After All I've Done For You
Fourth Sunday of Easter (B)
Scriptural Readings: Acts 4:8-12; Ps 118:1+8-9, 21-23, 26+21+29; 1 John 3:1-2;
My dear encountered couples:
“After all I’ve done for you, this is how you treat me?” Ever feel like saying that to somebody after you have been so good to them and they don’t return the favor? If you are a parent, maybe you have more than felt like saying it. Maybe you have actually come right out and said something like this:
“From the time you were born, I lived my life for you. There was not a day went by that I didn’t put your needs ahead of mine. I slaved, I sacrificed, I denied myself every day so that you could have not only what you needed but much more. I sat up at night with you when you were sick, I dressed you warm, you were never without more than enough food; I sent you to the finest schools I could afford. And this is how you turn out. I expected more from you. I really did. Much more!"
“See these wrinkles in my face; feel how rough my skin is? It’s all because I neglected myself to take care of you. And this is the thanks I get for it, this is the result of all my sacrifices. You have not only disappointed me, you have hurt me deeper than you can ever know. You might just as well have cut out my heart.”
Have any of you who are parents ever felt like saying something like that to your children? Or you who are wives something similar to your husbands, or husbands to your wives? When parents devote their lives to the upbringing of their children and do not get the results they hoped for, when one spouse lives for the other and it becomes obvious it is a one-way relationship, when one friend is always carrying the ball that keeps the friendship alive, there can come a time when it takes heroic restraint to keep from saying, “After all I’ve done for you, this is how you treat me?”
Suppose Jesus has ever been tempted to say that? Jesus Christ who laid down his life for us, do you suppose he has any expectations of us? I would think so. Besides finding a little gratitude in our hearts I would think he would like to see us shaping up our lives a bit - sort of along the lines of how he told us to live. I suspect Jesus expects us to do all in our power to stop sinning. What do you think?
The Son of God left heaven, became a human being, and allowed himself to be treated roughly by the very same people he came to save. And what did they do in return for him? What do we do in return for his life he gave up for us? Do you suppose he was, or still often is, tempted to say, “After all I’ve done for you, this is how you treat me?” Maybe he’s been tempted, but I don’t hear Jesus saying anything like that. Have you noticed it? Jesus, in our gospel today, he is not complaining that we are responsible for his death; he is not blaming us for what happened to him. He is not trying to shame us into shaping up our lives because of the great sacrifices he made for us. Jesus is not trying to blackmail us or force us in any way to live his way because of what he has done for us.
Jesus is not saying, “I died for you; now what are you going to do for me?” He simply states: “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. The hired hand who is no shepherd nor owner of the sheep catches sight of the wolf coming and runs away, leaving the sheep to be snatched and scattered by the wolf. I am the good shepherd...for these sheep I will give my life.”
Please note that Jesus is not blaming the sheep for any harm that comes to him from the wolf. Of his own free will he chooses to take the blunt of the wolf’s viciousness so that his sheep are spared. And Jesus wants to make that point clear. What he did as a good shepherd, he did of his own free will: “The Father loves me for this: that I lay down my life to take it up again. No one takes it from me; I lay it down freely. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
Jesus died for us of his own free will. It was the will of his Father; it was his very own personal will that he protect us, his sheep, from the ravaging of the devil by giving himself to the devil in our place. Jesus allowed himself to be scourged, crowned with thorns, and crucified in our place. He lived and died and rose from the dead so that we would not go to hell but be taken into heaven. And when we don’t thank him for what he’s done, when we disappoint him by the way we live, he does not complain and say, “After all I’ve done for you, this is how you treat me?”
No, he goes right along loving us, doing for us, and hoping that someday we will become the saints he knows we can be, that we will accept him and his gifts - and in return become like him. That we become like Jesus Christ. That is what we all know must happen to everyone who wishes to live in heaven. You and I are to be what is called, “Other Christs.” We are not only to follow Jesus, we are not only to walk in his footsteps and imitate his actions, we are to become like him in goodness of character as much as we possibly can. And one of those likenesses is to do for others freely without complaining when they do not meet our expectations.
To be like Christ includes parents living and doing for their children of their own free will, spouses devoted to one another of their own free will, and friends being real friends of their own free will even if it is often a one-sided deal, without complaints or accusations, without saying, “After all I’ve done for you, this is how you treat me?” If we wish to be like Christ we are not to hold anyone hostage by the good deeds we do for them. But how so very much we hurt when they don’t seem to even notice what we’ve done for them. Jesus Christ of all people is familiar with those hurts. Is it possible you and I sometimes hurt him?