This I command you…
In the Gospel of John, chapter 15, Jesus teaches that if we do not produce good works, we will be separated from him and thrown into the fire. And, that if we do bear fruit, we will be pruned in order to bear more fruit. Check out the video above with Dr. Brant Pitre to learn more about this topic and the implications of what Jesus is teaching.
OUR SUNDAY VISITOR
So I have loved you
Gospel: John 15:9-17
- Today’s Gospel continues the theme of love with the message that God has loved us, so therefore, we must love one another.
- Love demands all we are, to the point of giving up life for the sake of another.
- God is the source and object of our love.
SOURCE: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor
AGAPE CATHOLIC Bible Study
SOURCE: All content below is from Michal E. Hunt at Agape Bible Study; used with permission. Section divisions and titles added. follow link above to go to original page.
Keeping God’s commandments
Our reading is from Jesus’ last homily to His disciples at the end of the Last Supper. In John 15:7, Jesus promised to honor whatever request we make in His name. Most people stop with that statement and then complain that what they have asked in prayer has not been fulfilled. However, Jesus placed a condition on our requests in verses 9-17. We must remain in union with Him and keep the commandments.
Jesus says He will give whatever we ask if we abide or remain in Him. The way we “remain” in Him is to keep His commandments. Our obedience includes believing everything He has taught, including His teaching that we must conform to God the Father’s will in our lives just as Jesus was perfectly in accord with the Father’s will. We see that accord when Jesus prayed to God the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. John does not repeat that event in his Gospel, but it appears in the Synoptic Gospels. In Matthew 26:39, Jesus prays:
“My Father […], if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as you, not I, would have it.”
Our petitions are to be obedient to the will of God
Therefore, when we pray, we must consider if our petitions are in accord with and not contrary to the teachings of Christ and His Church. And our petitions must be obedient to the will of God for our lives. The Catechism teaches:
“The prayer of faith consists not only in saying ‘Lord, Lord,’ but in disposing the heart to do the will of the Father. Jesus calls his disciples to bring into their prayer this concern for cooperating with the divine plan” (CCC 2611).
Our love is to be continuous, lifelong
11 I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete. 12 This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
Verse 11 is not the first time Jesus has given this commandment in John’s Gospel when He says, “[you] love one another as I love you” He uses the Greek word agapate, meaning “you love” plural from the Greek word agape. This command is not new. God commanded the love of one’s neighbor in Leviticus 19:18. Repeating the command from the old Law puts Jesus on par with Yahweh. Jesus repeats His command in John 13:34:
“I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.”
The use of the present subjunctive tense suggests that this love that disciples have for one another should be a continuous, lifelong love, and their demonstration of selfless love is how they will be known as His disciples (Jn 13:35).
The love of self-sacrifice
In verse 13, Jesus says that He will lay down His life, sacrificing Himself for them. The significance of Jesus’ statement is that Christian love does not only mean the willingness to die for one’s friends or one’s faith, but because this love stems from Christ, it is a love of self-sacrifice. Jesus has the power to lay down His life and to take it up again in fulfilling the command of God the Father in John 10:18 and 14:31. His command to love unselfishly is another example of the necessity of living a life of love as a commandment for the New Covenant faithful.
Jesus’ self-sacrificial love for us is an example and a model of the expression of the intensity of the love Christ calls us to share with others. Moreover, His sacrifice is not only a model and example, but it is also the source of our love for others. St. John writes in 1 John 3:16-18,
The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If someone who has worldly means sees a brother in need and refuses him compassion, how can the love of God remain in him? Children, let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth.
It is easy to love the loveable, but it is sometimes very difficult to love those who behave badly or reject our love. In that case, it is easier to give love when you remember that Christ loved that unlovable person enough to die for him. If you love Christ, through Christ, you can also love him.
14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I no longer call you slaves because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.
