Come and Get Your Love
One of the most iconic songs of the 70s is "Come and Get Your Love". It can serve as summary of our text. Love is mentioned 8 times in 9 verses referring to the Father's love for the Son, the Son's love for you, and your love for one another. From "Love is a Many Splendor Thing" to "What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love" to "All You Need is Love" all these songs focus only on love between people. Indeed to most people and some churches that's the only love that matters. They skip right over the Father's love for the Son and the Son's love for them and go right to loving one another as if that alone could save you, as if you could love anyone else without first coming and getting your love.
Come and get your love. It's in the Son forever observing the Father's specific instructions. That's a more literal translation of "as I have obeyed my Father's commands." It's not "obeyed" but "observed" or "kept", and it's a perfect, meaning it's done at a point in time but goes on and on. And while it includes the 10 Commandments, it's more than that. Yes, it's quaking Sinai, rolling thunder, and lightening striking too close to home. But the love I'm asking you to come and get is more than the Son keeping the Father's 10 Commandments. It's in the hymn we sing on Maundy Thursday.
"A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth" sings of the Father specifically instructing the Son, "You go and die for all those lost sinners. You go and suffer the whipping and beating that man deserves for his unbelief. You go and be ridiculed for that young woman's gossiping. You go and have a crown of thorns placed on your head because of the pride of that young man and the greed of that old man. You go and die without My love, so they can come and get it."
The love that this text urges you to come and get is first in the Son forever observing all the Father's specific instructions that won your salvation, your redemption, your saving. Second come and get your love that is found in observing the Son's instructions to you. Again it's not the word "obey" but "keep" or "observe." First don't look for Jesus' love for you in the ups and downs, trials and triumphs, celebrations and sadnesses of your life. Don't conclude when things are going grand that now you can come and get His love, and don't conclude when the bottom falls out that there is none of His love to come and get.
The text urges you to come and get your love in the Son's instructions to you. Even if you hear this as "commands," do you think Jesus is talking about the 10 Commandments? Luther didn't. I quote, "Therefore He [Jesus] wants to say: I am not imposing a heavy burden and load on you, many sacrifices and manifold services of God or anything that entails great expense or labor. I have imposed the Gospel, Baptism, and the Sacrament on you" (LW, 24, 252).
Let me restate this: The love you're to come and get is in Jesus' command to be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins. The love you're to come and get is in Jesus' command "Confess your sins one to another so that you may be healed." It's in Jesus' command: "Take eat and drink for the forgiveness of your sins. Do this often, repeatedly, over and over to bring Me, My love and your salvation back to you."
But what happens? The drumbeats of the world, both the upbeat tempo and foreboding thumping, drown out the Gospel preaching. The Devil's scorching breath dries up the waters of Baptism that were poured over you, and your aging body and blood are more real than His life giving Body and Blood. No! Come and get your love! The Lord Jesus has commanded and promised it would remain present for you in every Word of Gospel, in every drop of Baptismal water, and in every morsel and sip of Communion.
Can you see where we've gone to come and get His love? We haven't skipped over the Son's love for the Father found in the Son observing everything necessary to buy us back from certain hell or the Son's love for us found in His commands "Be baptized, be absolved, be communed." And now we're to the part where most everyone else starts and emphasizes: your love for others.
Your love for others isn't in you at all; it's in what the Son does. I know this passage, "Greater love has no one than this that he lays down His life for His friends" is used at the funerals of soldiers and it is apropos, but you know this isn't what Jesus is referring to. Paul makes this clear in Romans 5 where he says, "Perhaps for a good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." In Romans 5 Paul goes on to say Christ died not just for sinners but for the ungodly. Yes, many a solider over the centuries as died for his comrades in arms. But Christ threw Himself on a live grenade for His enemies who were laughing at Him while He did it.
But then why in this text does Jesus speak about His friends? He's speaking to His disciples, and He is making the distinction not between friends and enemies but between slaves and friends. Again because of a weak translation you don't see this. Jesus doesn't say, "I no longer call you servants," but "I do longer call you slaves." If we go to Paul in Galatians 4, and that's what the Epistles are there for, to help us apply the Gospel, Paul tells us that in Christ we are no longer slaves. You are no longer slaves living your life under the Law always asking have I done this or done that or done enough? Not much love to come and get as slave, is there? But you're not slaves anymore to sin, to death, to devil or even to yourself; you're friends of God.
You're Moses who Exodus 33:11 says God spoke to as a man with his friend. You're Abraham whom James 2:23 says was known as God's friend. And what proof does Jesus give you that you are the friend of the Almighty God? "Everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you." Hear from Luther once more: "These words are intended to fortify timid and despairing consciences which torture themselves with thoughts about how God is disposed to them and which fear without reason." Stop seeking answers, let alone His love, in what you're doing or not doing or in your thoughts and evaluation about your life. No seek them solely in the works of Christ, particularly Baptism and Communion (LW, 24, 257).
You want to know everything, I mean everything that a mortal man can know about the God who dwells in light unapproachable and is in essence a consuming fire whom to look at is to die? You want to know about the invisible God? That's not found in what happens to you in life; in you're interpretation of what happens; in what philosophers, scientists, doctors tell you about your life. That information is found in your God who is also your friend, Jesus. He says you don't have to worry about the hidden will of God; you don't have to worry that God is keeping some secret from you that if knew everything would be better. No, everything that Jesus learned from the Father He says He has made known to you.
Everything? So you must not need to know the day of Jesus' return because that wasn't made known to your friend Jesus. You must not need to know the day you'll die or how because that wasn't made known to Jesus and He hasn't made it known to you. You must not need to know if you or someone else will recover from illness or get sick because in all that your Friend Jesus has told you, He hasn't told you that. He has told you that your Baptism is a life-giving water. He has told you that my words send your sins away from you never to be found again. He has told you that He returns to this Table bringing all of Heaven to eat and drink with you as Man might do with His friends.
Come and get your love for others here. It's not in the fact that you chose Jesus, because you didn't, but in the fact that He chose you. This is a reference to eternal election (FC, SD, XI, 12). Before you were born, before the Virgin Birth, before the creation of the world, God chose you in Jesus. And this choosing by God for Jesus' sake has results in your life. Go home and read a more literal translation and you will plainly see what the results are because they are all introduced with the word "that."
Jesus says I chose you with the result that you bear fruit; with the result that whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give it; with the result that you love one another. The insert and other translations leave you with the onerous, heavy, despairing words: "This is My command: love each other." And this is where the world picks it up and runs with it. I can love those people in Nepal. I'll send them money. I can love the oppressed minorities; I'll march in solidarity with them. I can love hungry children by feeding them. I can love. I can do that.
If you try in your own strength to bear fruit, to pray, to love, you will fail or worse you'll think you've succeeded. Don't forget that our text directly follows last week's text. Last week ended with John 15:8; this week begins with verse 9. We forget all about Jesus being the Vine and us being the branches from last week; we forget that apart from Jesus we can do nothing, not fruit, not pray, not love. But with Him, in Him, by Him we can do these things because God chose us in Jesus before the world even began with the result that we bear fruit in no natural way but in a way that remains; with the result that we pray in no natural way but in way that is always answered; with the result that we love not others in the natural way but always.
Believe it or not "Come and Get Your Love" even sang this truth. One of the lines is "Come and get your loveGet it from the main vine alright." From the main Vine is the only place us branches can get either God's love for us or our love for others. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Sixth Sunday of Easter (20150510); John 15: 9-17