us this morning speaks so clearly to all this for us. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” Not to disagree with our Lord but I’m not so sure? “Really Jesus?” I want to say. But what about, ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do?’ and ‘while we were yet sinners, that is haters of God, You laid down your life for us.’ Surely, love that lays down its life for its enemies is greater than love that lays down its life for its friends?”
While I’m tempted to disagree with Jesus, I know that He can’t be wrong. And so there must be a way that what He says is true. But how? The answer is unbelievable. The truth is that Jesus on the cross is laying down his life for His friends. On the cross we see the incredible depths of the love of God where Christ chooses His enemies for His friends. Christ chooses people who hate Him who reject Him as their friend to be His friends … friends that He loves enough to die for. What a friend we have in Jesus, indeed! greater love has no one than this, yes, yes, indeed.
What joy! To know what kind of people Jesus chooses for His friends. The worst of the worst, the chief of sinners, haters of God - people like you and me. Jesus is my friend not because I chose Him but because He chose me. When I didn’t even want Him for mine He wanted me for His, that is the truth and heart of the Gospel, beloved, that is the truth and heart of the love of God. It is this love that we are called to abide in, to bask in, rest in, remain in, live in, not our love of Him but His love for us.
But as every parent knows, a kid’s friends have a way of rubbing off on them. Keeping good company has a way of keeping you on the right track. Keeping bad company often lands you in a heap of trouble. Look where it gets the Son of God. He throws in His lot in with us. He hangs out with sinners and eats with them. He calls us His friends. And where does it get Him? Hanging on a cross numbered with transgressors suffering and dying because of them, judged and condemned for them, while they leave Him in the dust.
Keeping company with us leads Jesus to death and damnation. Keeping company with Jesus on the other hand leads to life and salvation. Love chose the first that the second might be yours, beloved. Even before you came to be, the Lord Jesus knew you and chose you to be his friend. Knowing all that you would be, He numbered Himself with you in your baptism, so that you could be numbered with Him. He chose you, knowing all that it would mean for Him and knowing just what kind of friend you would be to Him.
Jesus will always be my friend, that’s as sure as the cross and my baptism, but whether or not I am a friend to Him, that has to do with abiding in His love and keeping his commandment to love others as He has loved me. And what does that mean? “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” It means choosing to love in the face of hate. It means choosing to give to those who only want to take. It means opening up your arms and dying to yourself for the good of others.
Yea, we all fall pretty flat in the friend department when it comes to Jesus. Forgive your enemies and do good to those who hate you? We’ve got a hard enough time being merciful and patient with the faults of those we love. We struggle with serving our families without grumbling and groaning, let alone laying down our lives for strangers or our enemies. When we are tired and overwhelmed as we have been for over a year now the devil so easily has us taking offence and snapping back at any comment or remark with the slightest edge to it. This of course can lead to a snarling back and forth that would put any dog fight to shame.
Friends of Jesus? No, beloved, this is not how Jesus’ friends should act. Abiding in His love they are to live in it toward others. In the face of this truth, what a comfort it is to know that the Lord Jesus chose me to be His friend, full well knowing what a lousy friend I would be to Him. What joy there is in the truth that His friendship with me does not depend on how well I live up to it. What peace there is in the reality that He rejoices to see me today and is glad to share not only His time but His very life in His body and blood with me, even when I have let Him down in more ways than I can number.
But this is why our dear friend Jesus comes to share His good company with us this morning. In love He comes to befriend us, so that be being a good friend to us we might be better friends to Him, so that loving us we might learn all the more to love Him, so that serving us we might learn all the more to serve Him. And so beloved, let us rejoice in the friendship of our Lord Jesus today, even as we pray to the Father in His name, that He would make us better friends to Him, so that we may know the joy of loving one another as He has loved us. Amen.