John 14:15–21 15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
18“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
Jesus gives a hard word here. “If you love me, you will keep My commandments.” Ouch. Doesn’t Jesus know we’re all sinners? Doesn’t He knew that we all fall short of God’s glory? Doesn’t He know that this statement shows that no one really loves Him? Yes, He does.
Jesus doesn’t care how many e-mails you forward or Facebook statuses you repost saying that you love Him. If you want to show that you love Jesus, it’s pretty simple – keep His commandments.
By your own actions – your every thought, word, and deed – you show that you don’t love Jesus. You aren’t devoted to Him. You aren’t ‘s-o-u-l-e-d out’ for Jesus. Your actions reveal that you disregard Jesus and His Word.
“If you love me.” We are wary of statements that begin like this and rightly so. Kids say this type of thing to their parents, “If you really loved me, you would let me stay out later.” Or, “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t make me do so many chores.” Spouses use this type of phrase as coercion. Have you said the phrase, “If you really loved me…” (or some similar statement) before making a selfish request of your spouse?
But simply because we sinners abuse phrases like the one Jesus makes here, that doesn’t mean that Jesus is abusing the statement. Jesus’ statement is simple: “If you love Me, obey Me.”
Yet, we don’t obey Jesus, and therefore, we don’t love Jesus. And that is not ok. Jesus meant what He said, and it is not good for you to somehow work your way around His clear statement.
Of course we know that Jesus forgives. Jesus is in the forgiveness business. You can always come to Him and say, “I have shown that I have not loved you because I have not obeyed you.” And Jesus will always meet that confession by saying, “I forgive you.”
But He doesn’t detract His statement. He doesn’t have this command struck from the record of Scripture. The law stands, “If you love Me, obey Me. Love God. Love your neighbor.”
But this command isn’t the only word He gives in these verses. He promises to send a Helper. Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit. Jesus promises that He will not leave us as orphans. Then He speaks an even stronger word than “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” He says, “Because I live, you also will live.”
I like stories. There are good stories and bad stories. Bad stories fix all the problems of the characters. Even worse stories fix all the problems of everyone. Good stories imitate life – in this life there is no “happily ever after.” The best stories don’t tie up all the loose ends – instead, they leave you hanging a little bit.
In the parable of the Prodigal Son (arguably Jesus’ most beloved parable), you are left hanging. The son who left home and wasted away his inheritance is showered with forgiveness and welcomed home with a banquet. But the story ends with older son, the son who stayed, hearing the invitation to join the celebration; however, you aren’t told how the story ends. Does he swallow his pride and join party? We aren’t told. We are left in the dark.
The story of Jesus’ ministry is the best story ever, and frankly it leaves you hanging too.
Imagine Jesus as a lifeguard. He strolls the beach carefully watching the swimmers. He realizes that there is a strong undertow, so He calls everyone out of the water. People complain, but they comply. Instead of an afternoon of swimming in the cool waves, they settle for playing Frisbee and volleyball on the beach.
Suddenly, a young boy cries out, “Hey look out there! There’s a girl drowning!” Sure enough, a girl is struggling in the waves and getting pulled further and further out. Lifeguard Jesus dashes across the sand and dives into the breakers. The girl flails her arms trying to stay above the water. The crowds wonder if Jesus will make it in time.
Finally, He reaches her. But He too begins to flounder in the waves. Suddenly, he goes under and doesn’t come up again. The girl is now alone and helpless, and she too sinks for the last time below the rough surf.
The people on the beach can’t believe it. The lifeguard gave His life trying to save the girl, but now both are dead.
The police show up. They get the whole story from the crowds on the beach. People are dumbstruck. How could this have happened?
One officer searches the lifeguard’s stand. He finds a clipboard where the lifeguard had written on a small slip of paper, “Everything is ok. The girl is safe in My death.”
The whole town is talking about the tragedy. It leads the evening news. People admire the Lifeguard for doing His job, but they begin to wonder if He really had the qualifications to be a lifeguard in the first place. He should have been able to rescue her. He shouldn’t have drowned.
Three days later, people are still shocked, but they are timidly coming back to the beach. Who do they find there, but the very Lifeguard who had drowned. He is back on the stand. They all ask Him, “What happened? Where have You been? Where’s the girl?” He insists, “The girl is fine. Didn’t you get My note? She is safe in My death.”
The Lifeguard shows up on the beach every now and then for a month. People still ask Him the same question, “What happened?” But He gives the same answer. And then one day, He is just gone.
This Thursday marks 40 days after Easter when Jesus Christ physically ascended to heaven. Jesus is sitting there with His nail-scarred hands and feet. He is seated at the right hand of the Father with His pierced side. There He lives. Death has done its worst to Him. Death got even worse than it gave. Death could not hold Jesus. And death was defeated by Christ’s death.
As surely as He is raised, you too will rise.
Jesus dies, rises, and sticks around just long enough to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is really, truly risen. Then, He leaves. But His life is your life. If Jesus lives, you too will live.
Jesus no longer appears like He did during the forty days after His resurrection. This is a good thing. If Jesus continued to appear here and there like He did during those forty days after His resurrection, we would have to wonder if He was really with us whenever we didn’t see Him. The ascension of Jesus proves what He said on the cross, “It is finished.” Jesus doesn’t have any work left to do. His work of reconciling you with the Father is complete.
Because He lives, you also will live. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
 I am thankful to Robert F. Capon for the lifeguard illustration which he uses in a couple of his books.