There is nothing derogatory in Jesus describing the disciples as His slaves/servants. The Old Testament prophets were called slaves/servants of Yahweh and see the same term in Deuteronomy 34:5 for Moses, Joshua 24:29 for Joshua, and Psalms 89:20 for David. However, the status change from “servant” to “friends” must be seen as significant. Biblical scholars have several interpretations of verses 14-15.
- Some suggest that when Jesus ascends to His glory, He will raise the Apostles to the status of ministers or friends of the Messianic King and the holy men of His Church. They are His friends (Wis 7:27) just as Scripture refers to Father Abraham as God’s friend (2 Chr 20:7 and Is 41:8).
- Other scholars suggest that the Holy Spirit will raise them to the status of brothers/friends because of their baptism.
- Others point to St. Paul’s teaching that God’s people were slaves or servants of the Law under the Old Covenant. In Galatians 4:4-5, St. Paul writes: But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. And again in Romans 8:14-15: For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, Abba, “Father!”
Friends of God
We might also consider that they are “friends” because they now share Jesus’ intimate knowledge of God’s divine plan to bring salvation to humanity. They are the select few admitted to the secrets and mysteries Jesus revealed to them concerning the Kingdom of God. They have special knowledge in the same way Abraham enjoyed a unique relationship with Yahweh and was, therefore, the only man in the Old Testament called the “friend” of God. As the first ministers/leaders of His New Covenant Church that is the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, they form the new, redeemed Israel, and are Jesus’ partners in carrying the mission of salvation to the ends of the earth.
16 It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give you.
Hierarchy of the Church
God established the Old Covenant Church through the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob-Israel, who were the physical fathers of God’s Covenant people. Jesus established the New Covenant Church through twelve spiritual fathers, the Apostles. Later the number of the remaining eleven Apostles after Judas defection would be expanded again to twelve with the election of Matthias after the Lord’s Ascension (Acts 1:20-26). That election, ordered by St. Peter, establishes the practice of selecting successors of Christ’s ministers in the hierarchy of the Church.
Jesus gives the command “to love” three times
17 This I command you: love one another.
Jesus gives the command “to love” three times in His Last Supper Discourse (see Jn 13:34; 15:12, 17). In verse 10, Jesus told the Apostles that they would remain in His love if they kept His commandments. Now He has repeated the commandment to love a significant three times from which all other commandments come. It is a fruitful love commanded to produce more love.
Notice how the commandment “to love” was developed from verse 9 and has expanded in verses 12 and 17:
- The Father loves Jesus.
- Jesus loves His disciples.
- The disciples must love one another.
St. John revisited this theme in 1 John 4:11-12, where he wrote:
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.
St. Therese of Lisieux
On the subject of the Church’s obligation to love, the Catechism quotes St. Therese of Lisieux, from Autobiography of a Saint:
“If the Church was a body composed of different members, it couldn’t lack the noblest of all; it must have a Heart, and a Heart BURNING WITH LOVE. And I realize that his love alone was the true motive force which enabled the other members of the Church to act: if it ceased to function, the Apostles would forget to preach the gospel, the martyrs would refuse to shed their blood. LOVE, IN FACT, IS THE VOCATION WHICH INCLUDES ALL OTHERS; IT’S A UNIVERSE OF ITS OWN, COMPRISING ALL TIME AND SPACE—IT’S ETERNAL! (CCC 826).
SOURCE: content taken from Michal E. Hunt at Agape Bible Study; used with permission. Section divisions and titles added.
The command to love one another
The Catena Aurea (Golden Chain) is Thomas Aquinas’ compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels. It seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Church Fathers.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxvi. 2) Our Lord showed above, that those who plotted against them should be burned, inasmuch as they abode not in Christ: now He shows that they themselves would be invincible, bringing forth much fruit; Herein is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit: as if He said, If it appertains to My Father’s glory that you bring forth fruit, He will not despise His own glory. And he that brings forth fruit is Christ’s disciple: So shall you be My disciples.
