Summary: Jesus highlights the core message of his ministry and his gospel to the disciples and his followers. Jesus' life, ministry and message can be summed up, "Love each other."
Jesus is nearing the end of his earthly ministry. His disciples have been with him for three years. They have seen Jesus cast out demons, heal the sick, give sight to the blind and enable the lame to walk. They have been with Jesus when he stilled the storm and fed five thousand people. Jesus has taught them many things about God, life, the world and themselves. Now, in this scene in John's gospel Jesus sums up his ministry and his teaching. They are encapsulated in one word, "love."
I guess we shouldn't be too surprised by Jesus' summation. Love, or the lack of love, are powerful forces in our lives. Songs, poems and books are written about love. A majority of movies and television programs are about love. Deep within ourselves we crave love and realize that love is vital to our existence. Most of us also realize that we cannot have a full life unless we love others, also.
We also know how fragile love is--how easily it can be ruined by hate, prejudice, judgmentalism, and lack of forgiveness. There are times when it is difficult if not almost impossible to love, because we have been wounded so deeply.
In the midst of all of our struggles with love, Jesus not only reminds us of its importance, but also instructs us on how to be centered in love.
The first key that enables us to be centered in love is found in verse sixteen. Jesus says, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit." We are chosen.
We have all experienced the tragedy of not being chosen. We might have not been picked to be on a team during recess or physical education. Perhaps we tried out for a part in the school play or for a position in the band, and we didn't get it. We know how devastating this can be. For some people it is an experience that leaves an indelible mark on their lives. At the same time, we know the exhilaration of being chosen.
Our experience with love begins with our being chosen by God. This action by God is highlighted in the sacrament of baptism. We bring a child to the waters of baptism and proclaim that in those waters God has claimed the child as his own and has brought that child into his family. God's action is not based on any good deeds that the child has done--because the child hasn't had time to accomplish such feats. Instead, God's steadfast, unchanging love is his motivation.
We can't explain it. We don't know why. All we can say is that God has taken the initiative and has loved us and chosen us. Because of this, we are forever different. We are forever blessed.
In verses nine and ten Jesus calls his disciples to "remain" in his love. The word literally means to "pitch your tent." We are invited to enter into God's love and take up residence in that love.
This dynamic of remaining in God's love is difficult to explain, but we have all experienced in some for in our daily lives. The love and support of parents allows a five year-old to step on to the bus on the first day of school. The love of spouses, family and friends enable us to face the challenges of the day. Even when we are separated by thousands of miles, on business trips or fighting a war, the love of others is a part of our lives. Love keeps us going. God's love works in our lives in the same way.