As I sat down to ponder what Jesus meant in John 15:13, I couldn’t help but close my eyes and visualize the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus would make shortly after his time with the disciples. Do you see it?
Our Savior, beaten almost to the point of death, then carrying a massive wood beam that would become the cross on which he would hang; thereby, living out his own command. He laid his life down for us all. The enormity of that never ceases to blow my mind.
When I look at the premise of John 15:13, I must admit there aren’t many people for whom I’d be willing to do that myself. My kids? Without hesitation. My husband? Yes! Anyone else? Well, I’m being completely transparent, I’m not so sure.
Jesus said, “This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12, HCSB). I believe that he was not just foreshadowing his soon-to-be sacrifice, but also referring to the day-in-day-out sacrificing of our own self-centered desires.
Throughout Jesus’ whole earthly ministry, he demonstrated time and time again a self-sacrificing type of love. One small example is found in Mark 1:35 — it’s early in the morning and Jesus has gotten up to pray and spend time alone with the Father. Simon and some of the others go looking for Jesus and interrupt his time in prayer.
If you’re a parent, this may sound all too familiar. In a family of five, it is not so easy to find alone time, even something as mundane as using the bathroom has become a team sport. My most diligent efforts to wake up before everyone else are usually thwarted by a sweet child needing to use the bathroom and, well, if mama is awake, then you absolutely must give her a hug and kiss.
I suppose it’s some unspoken kid rule, one which I treasure, and I’ll not turn it down. However, my ADHD brain wants to scream at once again having that hard-fought focus derailed. So, let’s look at how Jesus reacted to the interruption. He didn’t fuss or scold Simon. No, he remains calm and recognizes that “…this is why I have come” (Mark 1:38, HCSB).
What Is the Context of John 15:13?
As followers of Christ, what is our ultimate purpose? Is it to obtain the American dream of the nicest car, biggest house, and be the best of the best? Or is it to bring glory and honor to God in all that we say and do, being the tangible hands and feet of Jesus to the world?
If the latter is true, then would that not include dying to our own selfish desires that Christ may be magnified to everyone we meet?
It was on the way to Jerusalem in preparation for Passover that Jesus is telling his disciples, for the third time, that he will be “…mocked, flogged, and crucified, and He will be resurrected on the third day” (Matthew 20:19, HCSB).
Picture this — Jesus has just told the mostly faithful 12 exactly what was about to happen — the mother of James and John goes straight up to Jesus with the request that her sons be at the right- and left-hand side of Jesus in heaven, can you imagine doing such a thing?
I’d like to think I have more sense than that, but sometimes we get so blinded by the world’s standards of success and ambition that we forget the truth about God’s kingdom. Jesus reminded the mother and the men that they must be willing to “drink from the cup that I [Jesus] am about to drink” (Matthew 20:22, HCSB).
Meaning that they must be willing to die for the sake of the gospel. This is important because Jesus is showing his kingdom is different than any other kingdom on earth. The kingdom of God ushered in through the sacrificial love of Jesus is an upside-down kingdom, if you will.
Where being great means being a humble servant, even to the point of death. Since we only get one life and therefore one death, how exactly are we to live out this great love Jesus not only spoke of but lived out in the fullest sense?
What Is Sacrificial Love?
I was extremely fortunate to graduate college and begin working in the field of my degree. After a couple of years, I got married. My husband and I moved to Fort Worth for seminary. A position became available for a secretary position on campus. I applied and was hired.
What I did not account for was the massive gut check that my pride was in for when I realized that my opinions were no longer valued and sought after as they had been in my previous position. I went from being a highly qualified specialist in my field to “just a secretary,” as I was reminded often. The Lord showed me several things in that season of life.
First, my worth is not found in a job or title. It's in Jesus. Period. Second, the Lord showed me that my view of success was deeply rooted in the Americanized concept of self above others, rather than the biblical model that Jesus displayed on the cross.
If Jesus told the apostles that to love others was to sacrifice self, then why would we, as modern-day disciples of Christ, think that our lives should look any different?
What Does That Love Look Like in Real Life?
So, how do we give our life up for our friends? What does that look like in the everyday moments? In the age of social media, it’s “you do you” and “my body, my choice” with little to no regard for how it impacts others.
So, maybe showing love will look like giving up some of our tightly held freedoms so that your lost neighbor sees the physical embodiment of Jesus’ sacrifice. Maybe it means letting that keyboard warrior spew all the anger and rage on your post…and you respond with a loving word.
Maybe it’s not sharing that controversial post about your polarized position to avoid alienating that one person on your friend list that has been burned by church folks in the past. Maybe it’s sacrificing your only day to sleep in (Sunday) to go to church, so your kids see the priority you make it. Simply put, each interaction that we have with someone is the opportunity to die to ourselves and represent Jesus.
As much as I dislike conflict, I even more so dislike being bullied or seeing injustice. This did not bode well for me as a child (and sometimes as an adult) as I tended to press in hard, confronting whatever bully might come my way.
This idea of laying aside myself to love others gave me great pause in the beginning. Wouldn’t this make me a doormat? Quite frankly, yes. In the eyes of the world today, yes, it would.
Satan wants you to believe, “If you don’t speak up, you will lose all of your precious freedoms! If you’re not first you’re last. I have to do what’s best for me.” Is that true or has Satan slowly slipped in his lies under the guise of the American dream?
Galatians 5:13-14 (HCSB) is clear, “For you were called to be free, brothers; only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the entire law is fulfilled in one statement: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
I can’t tell you exactly what that will look like, but I can tell you that the Holy Spirit is faithful to guide us and when we are reading God’s Word daily it will challenge and transform any, and all, deeply rooted seeds of misplaced allegiances. Jesus knew that this would be a struggle for people, even his contemporaries (i.e., the Pharisees).
So, before he talks about the greatest love, he tells the disciples that the only way to live by this example is to recognize that we are “branches” of the true vine (Jesus). That if we remain in Jesus, we will bear much fruit, which we know to be a reference to the Fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, but apart from Jesus we can do nothing, and risk being pruned by God.
What Does ‘Greater Love Has No One Than This’ Mean?
My prayer for us is that we sincerely seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. No matter what the world says, know that anything this world has to offer will never compare to the treasure of being in God’s presence in heaven. So, let’s live like it.
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Amanda Robinson is a pastor’s wife, homeschooling mom of three, and a Christian blogger. As someone who has struggled through the deepest valleys of depression, Amanda hopes to share the complete joy that comes through forgiveness and renewal in Jesus Christ. For more, check out her blog.
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