I have been in a journey through John 17, examining what is commonly referred to as Jesus’ High Priestly prayer. He has spent the Passover evening teaching his disciples what was crucial to their understanding of what was about to happen in his arrest, abusive trial, and crucifixion.
The strange thing is that we are following a scene leading up to the most horrific experience of Jesus’ life. What we have revealed to us in John 13-16 is such a collection of life-giving words to prepare us for anything we could ever go through that we need to remind ourselves that Jesus taught these things on the verge of HIS unimaginable suffering!
I know what it is like to be consumed with fear of something that is going to happen to me so that I can barely think of anyone because of what I anticipate for myself. So, when I see Jesus’ consideration of his disciples on the night before his worst-case-scenario-ever experience, I am blown away by how we see “God is love” in the face of Jesus Christ!
The point is that Jesus knew that the horrifying thing about to happen to him would be horrible for them as well, and so he not only spoke to them the clearest words of comfort, help, and even joy, but directed the apostle John to write his teachings down in his gospel account to make sure we could benefit from those words as much as the apostles did.
In the next verse of my journey through John 17, Jesus says, “these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”
Because of Jesus’ focus on, “these things I speak,” I was drawn to survey John 13-16 to highlight Jesus’ main teachings of that night that would summarize what he was referring to because these are obviously the words that would fulfill our joy while he is away from us. I didn’t get past this:
“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.”
That was like the most zinger bull’s eye ever. If we are not keeping Jesus’ words, it is because we don’t love him. THAT is the cancer that needs healing!
However, our love for Jesus never begins with us. Whenever God talks about us loving them it is always as a living response to their love for us. As God himself says in his word, “We love because he first loved us.”
This means that the invitation in Jesus’ words is to so know love-relationship with him in such a real and personal way that keeping his words is a delight instead of a drudgery. There is such a strong “Father-Returning-Us-to-Joy” message here!
To clarify: this is NOT a message of works where we must love Jesus and keep his word for him to love us. Look at the way this whole section begins to make sure we have Jesus’ love as the foundation to understanding everything he calls us to do to walk in love:
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
Jesus’ disciples (of our present generation as well) are the Beloved. The cross has expressed God’s love completely. The issue is how we are responding to his love. If we cannot love someone who has “so loved” us, there is something terrifyingly wrong with us, something that NEEDS to know his love!
This next verse is very personal for me. It has gripped me for a long time. Please make sure you understand me so Satan isn’t able to surround your heart with WoLVeS that torment you about it. It is such an invitation into God’s love!
“If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed.”
NO, this is not driving us to do the good work of trying our hardest to love Jesus who is so unloving as to detest us if we don’t. This cannot be understood at all without looking at someone responding to the greatness of God’s love poured out for them.
After all, this is I CORINTHIANS! It contains the “love chapter”. If anyone can read through a letter like this and respond by saying in our hearts that Jesus is not worthy of us letting our hearts feel affection for him and loyalty towards him, we ought to be detested for being so pridefully self-centered and so arrogantly Christ-denying.
I should also clarify that, if anyone is feeling conviction about this, do not let Satan turn you to despair about it. God’s work right now is that we would know, “that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance (changing our minds about who we think is more loveable, us or him). God shows us the truth about things like this to draw us into his love.
Since this is my sharing, I’m not trying to make it say something to you that is not God’s word for you today. I’m only emphasizing what it is doing in me that keeping Jesus’ words is all about a love-response to his love. If I am lacking any kind of love-response to him, I want to throw myself down in his loving presence and plead with him to overcome my WoLVeS, my self-protection, and all my insipid self-justification, and bring me to know his love in the most real and personal of ways EVER!
And, to encourage us in this, God even teaches us how to pray about it:
“I pray that according to the riches of your glory you may grant us to be strengthened with power through your Spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith—that we who are already rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth of Jesus’ love, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
And all God’s people said, “AMEN!”
Unless otherwise noted, Scriptures are from the English Standard Version (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.)
 God is love: I John 4:7-8, 16; God’s glory in the face of Christ: II Corinthians 4:6
 John 17:13
 John 14:23-24
 I John 4:19
 I learned the principle of returning children to joy in our daycare and have been delighted to see how it works. It isn’t so easy with self-protective adults, but it is all through God’s word that he is constantly working to return us to joy. He is the most joyful person and wants to break through all our self-protection to get to our inner being where he can bring us to know his love, joy, and peace as never before.
 John 13:1
 Here is a link to a biblegateway.com search of the word “beloved” in the Bible: https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=beloved&resultspp=250&version=ESV
 Romans 5:6-8
 John 3:16
 Thanks to Marcus Warner for the WoLVeS acronym. It simply summarizes the way our Wounds affect us when they are not brought to Jesus for healing. The devil comes in and Lies to us about everything, we make Vows about how to protect ourselves from ever getting hurt again, and this turns into a Stronghold where we keep finding ourselves acting the same way in the same kinds of circumstances.
 I Corinthians 16:22
 Romans 2:4
 Ephesians 3:16-19 (paraphrased)