THEOPHYLACT. The fruit of the Apostles are the Gentiles, who through their teaching were converted to the faith, and brought into subjection to the glory of God.
AUGUSTINE. (Tract. lxxxii. 1) Made bright or glorified; the Greek word may be translated in either way. Δόξα signifies glory; not our own glory, we must remember, as if we had it of ourselves: it is of His grace that we have it; and therefore it is not our own but His glory. For from whom shall we derive our fruitfulness, but from His mercy preventing us. Wherefore He adds, As My Father has loved Me, even so love I you. This then is the source of our good works. Our good works proceed from faith which works by love: but we could not love unless we were loved first: As My Father has loved Me, even so love I you. This does not prove that our nature is equal to His, as His is to the Father’s, but the grace, whereby He is the Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. The Father loves us, but in Him.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxvi. 2) If then I love you, be of good cheer; if it is the Father’s glory that you bring forth good fruit, bear no evil. Then to rouse them to exertion, He adds, Continue you in My love; and then shows how this is to be done: If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love.
AUGUSTINE. (Tract. lxxxii. 3. et seq.) Who doubts that love precedes the observance of the commandments? For who loves not, has not that whereby to keep the commandments. These words then do not declare whence love arises, but how it is shown, that no one might deceive himself into thinking that he loved our Lord, when he did not keep His commandments. Though the words, Continue you in My love, do not of themselves make it evident which love He means, ours to Him, or His to us, yet the preceding words do: I love you, He says: and then immediately after, Continue you in My love. Continue you in My love, then, is, continue in My grace: and, If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love, is, Your keeping of My commandments, will be evidence to you that you abide in My love. It is not that we keep His commandments first, and that then He loves; but that He loves us, and then we keep His commandments. This is that grace, which is revealed to the humble, but hidden from the proud. But what means the next words, Even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love: i. e. the Father’s love, wherewith He loves the Son. Must this grace, wherewith the Father loves the Son, be understood to be like the grace wherewith the Son loves us? No; for whereas we are sons not by nature, but by grace, the Only Begotten is Son not by grace, but by nature. We must understand this then to refer to the manhood in the Son, even as the words themselves imply: As My Father has loved Me, even so love I you. The grace of a Mediator is expressed here; and Christ is Mediator between God and man, not as God, but as man. This then we may say, that since human nature does not pertain to the nature of God, but does by grace pertain to the Person of the Son, grace also pertains to that Person; such grace as has nothing superior, nothing equal to it. For no merits on man’s part preceded the assumption of that nature.
ALCUIN. Even as I have kept My Father’s commandments. The Apostle explains what these commandments were: Christ became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Phil. 2:8)
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxvii. 1) Then because the Passion was now approaching to interrupt their joy, He adds, These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy may remain in you: as if He said, And if sorrow fall upon you, I will take it away; so that you shall rejoice in the end.
AUGUSTINE. (Tract. lxxxiii. 1) And what is Christ’s joy in us, but that He deigns to rejoice on our account? And what is our joy, which He says shall be full, but to have fellowship with Him? He had perfect joy on our account, when He rejoiced in foreknowing, and predestinating us; but that joy was not in us, because then we did not exist: it began to be in us, when He called us And this joy we rightly call our own, this joy wherewith we shall be blessed; which is begun in the faith of them who are born again, and shall be fulfilled in the reward of them who rise again.
THEOPHYLACT. Having said, If you keep My commandments, you shall abide in My love, He shows what commandments they are to keep: This is My commandment, That you love one another.
GREGORY. (Hom. xxvii. in Evang.) But when all our Lord’s sacred discourses are full of His commandments, why does He give this special commandment respecting love, if it is not that every commandment teaches love, and all precepts are one? Love and love only is the fulfilment of every thing that is enjoined. As all the boughs of a tree proceed from one root, so all the virtues are produced from one love: nor has the branch, i. e. the good work, any life, except it abide in the root of love.
