9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
(John 15:9-17 NIV)
Jesus has just finished instructing His disciples to remain or abide in Him, just as the branches depend on the vine for nourishment and life. As we learned yesterday, the goal of remaining in Jesus is not just to survive, but to thrive spiritually and produce spiritual fruit. By producing spiritual fruit, we glorify God.
In today’s passage, Jesus further develops this idea of remaining in Him. In verse 9, Jesus says to remain in His love. And how do we abide in Jesus’ love? By obeying His commands (v. 10). Jesus points to His obedience to His Father’s commands as our example.
In verse 11, Jesus gives us the “why” – the purpose of remaining in His love: that His joy may be in us, and our joy may be complete. This “joy” that Jesus talks about may also be described as “delight” – sensing God’s favor and pleasure. Joy is not tied to our circumstances or our feelings, but rather, entirely independent of our situations and emotions.
Joy is a gift given by one person to another, and must also be received as a gift from the giver. We can’t create joy for ourselves, nor can we collect or otherwise obtain it on our own. It is a gift, to be given and received.
Going back to verse 10, what is Jesus’ command to us? Verses 12 and 17 are clear: Love one another. Again, Jesus sets the example by reminding them (and us) to love each other as He has loved us. For Jesus’ disciples, the fresh memory of having their feet washed by Messiah only an hour or so ago was burned into their minds forever.
In verse 13, Jesus defines the ultimate example of friendship – to lay down one’s life for a friend. Jesus knew He was about to live out this example for His disciples (and for us) and did so willingly. Jesus goes on to tell His disciples that He considers them friends – not just “servants” or “minions”, and as friends, has shared everything He learned from the Father with them.
In verse 16, Jesus commissions His disciples, reminding them that He chose them and appointed them (gave them purpose), not the other way around. And what was their commissioning? The same as yesterday – to bear spiritual fruit.
Jesus ends this section by again repeating His command: to love each other. The disciples are not in competition for God’s favor, as they were arguing about a few hours ago. In telling His disciples to love one another, Jesus was reminding them to build community just as He had a vibrant community with the Father, and had developed community with them over the last three years.
And Jesus’ command to love one another still applies to us in our day, just as it did to His disciples on that walk to Gethsemane some two thousand years ago. Jesus set the example of inviting us into the community with the Trinity.
He now instructs us to do the same with one another.