THE GREATEST LOVE
John 15:12-17 This is My commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you. Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you. These things I command you, that ye love one another. (Also See Vss. 9-11)
What a great lesson on Christian love! In the three verses preceding the lesson text, Jesus assured His apostles that just as the Father hath loved Me, so have I loved you. He then mildly admonishes them to continue ye in My love. Without them asking how this is to be done, Jesus specifically tells them that if ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love. And to demonstrate the truthfulness of His command, Jesus uses Himself as an example by assuring them that I have kept My Father's commandments, and abide in His love. By His perfect obedience to the will of His Heavenly Father, Jesus was kept safe and pure by abiding in the protective arms of God's love. Although Jesus was about to be betrayed, wrongfully accused, and crucified, yet His thoughts at this time was to fill the hearts and minds of His apostles with the fullest measure of comfort, joy, and spiritual love.
Following this, Jesus restated a commandment that is a common thread throughout the New Testament doctrine that He established and taught. Beginning in the lesson text, He said, This is My commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Although this was told to His apostles, it is a tenet of His doctrine that applies to Christians of all ages. This was a commandment that was new and unique to the Christian dispensation (See John 13:34). The love of Jesus is extended to all people of the world; it is unconditional, tender, compassionate, and freely given. His love was an example that they were to follow in their conduct as they interacted with all men and women of the world. Jesus was about to exhibit the highest form of love for His fellow human beings.
The greatest love anyone can possibly have for another is demonstrated when a man lay down his life for his friends. Nothing is more valuable to a man or woman than his or her life. To give a portion of one's wealth, or even to give it all, in compassionate love to relieve the needs of others, doesn't compare to the sacrifice of one's life that another might live. To give one's life is, indeed, to give all. This demonstrates the degree of love Jesus is referring to in this passage. This is the love of Christ Jesus - the greatest love, and He gave it all to atone for the sins of mankind. It served as an example to His apostles then, and has served as an example to all His disciples thereafter.
The eleven remaining apostles had, without any doubt in their minds, served and followed Jesus for more than three years. Jesus graciously considered them His dear friends - friends that He was willing to give His own life to bring salvation to their souls. They became His friends and began serving Him by giving up all their worldly possessions. In order to remain His friends, Jesus says that they must do whatever I command you. One may offer friendly gestures to strangers, but to become the friend of another requires even more from us. We must be understanding and be attentive to their interests, be concerned and caring for their daily life, be joyful when they prosper and succeed, and be comforting to them in time of pain and sorrow. This commitment is necessary to have the true friendship of another. Jesus requires no less. A true friend of Jesus will be obedient to His will. So it was with His apostles.
Jesus apostles were not only His servants; they were His friends. Their service to Him and the gospel message He delivered to the world, was to be given, not out of bonded servitude, but by the sincere love of a friend. He chose them and they willingly followed His leadership. They learned the New Covenant gospel of salvation that came through Him directly from God. As His trusted friends, Jesus designated them to teach His doctrine throughout the world - that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain. The results of their labor would have a permanent and eternal affect on mankind. This love the apostles were to demonstrate to their friend Christ Jesus, the giver of The Greatest Love!