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These words of Jesus are very familiar. He spoke them at the “last supper”... But it wasn’t only a meal. It was the final teaching...
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These words of Jesus are very familiar.  He spoke them at the “last supper”, the meal he shared with his disciples the evening before his death.  But it wasn’t only a meal.  It was the final teaching he was leaving with them to sustain them when he was condemned and executed.  John devotes 5 full chapters to what he had to say that night.  In the middle, he records Jesus saying this:

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.  (John 15:12-15)

Several things Jesus says here are remarkable.  What he says is enormously comforting, or course, as he intended.  But let’s not just take the superficial comfort and move on.  Let’s listen a little more carefully.

First off, that first sentence.  He’s talking about his love for his followers, but he starts with a command to love one another.  Not to love him in return for his love, although he surely wants that!  What he says is, he loves us, therefore we should love one another.

The next sentence is true in any context.  There just isn’t any greater way of showing love.  And as we know very well, he is showing exactly that love—within hours we will lay down his life for these disciples and for all of us.  He goes on to say they (and we) are his friends.  But wait, there’s a condition.  “You’re my friends if you do what I command.”  What he commands is love for one another, and not only that, love “as I have loved you.”  How has he loved us?  Laying down his life for us.

So the implication is that if we don’t love one another that much, we are not his friends.  This makes me reexamine the statement, “You are my friends.”  We usually take it to mean his friendship toward us.  But could he be actually talking about our demonstration of friendship toward him?

I think that Jesus is calling upon us here to lay down our lives.  For him of course, and also for one another!

Next he says he no longer calls his followers servants.  You may remember that, two chapters earlier, Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet.  The function of a servant.  And he told them then that, although he is their Lord, he is serving them—and that we must follow his example and serve one another.  Wash one another’s feet.

He can’t be, here in chapter 15, undoing what he said in chapter 13.  I believe he does want us to serve, to be his servants and servants of one another.  But what he says here is that we are more than servants.  We are friends.  And here’s how we know we’ve been elevated to that position:  He has made known to us everything he has learned from his Father.

It’s wonderful that Jesus thinks of us as his friends.  That he has taught us and shown us the Father.  That he lays down his life for us.  However, it appears to me that his central point is directed toward his followers.  To influence and change us.  The cause is that we’ve been taught, informed, about our God.  The means is that he lays down his life.  The effect he wants to see is that we become as loving as he is, specifically as loving as he is, toward one another.

Love, Paul




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