AUGUSTINE. (Tract. lxxxiii. 3) Where then love is, what can be wanting? where it is not, what can profit? But this love is distinguished from men’s love to each other as men, by adding, As I have loved you. To what end did Christ love us, but that we should reign with Him? Let us therefore so love one another, as that our love be different from that of other men; who do not love one another, to the end that God may be loved, because they do not really love at all. They who love one another for the sake of having God within them, they truly love one another.
GREGORY. (Hom. xxvii.) The highest, the only proof of love, is to love our adversary; as did the Truth Himself, who while He suffered on the cross, shewed His love for His persecutors: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34) Of which love the consummation is given in the next words: Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Our Lord came to die for His enemies, but He says that He is going to lay down His life for His friends, to shew us that by loving, we are able to 1 gain over our enemies, so that they who persecute us are by anticipation our friends.
AUGUSTINE. (Tract. lxxxvi. 1) Having said, This is My commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, it follows, as John saith in his Epistle, that as Christ laid down His life for us, so we should lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 3) This the martyrs have done with ardent love. And therefore in commemorating them at Christ’s table, we do not pray for them, as we do for others, but we rather pray that we may follow their steps. For they have shown the same love for their brother, that has been shown them at the Lord’s table.
GREGORY. (Hom. xxvii.) But whoso in time of tranquillity will not give up his time to God, how in persecution will he give up his soul? Let the virtue of love then, that it may be victorious in tribulation, be nourished in tranquillity by deeds of mercy.
AUGUSTINE. (viii. de Trin. c. viii) From one and the same love, we love God and our neighbour; but God for His own sake, our neighbour for God’s. So that, there being two precepts of love, on which hang all the Law and the Prophets, to love God, and to love our neighbour, Scripture often unites them into one precept. For if a man love God, it follows that he does what God commands, and if so, that he loves his neighbour, God having commanded this. Wherefore He proceeds: you are My friends, if you do whatsoever I command you.
GREGORY. (xxvii. Moral.) A friend is as it were a keeper of the soul. He who keeps God’s commandments, is rightly called His friend.
AUGUSTINE. (Tract. lxxxv. 2) Great condescension! Though to keep his Lord’s commandments, is only what a good servant is obliged to do, yet, if they do so, He calls them His friends. The good servant is both the servant, and the friend. But how is this? He tells us: Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knows not what his Lord does. Shall we therefore cease to be servants, as soon as ever we are good servants? And is not a good and tried servant sometimes entrusted with his master’s secrets, still remaining a servant? (c. 3.). We must understand then that there are two kinds of servitude, as there are two kinds of fear. There is a fear which perfect love casteth out; which also has in it a servitude, which will be cast out together with the fear. And there is another, a pure (castus) fear, which remains for ever. It is the former state of servitude, which our Lord refers to, when He says, Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knows not what his Lord does; not the state of that servant to whom it is said, Well done, thou good servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord: (Matt. 25:21) but of him of whom it was said below, The servant abides not in the house for ever, but the Son abides ever. Forasmuch then as God has given us power to become the sons of God, so that in a wonderful way, we are servants, and yet not servants, we know that it is the Lord who doth this. This that servant is ignorant of, who knows not what his Lord does, and when he does any good thing, is exalted in his own conceit, as if he himself did it, and not his Lord; and boasts of himself, not of his Lord.
But I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of My Father, I have made known unto you.
THEOPHYLACT. As if He said, The servant knows not the counsels of his lord; but since I esteem you friends, I have communicated my secrets to you.
AUGUSTINE. (Tract. lxxxvi. 1) But how did He make known to His disciples all things that He had heard from the Father, when He forebore saying many things, because He knew they as yet could not bear them? He made all things known to His disciples, i. e. He knew that He should make them known to them in that fulness of which the Apostle saith, Then we shall know, even as we are known. (1 Cor. 13:12) For as we look for the death of the flesh, and the salvation of the soul; so should we look for that knowledge of all things, which the Only-Begotten heard from the Father.
