No Greater Love

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. –John 15:13

Lately there have been a lot of commercials encouraging us guys to buy things for our sweethearts. Quite frequently we are prompted to consider the accolades bestowed upon the gentleman that went to Jared; and we have also been repeatedly reminded of the fact that “every kiss begins with Kay.” Even an ad promoting a certain alcoholic brew has been directed toward guys that seemingly have difficulty remembering romantic things like anniversaries, birthdays, and so forth.

But the one thing we know we will never see, is a commercial touting the greatest love of all.  That is really sad – for it is the greatest gift one person can ever give another. And it is the greatest gift mankind has received from its Creator. It is the most costly gift of all – to willingly sacrifice one’s life for another. Just ask any combat veteran, or ask Our Father in Heaven. Better yet, ask his son. He laid down his life for his friends – as we see in the gospel of John.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.

“The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.”
John 10:14-18, NLT

Here the Lord speaks of Himself as the good shepherd. Good (Gk., kalos) here means “ideal, worthy, choice, excellent.” He is all of these. Then He speaks of the very intimate relationship that exists between Himself and His sheep. He knows His own, and His own know Him. This is a very wonderful truth. This is truly a thrilling truth! The Lord compared His relationship with the sheep with the relationship that existed between Himself and His Father. The same union, communion, intimacy, and knowledge that there is between the Father and the Son also exists between the Shepherd and the sheep. “And I lay down My life for the sheep,” He said. Again we have one of the many statements of the Lord Jesus in which He looked forward to the time when He would die on the cross as a Substitute for sinners.

He looked forward to the time of His death, burial, and resurrection. These words would be utterly out of place were the Lord Jesus a mere man. He spoke of laying down His life and taking it again by His own power. He could only do this because He is God. The Father loved the Lord Jesus because of His willingness to die and rise again, in order that lost sheep might be saved.

No one could take his life from Him. He is God, and is thus greater than all the murderous plots of His creatures. He had power in Himself to lay down His life, and He also had power to take it again. But did not men kill the Lord Jesus? They did. This is clearly stated in Acts 2:23 and in 1 Thessalonians 2:15. The Lord Jesus allowed them to do it, and this was an exhibition of His power to lay down His life. Furthermore, He “gave up His Spirit” (John 19:30) as an act of His own strength and will.

“This command I have received from My Father,” He said. The Father had commissioned or instructed the Lord to lay down His life and to rise again from among the dead. His death and resurrection were essential acts in fulfillment of the Father’s will. Therefore, He became obedient unto death, and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.

MacDonald, William ; Farstad, Arthur: Believer’s Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments. electronic ed. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995, S.

Just as Jesus had the authority to lay down his own life in loving obedience to his Father, he also had the authority to command his followers to do the same.

This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.
John 15:12-17, NLT

The Lord would soon leave His disciples. They would be left in a hostile world. As tensions increased, there would be the danger of the disciples’ contending with one another. And so the Lord leaves this standing order, “Love one another, as I have loved you.”

Their love should be of such a nature that they should be willing to die for one another. People who are willing to do this do not fight with each other. The greatest example of human self-sacrifice was for a man to die for his friends. The disciples of Christ are called to this type of devotion. Some lay down their lives in a literal sense; others spend their whole lives in untiring service for the people of God. The Lord Jesus is the Example. He laid down His life for His friends. Of course, they were enemies when He died for them, but when they are saved, they become His friends. So it is correct to say that He died for His friends as well as for His enemies.

We show that we are His friends by doing whatever He commands us. This is not the way we become His friends, but rather the way we exhibit it to the world.

The Lord here emphasized the difference between servants and friends. Servants are simply expected to do the work marked out for them, but friends are taken into one’s confidence. To the friend we reveal our plans for the future. Confidential information is shared with him. In one sense the disciples would always continue to be servants of the Lord, but they would be more than this—they would be friends. The Lord was even now revealing to them the things which He had heard from His Father. He was telling them of His own departure, the coming of the Holy Spirit, His own coming again, and their responsibility to Him in the meantime. Someone has pointed out that as branches, we receive (v. 5); as disciples, we follow (v. 8); and as friends, we commune (v. 15).

MacDonald, William ; Farstad, Arthur: Believer’s Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments. electronic ed. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995, S.

While it is good to pay special attention to our ‘sweetie’ on certain days, it is most important for us to remember “the greatest love of all” each and every day.

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