11 November 2012

John 15:9-17

"No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." (v. 13)


Today (Remembrance Sunday) this passage will be heard by many attending services and remembering those who have given their life for others.

These words of Jesus are spoken to talking with his group of 12 disciples just after he has told them that he will be leaving them (John 14). The disciples are confused and worried, and Jesus tries to help them understand that when he has gone they will still be able to find that connection with him, by abiding in him. The word "abide" (vv. 9-10) seems to have several meanings, from being at home with or being faithful to a promise.

We begin with God the Father, who loves Jesus, who is now calling the disciples to remain in the love of God and be obedient to the commands they have learnt. This is not out of fear, but out of love in order to experience the joy of knowing that they are being obedient (verses 9-11).

Jesus then calls his disciples his friends; they are no longer slaves. The Greek word for 'friends', philoi, is related to a verb meaning 'love' (phileo) and conveys a greater sense of intimacy than does our modern use of friend, although our word is actually related to the Anglo-Saxon verb 'freon', meaning 'to love'. So as friends, the disciples have intimate knowledge, not only of the purposes and plan but also of its creator.

The idea that one should lay down one's life for one's friends was well known in the ancient world, but Jesus takes this one step further by revealing that this human ideal is in accord with the divine ideal. The outcome of this intimacy is fruitfulness, that the things of God will grow in love and through love for the other.

To Ponder

  • Who have you heard about or know personally who has given their live for someone else? Spend some time remembering them and give thanks.
  • "Love is all you need", sang John Lennon. How true is this in your experience?
  • In what way is it important to you that God's love and call to live by God's commandments are connected? 

Bible notes author

Susan Johnson

Susan has recently moved house from the north east coast in Durham to the west coast in Cumbria. After completing eight years as the Darlington Methodist District mission and development enabler she is taking time out to explore what next, but hopes to get involved with the local foodbanks in the area.