GREGORY. (Hom. xxvii.) Or all things which He heard from the Father, which He wished to be made known to His servants; the joys of spiritual love, the pleasures of our heavenly country, which He impresses daily on our minds by the inspiration of His love. For while we love the heavenly things we hear, we know them by loving, because love is itself knowledge. He had made all things known to them then, because being withdrawn from earthly desires, they burned with the fire of divine love.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lxxvii. 1) All things, i. e. all things that they ought to hear. I have heard, shows that what He had taught was no strange doctrine, but received from the Father.
GREGORY. (Hom. in Evang. xxvii.) But let no one who has attained to this dignity of being called the friend of God, attribute this superhuman gift1 to his own merits: you have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.
AUGUSTINE. (Tract. lxxxvi. 3) Ineffable grace! For what were we before Christ had chosen us, but wicked, and lost? We did not believe in Him, so as to be chosen by Him: for had He chosen us believing, He would have chosen us choosing. This passage refutes the vain opinion of those who say that we were chosen before the foundation of the world, because God foreknew that we should be good, not that He Himself would make us good. For had He chosen us, because He foreknew that we should be good, He would have foreknown also that we should first choose Him, for without choosing Him we cannot be good; unless indeed he can be called good, who has not chosen good. What then has He chosen in them who are not good? Thou canst not say, I am chosen because I believed; for hadst thou believed in Him, thou hadst chosen Him. Nor canst thou say, Before I believed I did good works, and therefore was chosen. For what good work is there before faith? What is there for us to say then, but that we were wicked, and were chosen, that by the grace of the chosen we might become good?
AUGUSTINE. (de Prad. Sanct. c. xvii.) They are chosen then before the foundation of the world, according to that predestination by which God foreknew His future acts. They are chosen out of the world by that call whereby God fulfills what He has predestined: whom He did predestinate, them He also called. (Rom. 8:30)
AUGUSTINE. (Tract. lxxxvi. 3) Observe, He does not choose the good; but those, whom He has chosen, He makes good: And I have ordained you that you should go, and bring forth fruit. This is the fruit which He meant, when He said, Without Me you can do nothing. He Himself is the way in which He has set (ἔθηκα, posui) us to go.
GREGORY. (Hom. xxvii.) I have set you, i. e. have planted you by grace, that you should go by will (volendo not in Vulg.); to will being to go in mind, and bring forth fruit, by works. What kind of fruit they should bring forth He then shows: And that your fruit may remain: for worldly labour hardly produces fruit to last our life: and if it does, death comes at last, and deprives us of it all. But the fruit of our spiritual labours endures even after death; and begins to be seen at the very time that the results of our carnal labour begin to disappear. Let us then produce such fruits as may remain, and of which death, which destroys every thing, will be the commencement.
AUGUSTINE. (Tract. lxxxvi. 3) Love then is one fruit, now existing in desire only, not yet in fulness. Yet even with this desire whatever we ask in the name of the Only-Begotten Son, the Father giveth us: That whatsoever you shall ask the Father in My name, He may give it you. We ask in the Saviour’s name, whatever we ask, that will be profitable to our salvation.
SOURCE: eCatholic 2000 Commentary in public domain.
Feasting on the Word
Pastoral Praxis in the Life and Ministry of Oscar Romero
In the 1970s and ‘80s a contextual pastoral theology coming out of the pastoral praxis of Catholic and Protestant communities of faith was born... The faithful have learned to trust in a liberating gospel that promises hope in the midst of oppression. They experience God’s presence in their deepest need. The best example of this pastoral praxis is the life and ministry of Monsignor Oscar Romero, archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador. He combined the prophetic and pastoral dimensions in daily homilies and Bible studies.
