Kurt Jacobson
5 min readMay 5, 2024

“Objects are Closer Than They Appear”
May 5, 2024
John 15:9–17
As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

Next time you get into drive a car, pay attention to the passenger side mirror. The phrase “objects in mirror are closer than they appear” is there because the mirror’s convexity permitting the wide field of view can deceivingly make objects appear smaller and further away than they actually are.

I have been thinking of this phrase in connection to this passage in which Jesus is speaking to his disciples not long before his death. In a very abbreviated way, Jesus speaks of the divine love that is closer than it appears.

This passage comes close to the end of Jesus’ life. In so many words Jesus is helping the disciples get ready for a new way of living — all that he has been teaching them are no “closer than they (have ever) appeared.” Soon, he will no longer walk among them, but they are still the ones he has chosen to produce the fruit of the Kingdom.

In what is known as the True Vine discourse, Jesus summarizes how their thinking and being is to be; they are to love one another as friends of God, laying down their lives for their friends. The love and obedience Jesus has modelled for them now will be shared with others through their listening, doing, in other words, through “bearing fruit that will last.”
I recall an experience some years ago which altered the perspective of the words of Jesus about lovingly “laying down one’s life for one’s friends” and bearing “fruit that will last.” There was not anything dramatic in what I witnessed, but I have not forgotten its impact.

This experienced occurred during a visit to a nursing home to see a faithful lady who a few months earlier had made the move there after a short hospitalization. What I encountered that afternoon was a demonstration of love, yet something different than any other similar visit. I am always reminded of the love demonstrated by staff for residents hour after hour, day after day. On this day what I encountered was the self-giving love between residents.

As I made my way down a long hallway, I found Mabel sitting in her wheelchair in the doorway to her room. After greeting and exchanging niceties, she told me she was sitting in this spot because it was “her place” which allowed her to see who was coming and going.
There was a bit of irony in her words because Mabel could not see much anymore and for that matter, her hearing was failing, too. This was not always so, of course. Mabel had been known as one always willing to give of herself to benefit others.

As we visited, I glanced into her room, noticing plaques and awards she received for her service in the community alongside photographs of grandchildren and great grandchildren. Mabel did not talk about the awards though. The children were the subject of joy in our conversation.
As the minutes went by and I stood by her in the doorway, she greeted the people going by. Then, since dinner hour was not too far off, she asked if I would wheel her down the hall to the dining room.

As we rolled along Mabel told me that normally I the late afternoon she would be playing cards with others. And she said that since she cannot see so well anymore, a friend from down the hall sits next to her and helps her play her hand. “We win some and we lose some,” she said, “but it really doesn’t much matter.” I was surprised to find her tone was not one of resignation. Instead, she spoke with a kind of bemused contentment. For her, the point was no longer the game itself, but the friends sitting next to her.

Perhaps she was always this way, although I have to wonder. Certainly, at some point in her life winning and losing must have mattered to her. But no more. By now time and age and disease had whittled her world down to what is really essential.

Do you see how Jesus’ words about bearing fruit and giving of yourself came to my mind in remembering this experience. To be sure, “laying down one’s life for one’s friends” sounds dramatic and profound. But perhaps it is also as simple as helping another to play a hand of cards with someone who cannot do it herself anymore. Maybe this does not sound like “bearing fruit” and yet perhaps it is precisely the fulfillment of the loving promise Jesus made when he said: “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.” John 15:5 “You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

Helping Mabel play her cards does not bear the sort of fruit the world might measure and acknowledge. But it is fruit, all the same. It is the sort that stands still in the presence and loves in simple and profound ways anyone whom the world would not count any more.

This is precisely what Jesus did over and over again in his ministry. Whether it was the hemorrhaging woman or the man born blind or a group of lepers who had been cut off from the world as they had known it, over and over again, Jesus’ gifts were known in amazing ways in the most unlikely of places among often the most unsavory of people. Even at the end we hear him making astounding promises to the thief who hung dying next to him. Jesus, who calls us friends, would have us do the same, it seems to me.

Now I know my story of a nursing home visit may seem to be a small thing, but that half an hour with one who had learned so deeply and well the lessons of what matters most has stayed with me. Maybe it is the “fruit that will last” of which Jesus spoke. What has also stayed with me is the image of the fruit bearer, Mabel’s nursing home neighbor and friend playing her hand of cards day after day. Win or lose, because of her Mabel always had a place at the table, too.

Kurt Jacobson

Author of “Living Hope” & “Welcoming Grace.” Lutheran preacher (retired) but still writing to inspire and aim for a world of mercy, love and respect.