Summary: Jesus gives illustrations of a lay down your life love and also warnings concerning upcoming hatred and persecution by a world of unbelief.
Illustrations of Love and Warnings of Hate John 15:11-25
Jesus tells us in John 15:11: “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” Jesus is on His way to the cross and promises His followers (including you and me) that His joy will remain (abide) in you to the fullest amount, filled to the brim. The joy of the Lord is Perfect joy because as followers, we know that Jesus is the Messiah and so the Messiah has come and fulfilled His promise to save us from our sins. The evidence for us is His perfect Life, His resurrection and victory over sin and the grave, and His ascension back to the Father where Jesus still rules today. We have the blessing of the Lord NOW and more blessings promised in the future.
Jesus continues to teach in John 15:12-17: “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.”
Here Jesus restates and then clarifies His commandment of John 13:34 “to love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” He explains that love in the terms of verse 13: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.” Our society often speaks of “tough love” but it doesn’t have this kind of love in mind, the type which is willing to die for the sake of others. The disciples would visually understand this the next morning as Jesus was laid down upon the cross and the nails would be driven into His already beaten and bruised body. There could be no greater love than Jesus clearly, visibly, graciously, and undeniably giving His life on behalf of “his friends”. This is the kind of self-sacrificial love we are to have for each other, a lay-down-your-life-love for each other.
Jesus is not making a comparison between the type of love that one would have for your enemies verses your friends, because Jesus had already taught earlier in His ministry that citizens of God’s Kingdom were to love extravagantly and unceasingly, even to love your enemies and those who may persecute you. If a Christian begins to ask, “Who is my friend? And who is my enemy” then the Love of which Jesus speaks is probably not the kind of love that you have, after all, you were an enemy of God and Jesus still died for you! (Romans 5:8 says: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, [that is, enemies of God!] Christ died for us.”) So we are to exercise this kind of Christ-like love within the family of believers.
Who are my friends?
The question “Who are your friends?” would naturally arise in the disciples’ minds in similar fashion to Luke 10 in the Parable of the Good Samaritan when the expert asked “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds in verses 14-15: “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”
Jesus’ friends are characterized by continual and habitual obedience to His commandment to love one another with Christ-like love. Jesus’ friends have an intimate knowledge of His plans and purpose, unlike a servant or a slave. Servants or slaves are no more than instruments in the master’s hands and would not develop a pattern of a loving relationship. Friends have an even higher status than disciples and Jesus has not kept anything from His disciples but has revealed all that the Father has desired Him to reveal. They still have much to learn, but that will come with the arrival of the Spirit of Truth, the Helper.
He chose Us!
We must remember that being a “friend” of Jesus in no way diminishes His Divine nature. He is still Holy God, Perfect in all of His ways, worthy of worship and adoration as we will later see, because He gave His life for His friends, for us and another reason is that HE CHOSE US. Jesus continues in verse 16: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.”