Today this Pastoral of Accompaniment can become relevant in communities of faith in the United States as preachers commit themselves to address concrete situations... The tasks confronting these parishioners include strengthening communities of solidarity, affirming diversity, promoting healthy relationships in families and communities, embracing strangers, and promoting intercultural and interreligious dialogues. A community of celebration that affirms life and offers hope in joyous moments of remembrance and commitment to God’s reign is a good place to start.
SOURCE: Content taken from FEASTING ON THE WORD, YEAR B (12 Volume Set); David L. Bartlett (Editor); Copyright © 2011. Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved.
Joy is an unmistakable mark of a genuine disciple (v. 11)...You can’t know him and lack joy. You can’t follow him and lack joy. You can’t be united with him and lack joy. It’s a biblical, logical, and theological impossibility. It does not mean every day is easy and filled with laughter, but it does mean your life is ultimately marked by a confidence that Jesus is greater and more satisfying than anything this world has to offer. Joy is not a transaction. Jesus doesn’t send a box of joy to be delivered to your doorstep by FedEx. Joy is a relationship. Jesus invites us to his party where we can feast and make merry with him. His joy becomes our joy. He brings us into his joy, and as a result, our joy is filled up to the brim. Jesus takes his Big Gulp of Joy and places our little Dixie Cup right inside. We are not only full of joy, but we are engulfed by joy. Joy above. Joy below. Joy around. Joy under. Joy over. Joy everywhere. Does Jesus have enough joy to weather your circumstances? His storehouse of joy is infinite. His resources are immeasurable. His joy gauge never reaches empty. So if his joy becomes your joy, then your joy can always be full.
SOURCE: Content taken from CHRIST-CENTERED EXPOSITION COMMENTARY (32 Volumes); David Platt, Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida (Editors); Copyright © 2013-16. Holman Reference. All rights reserved.
The Biblical Imagination
Love and Obedience
In verses 9-17 Jesus returns again to the idea of the connection between love and obedience. As the disciples were to remain in the vine, now Jesus begins by saying they must remain in his love. In verse 10 he connects once more the idea of obedience to his commands and remaining in his love. Jesus, always our exemplar, obeyed his Father’s commands and remained in his love. Now, as they make their way toward the garden, he tells them to do the same.
Verses 12-13 are another echo, another repetition of something he said earlier in John 13:34. There he called it his “new commandment.” Here he simply says his command is this: “love one other as I have loved you.” Don’t forget that only an hour or so ago he had demonstrated the full extent of his love by washing their feet. That moment is still very clear in the disciples’ minds and hearts. (This is another example of the importance of reading large blocks for the sake of flow and continuity.)
From a discussion of obedience and love, Jesus moves to a discourse on hate (vv. 18-25). He is trying to give the disciples a much-needed dose of perspective. Again, he is the exemplar. If the world hates the disciples, remember that it hated Jesus first. The Eleven will not be the last of Jesus’ followers to struggle with understanding the hatred of the world and why it is directed against them simply because they belong to Jesus. It is a word his followers all over the world still need to hear. More disciples of Jesus are dying now than at any time in the history of the church.
SOURCE: Content taken from THE BIBLICAL IMAGINATION (4 Volume Series); Michael Card; Copyright © 2011-14. IVP Books. All rights reserved.
God's Justice Bible
Chosen to Bear Fruit
John 15:12–17 Jesus’ love for his disciples is expressed in two ways: he chooses them and he lays down his life for them. Jesus’ choice does not indicate that they gain an elite status, but rather that they have the responsibility to bear fruit. That fruit, as the rest of the passage indicates, refers to all in the life of a disciple that expresses loving obedience to God, glorifies him and depends on prayer. It relates to one’s character, how one relates to others and how through one’s life others are drawn to Jesus.
