John 13:31-35 (NIV) 31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. 33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
“Home, Sweet, Home”. How many of you have that proverb in your home? It may be a picture on your wall. It may be magnetized to your refrigerator door. It may be a stand up chalk board like this one. More important, however, than just this saying displayed somewhere in your home is the question, does this actually describe your home? Yes, your home made up of your earthly family as well as your home, that is, your life in general that you are living in this world. Sweet is something that tastes good, that is pleasant and appealing. As the theme we are following this Easter season reminds us, we are going home, to our real and lasting home in heaven. Along the way, can we say our home here is sweet? Well, as our sub-theme for today tells us, “Home is where the heart is.” So where are our hearts at and what makes our homes here sweet? Let the word of our God the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle John to write tell us. Let me highlight some of the verses of our Gospel reading in John 13:31-35. So here we see:
GOING HOME FOR JESUS’ CHILDREN IS SWEET WHEN...
I. Hearts are filled with Jesus’ sacrificial love for them.
II. Hearts love another as Jesus first loved them.
“When he was gone...” John begins this portion of his Gospel. It was Maundy Thursday evening. Jesus had just pointed out that his own disciple, Judas, would hand him over to his enemies to suffer and die. This was the total opposite of love. It was selfishness, greed and betrayal. That pretty much sums up what is in the heart of all people by nature. Since the fall into sin all hearts are enemies of God and hate God and all he stands for. Recall how Jesus said in Matthew 15, “For out of the heart comes evil thoughts, murders, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” Hardly hearts that belong to or follow the heavenly Father.
Contrast that with what fills the heart of the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Their hearts are filled with sweet love for disobedient sinners. The heavenly Father had sent his Son to suffer and die to pay for all those sins that clutter people’s hearts. The very next day after Jesus spoke these words he would do exactly that out of love for damned souls. Therein lies the glory of the Father and the Son. Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself and will glorify him at once.” Surely God’s glory is seen in his awesome creation, in the wind and the sunshine, in the stars and moon. But the real glory of God is the love in his heart for hearts that are far from him that caused him to sacrifice his own Son. Yes, God so loved the world... Or as this same John wrote in his first letter, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son into the world that we might live through him.” That love was confirmed when the Father raised his Son from the dead.
That love was what made the men to whom Jesus was speaking children of the heavenly Father. Jesus could address them as “My children”. They could not follow him into suffering and death to pay for their sins. Only the sinless Son of Man could do that for them and all children of sin and Satan. But he called them to follow him in faith as their Savior which made them children of God. The future for them would not always taste good, be pleasant and appealing. But their life would be “Home, Sweet, Home” because the sacrificial love of Jesus for them would fill their hearts and lives and they knew they were going home.
And so for us. The baseball, soccer, and tennis seasons are upon us again with the coming of spring. Coaches are urging, back to the basics. This is basic Christianity, Christianity 101, if you will. By that I mean it all boils down to the Father’s and the Son’s heart of love for us. Life isn’t always easy. In fact, it can be downright tough at times, hardly what the world and our own flesh would call “sweet”. Yet, it is sweet because the sacrificial love of our Savior fills our hearts from the Spirit’s loving work of instilling faith in Jesus in them through this awesome Gospel message. Our sweet Jesus died to pay for the sin lurking in our hearts. Then he rose to give us a sweet life in him while we are on our way home to heaven. While we live in our earthly home here by God’s grace Jesus can also address us as children of the heavenly Father. John again wrote in his letter of love, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are.” That we see our home here as sweet in Jesus will show in hearts that love one another as Jesus first loved us.
Earlier Jesus had shown humble, self-sacrificing love when he washed his disciples feet. The next day he would show the greatest self-less love for others when he would die to pay for all their sins. No wonder John also said, “God is love.” That living love of Jesus was what made Jesus call his command to them and all his followers, “new”. “A new command I give you: Love on another.” That might cause us to respond, “Really?” Way back in his commands given in Leviticus he told his people they were to love him and each other. While that was always to be from the heart, it too often was just law. Here it is part of Christianity 101, from hearts filled with the love for sinners Jesus was now carrying out before their very eyes. This is agape love, love that is selfless, self-sacrificing, not expecting anything in return, always putting the other person first. This is the love of Jesus. So he went on to say, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” This is not puppy love or even brotherly love, or gushing love. This is Christianity 101, the basics of hearts filled with Jesus’ love. And others will notice. They surely noticed if they were near any of these apostles. While not always displaying perfect agape, they were still sinners after-all, Jesus love in their hearts surely showed as the proclaimed and lived for their loving, living Savior. So Jesus concluded, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” No one can see Jesus love in hearts, but as the old saying goes, they can see it when we wear it on our sleeves.
Twenty-one years ago I had heart surgery, four by-passes. I am extremely grateful for the long time of pretty good health the Lord has given me. I am far more grateful, and you are too, that the Holy Spirit performed spiritual heart surgery on our sick spiritual hearts and has had them beat strongly with the Lord’s love filling them. And it shows, right? Oh, I don’t always give my wife the bigger half of the cookie. Selfishness, me-first attitude, still too often prevails. But then Jesus words come back to me again, “Come on, my child, love as I love you.” There is another interesting reminder that literally pops up from time to time. When you type in the word “love” in your text, often to people who love you and God has given you to love, what emoji comes up? A heart, right? Yes, as God’s word tells us, love deeply from the heart. Love as Jesus loves us. Wow, that is going to take all the loving forgiveness he give us when we fail. That is going to take his powerful word and sacrament empowering us. Our sinful nature won’t, that’s for sure. That is why it is such a good reminder that we are children of God going home to a place of perfect love for our Lord and all others. No me first or greed or coveting there. Just agape. So on our journey in our home here, starting in the home of our family and going out from there, let us agape one another. In the cartoon, Hagar, in the Pioneer Press this past week it showed a battle being waged with swords and clubs. An onlooker said, “Looking for love in all the wrong places.” Pray God that those wrong places are not our family’s home or our life in general in our home here. Rather may God grant that we can write on our “Home, Sweet, Home” chalk board all the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5, all coming from a heart of Jesus love for one another.
Dorothy had it right, “There is no place like home.”