Summary: A sermon given reminding parishioners of the importance of passing our faith on to others.
Telling our Stories
Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to him belong. They are weak but He is strong… The words echo down the ages from some of the earliest memories many of us have. Someone somewhere told us the amazing story of Jesus and his saving grace. Was it a Sunday school teacher who first touched your heart, or was it a friend or relative? Was it in a song which you happened to hear that the message really caught your ear or perhaps it was through a neighbor who invited you to go to Vacation Bible School with their kids and there you came to know Christ? Perhaps it was at a camp ground on a starry night where the counselors told their own stories your heart was “strangely warmed” with the reality that God is real and Jesus really did die for you. Where ever it was, whenever it was it was a story which has lived for over two thousand years. In the Bible we are told time and again of Jesus saving grace. We are told to go out and to reach others and bring them to Christ. We are to live out our faith so that others may come to experience the truth of our convictions for themselves. To know for themselves how complete our joy really is; to understand that even during hard times that our God will never desert us
In John 14:23-24;
Jesus says if anyone loves Him that they will obey His teaching. Eugene Peterson has an interesting way of looking at this scripture. At this point in the Jewish history it was a pretty loveless world. It was a world of aggression, condemnation, one in which loyalty was always in doubt. Jesus is basically offering a covenant relationship with Him and God the Father. It was to be a loving relationship in which loyalty and love would be rewarded with an even greater love and loyalty. This has several important implications. First is the obedience factor. Jesus was the Rabbi or teacher of those who chose to follow him, in return for claiming Him as their master the student was expected to remain loyal and obedient.
On the other hand it is clear in these passages that if one turns from God and refuses the offer of love that the chance of belonging to God will be taken away.
Jesus points to one who is greater than Him as being the authority of message He was giving, He proclaims was not His own message but rather straight from God’s lips, the highest authority, to the peoples ears.
In dropping down to the 15th Chapter, Jesus is using a description which would have been clearly understood by those listening to His message because most of them depended on the land for a majority of their food. In order to grow a crop that is strong and hearty, one that would produce an abundance of fruit, the branches which don’t bare any fruit must be pruned off so that they don’t draw nourishment away from the branches which have fruit. He states that those who follow his teachings have already been made ready. He then draws the listener back to where he has promised to remain with those who love Him as the source of their spiritual nourishment but he warns against turning away – not only will you not bear fruit but you will be like a pruned back branch and will be discarded in the fire. Again he stresses the relationship between the father-God and Himself and the great desire to bring those who remain faithful their hearts desire. But realize that if you have your eye on the prize your fondest desire will be to stay in the close relationship with God.
In verses 12 – 15 Jesus stresses the commandment of loving one another as He has loved. I must admit it would take a love like no other to be willing to die for the sake of others as he clearly knows he will do. It makes it all the more sweeter to know that it was not that we chose him but rather that He chose us and He is sending those He chooses out to draw others to Him. This is the fruit which He wants us to produce – the kind that stays with Him down through the ages and keeps on bearing new fruit down through the generations.
As we transition to our reading from Matthew it is interesting to understand that much the same theme of going out into the world to spread the message of love to others is repeated in Matthew 28:16-20.
First, we begin In verse 16 there is the great reunion of Jesus and His disciples. These are the ones who were with Him during his ministry. These are the ones we are told whose lives were irrevocably changed by God’s love through Jesus. These are the original “Fruit bearers.”