As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. 12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.
A boy went with Father from England to Ypres (Tynecot cemetery) gravestones and saw the rows and rows of stones. His father explained that each stone represented someone who had died. Boy became puzzled and said: ‘But I thought you said we won?’
And of course this boy is about to learn the universal truth, that to accomplish anything great, worthwhile or enduring will require effort, courage and sacrifice (in public square, workplace, relationships or even my own soul). No pain, no gain.
But if the boy in our story had read any history, there was another reason for his confusion. From as far back as ancient world, it’s the victor that’s celebrated. The losers are usually confined to a side-note. It’s the victorious that get to shape the future; the survivors that now alter people’s lives, not those who failed. In ancient world, the losers were clearly weaker, less noble or worthy. The victors (by their victory) proved they were superior, more worthy of reverence, more blessed by the gods.
Yet today is not a celebration victory parade; it’s a day we remember those who didn’t make it, killed before seen any decisive victory, who gave lives not knowing the outcome of their sacrifice. Why? Why do we read history in a different way to times past? The answer is Christianity.
Jesus wins a decisive victory over sin, death and the power of Satan himself. How? By dying! This confounded people of Jesus’ day. If he was God’s son, how could he possibly die? Surely the only way God could vindicate Jesus’ message was if he were to survive (‘If you are God’s Son, come down from cross…save yourself’). How could you ‘win a victory’ by dying? So what’s going on?
Jesus shows us that the one God blesses, the one whom death ultimately cannot hold, is not the superior, or the strongest or the mightiest in the field of human warfare, but the one who loves, and for love, lays down their life to serve the other. Because of his obedient sacrifice on the cross, God raises Jesus from the dead, and by his obedience, wins victory over death itself.
Jesus gives us a remarkable interpretation of those who lay down their lives for sake of others – In Jn 15, not just a mark of sacrifice or a mark of duty. Above all, it’s a mark of friendship.
‘No greater love than someone lays down life for a friend.’
Of the 4 loves, Philea – ‘friendship love’ was considered the highest form of love. Not Eros, agape or storge. Those we commemorate today laid down life for friends they would perhaps never meet; friends not yet born; the would-be friends in the future, who they wanted to share in the same freedoms and life they had enjoyed.
Jesus goes on to show us the two key principles of true friendship.
- A friend is someone who never lets you down (v13). A friend is someone who makes sacrifices for another.
- A friend (according to v15) is someone who lets you in, doesn’t keep secrets. Jesus says ‘I no longer call you servants…because I’ve made myself vulnerable to you…let you in to my hope, pain and suffering. Hebrew word for ‘friend’ and ‘secret’ is the same.
You may be one without the other… Some want to be in, but will let you down. A young man received a letter from his former intended..
‘Dearest Jimmy, no words could ever express the great unhappiness I’ve felt since breaking our engagement. Please say you’ll take me back. No one could ever take your place in my heart, so please forgive me. I love you, I love you, I love you! Yours forever, Marie.
P.S. Congratulations on your recent lottery win.‘
Others won’t let you down, but won’t let you in. Like a doctor, counsellor, dentist. They won’t let you down but they don’t want to be your best friend either.
A Loving relationship is when both let the other in and agree never to let the other down. Basis of my love for you, and basis for all love.
How can I have friendship with God?
In this passage Jesus says I’m the source of all true love and friendship, to which all other sacrifice ultimately points. ‘Remain in me’. What does he mean? Christianity is unique among religions. It’s a religion of friendship.
- Mohammed writes a book, leaves a book and dies. What have you got? A book.
- Bhudda leaves his sayings and dies. What have you got? Sayings of Bhudda.
- Confuscious writes down insights, and what have you got? His insights!
But Jesus left us himself. Not just proverbs or sayings or insights…he’s left himself. He’s alive. Not just His words come to you…HE comes to you. Personal connection. REMAIN in me. Stay friends. Many are servants of God, but he offers you friendship.
Talk to Him; listen for him. And let him in. Tell him your secrets. Don’t hide behind façade. Rev 3:20 ‘Behold I stand at the door…anyone who hears my voice…I will come in…’
Some people come to God because want the master plan for how to make decisions, get through life, get directions. They want the wisdom, the power, but not the friendship.
To be a Christian is to take hand of friendship that Jesus offers on cross. His death is proof he’ll never let you down, his outstretched hand is proof he’ll always let you in.
- You know the psalm
You know the Psalm
There was once a Shakespearian actor who was known far and wide for his one-man show of readings and recitations from the classics. He would always end his performance with a dramatic reading of Psalm 23- the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. At the conclusion, the crowd would rise in thunderous applause in appreciation of the actor’s incredible ability and oratory.
But one night, just before the actor was about to offer his usual recital of psalm 23, a young man from the audience spoke up. ‘Sir, do you mind if I recite the psalm?’ The actor was quite taken aback, but allowed the young man to come forward and read, knowing the ability of the unskilled youth would be no match for his own talent.
With a soft voice, the young man began to recite the words.
When he was finished, there was no applause. There was no standing ovation. All that OULD BE HEARD WAS THE SOUND OF WEEPING.
Amazed, the actor said to the youth ‘I don’t understand, for years I’ve been performing the 23rd psalm. I have a life-time of training and experience – but never have I moved an audience as you have tonight. Tell me, what is your secret?’
The young man replied humbly: ‘well sir it’s quite simple. You know the Psalm, but I know the shepherd.