SOURCE: Content taken from GOD'S JUSTICE BIBLE: The flourishing of Creation & the Destruction of Evil notes by Tim Stafford; Copyright © 2016. Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Life Recovery Bible
God's desire to be our friend
John 15:15 Jesus demonstrated God’s desire to be our friend, not our taskmaster. Many of us in recovery have never experienced God on such friendly, intimate terms. Rare in our experience is the authority figure who actually seeks to confide in us and befriend us, rather than lording his power over us. So we find it hard to imagine God as a friend. Jesus urges us to trust in him. By becoming our friend, God, through Jesus, empowers us and enables us to become accountable, responsible, and trustworthy.
SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE
John 15:11 When things are going well, we feel elated. When hardships come, we sink into depression. But true joy transcends the rolling waves of circumstance. Joy comes from a consistent relationship with Jesus Christ. When our lives are intertwined with his, he will help us walk through adversity without sinking into debilitating lows and manage prosperity without moving into deceptive highs. The joy of living with Jesus Christ daily will keep us levelheaded, no matter how high or low our circumstances.
SOURCE: Content taken from LIFE APPLICATION STUDY BIBLE NOTES, Copyright © 2019. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
Boice Expositional Commentary
Love One Another
The last verse of this section returns to the theme with which verses 12–17 began, to “love one another.” It is not the first time that this command has been given, and if we are sensitive at this point, it is possible that we are just a bit irritated at Christ’s repetition. In John 13:34–35, Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” In the next chapter Christ speaks frequently of our need to love him. Then, in chapter 15, we read, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (v. 12). Why this constant repetition? And why are we irritated? The answer to both questions is the same: we do not love one another. Therefore, we feel guilty about it and know that we need to be reminded.
John himself learned this, for, in imitation of Jesus, he repeats the command in his first letter to the churches of Asia. “Love one another,” he says in 4:7. “Love one another,” he repeats just four verses later (v. 11). Then a third time, “Love one another” (v. 12). We are to love one another because of God’s great love toward us and because of Christ’s command.
Do we? Do we love one another within that bond of friendship created by the Lord Jesus Christ and according to his own love and standards? Let me list some things that love within friendship does.
1. Love prays for the other. Job is a significant example. Job had lost all that he valued, including his family, health, and property. In his misery his “friends” had turned against him though pretending to give comfort. Truly, if anyone ever had a right to spurn friendship, it was Job. Yet at the end of the story, after God had intervened to disclose his true purposes and reveal his anger at the counsel of Job’s friends, we read that Job prayed and that God blessed Job greatly. For whom did Job pray? “After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before” (Job 42:10).
2. Love sticks close to the friend when the friend is in trouble. Solomon knew what it is to have a friend who sticks close, for he wrote: “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24). He indicates the same thing a chapter earlier saying, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17).
3. Finally, love also gives and gets. This double activity is seen in Christ’s parable of the two friends, one of whom visited the other in the night to say, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him” (Luke 11:5–6). In the context of Christ’s parable the friend who is in bed is reluctant to get up to give to the one asking, yet eventually does, the point being the superior worth of the friendship of God, who gives to all men liberally and is not hard to be entreated. The parable ends, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (v. 9). I tell the story, however, not to stress the willingness of God to give (though that is a valuable lesson) but rather to show the nature of that friendship that goes out of its way to supply what another needs.
We would not want to imply that we should spend time in prayer meetings when it is within our power to give to those who are in need. That is like dedicating a gift to God (corban) when parents are destitute. On the other hand, if we are thinking spiritually, we know that we have nothing to give of ourselves. We cannot meet the other’s spiritual need. Yet, by God’s grace, we have a friend who can meet those needs, even the Lord Jesus. “Friend, … a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.” Can we think that if we pray that way, recognizing our own need, Jesus will not provide all that the friend of ours (who is, therefore, also a friend of his) lacks? Of course not. Therefore, we must love and give and pray. And we must be friends of Christ, as well as of one another.