3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. 5He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight 9he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. 11In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, 12so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. 13In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; 14this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.
*Sermon delivered during a polka service*
21When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23and begged him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.” 24So he went with him.
And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” 29Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” 31And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32He looked all around to see who had done it. 33But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
35While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha cum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.
35When evening had come, [Jesus said to the disciples,] “Let us go across to the other side.” 36And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
[Jesus prayed:] 6“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. 12While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. 14I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. 16They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 17Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
[Jesus said:] 9“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
12“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.”
I don’t normally do this, but I will today. I want you to turn to your neighbor (if you don’t have one, you can either find one or sit and talk to yourself) and take 30 seconds or so and tell them what you think it means for someone to be your friend. How do you know if someone is a friend? What do friends do? Okay, go for it.
What are some of the things you thought of?
Now, I want us to consider what is means, in light of what we’ve said together, for Jesus to be our friend. First, let’s think about what this must have meant to his disciples. In the ancient rabbinical practices of Judaism, the rabbi, the teacher, was the master of his students. It would be a similar relationship, maybe, to an apprentice and master builder. The apprentice is there to learn, the master is there to teach, and that may be all the deeper the relationship goes. They might like each other, they might appreciate each other, but they are not friends. But Jesus, here, is telling his disciples that they are more than simply apprentices or colleagues. Rather, they are his friends. That, in itself, is pretty personal and amazing.
This means all the more when we consider what is happening when Jesus speaks these words. This is the farewell address on Maundy Thursday, the day before he is crucified. Jesus is celebrating Passover with his disciples, he has washed their feet, and has said to them that whenever they eat or drink of it, he has given them bread and wine, they are to remember him. He knows that he will be betrayed tonight. He knows that his disciples will scatter and that, after his resurrection, he’ll need to gather them together like so many sheep and breathe upon them the Holy Spirit to keep them active in God’s Kingdom. In his last hours, he is reassuring the disciples that we are his friends and that he is ours.
And how can we know that? Jesus gives us a pretty good working definition of friends. Friends are chosen, not chosen for you, and Jesus tells his disciples that he has chosen them. And, I declare to you, that in the waters of baptism, Jesus has chosen you. And this is made known in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Jesus has laid down his life for his friends and that means you. The season of Easter is a season of celebration that death and sin have been defeated by Christ’s resurrection. Not just some sins, and some death, but sin and death, even yours. Rather than play by the rules, rather than keeping the doors of heaven locked and closed until you’re good enough to get in, Jesus has simply removed the gates and fences. Rather than side with the powerful and the violent, Jesus has sided with the meek and weak. Jesus has laid down his life for his friends, and that includes you. All of you. Even the parts of you that you try to hide, the parts of you that you’d rather forget. Like any good friend, Jesus knows you, knows what you’re going through, and knows your insecurities, your fears, and your anxieties. And when he laid down his life, as he was raised on the cross, he took that upon himself.
Now, your relationship with God is forever changed. No longer a beggar, you are a guest. No longer a servant, you are a friend. No longer defined by the what you’ve done wrong, by God’s grace you are defined by the love that God has poured out upon you. While you are a sinner, you are also, at the same time, a saint, washed in the waters of baptism, fed by the bread and wine of Christ, and befriended by Jesus. “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”
Christ has shown us God the Father by showing us what the Kingdom of God looks like. And in laying down his life for you, Jesus is showing us God’s willingness to sacrifice, to undergo pain and suffering, in order to bring you to wholeness and full relationship. The word compassion gets thrown around a lot, and I may have talked about this before, but the word “compassion” comes from the Latin words for “with” and “suffering”. To have compassion means that you are willing to suffer with someone. And what better way can we describe the love of Christ? We trust that Jesus is our friend because of the compassion we see in the world, both by Jesus himself and by those who follow him.
As Christ’s followers, as Christ’s friends, we pay forward what we’ve been given. We cannot pay back Christ, we can only pay it forward by loving, by having compassion on, the people and the world around us. That is what the life of faith looks like; not incessant rule following in order to gain favor with God and access to heaven, but rather relentless love and care for the people around us. We do this because we trust that, like we pray each and every week, God’s will is done on earth as in heaven. This is not access to a Kingdom far away, but rather makes known the Kingdom that is already here.
Jesus is your friend, the Triune God chose you, before you could ever earn or respond to it. And as friends of Jesus, we, both individually and corporately, work to help others know that Jesus is there friend, too. We do that by following Christ’s example, laying down our lives for others. And, of course, I hope you all know that does not mean you will die for each and every person. Rather, you will see their lives as equal with your, just as valuable and worth protecting as yours. This means that 1) I really want you to know how much Jesus loves you and 2) I really want you to know how much Jesus loves the world and people around you. Laying down your life means that we, together and alone, through whatever gifts and resources you have, work to befriend the world with the same intention and determination as Christ has for us and you. We are willing to listen to each other’s stories, share each other’s burdens, care for each other in mind, body, and spirit, and, in the end, share in the endless communion of sinner-saints of God.
And our joy, as Jesus says in our reading, is made complete. It is made complete in sharing it, experiencing joy together, pain together, love together, anger together, and, in the end, life together. “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” So peace to you, friends of Jesus, and may God grant us the peace that passes understanding and the love to bring it to life. Amen.