It is Thursday evening, and the crucifixion will happen on Friday. Jesus is meeting with his disciples in the last meal, and in it, giving them instructions and assurances, and again predicting his death. Much of this did not register with the disciples, as indicated by their responses upon his arrest and desertion after the sham trial. But Jesus has some final lessons for his disciples, which will shape them and the early church after his resurrection and departure to heaven. He has warned of Judas’ betrayal, and Peter’s impending denials. The predicted betrayal by Judas has put the disciples into a spin, and from that context comes a warning and a promise.
11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. John 15:11-17.
- Standing and Security in the Kingdom. If the standard for staying in right standing or secure in the Kingdom was the absence of failure or doubt, then none of Jesus’ followers would have any confidence of their future with God or in eternity. You are already clean because of the Word I have spoken to you (15:3). The issue is not right standing with God, but living a life of obedience and productivity as a disciple. That is the lesson of the vineyard. The Father as Gardener, Jesus as the Vine, and from the Vine, the disciples as the branches bearing fruit – fruit that will last. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
- Warnings about Failure. For every life, and the command to obey, there is the prospect of disobedience. The disciples are still in the shadow of the shocking revelation of Judas’ soon betrayal. Even of the prediction of Peter’s denial. And to that end, there is a warning. The path of discipleship includes the promise of reward of the consequences of disobedience. If anyone does not obey me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers…thrown into the fire and burned. In other words, rather than a life of productivity, a life of little value or results.
- The New Command and New Standing as Friends of God. Jesus now stamps his disciples with a new title – not only servants who follow a master, but friends who know of the business of God the Father, and as such, have the honor and task of being loving others. The promise is twofold: following the commandment of love allows us to abide in God’s love. The imagery is being washed over, covered with the love of God. And secondly, and with the approval (joy) of God, that your joy may be full. Now the imagery of a feast – of being struck over with the joy and approval of God.
Do you see this picture? From the healthy and thriving imagery of a vineyard, all of heaven and earth are gathered together in celebration, God the Father’s joy – as Gardener – is made full, Jesus – as the Vine – has shown His love for the disciples by the [soon] giving of His life for his friends, and the disciples – the branches, who had their life-giving start being chosen by God, and now draw their purpose in life from Jesus – are the recipients of the superabundant love and joy of God that covers them with blessings and sends them out on the divine mission of agents of love – and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other. We can’t improve on the imagery, on these words, or this mission. Keep measuring your actions by this standard – loving one another, mercy triumphing over judgment, love which covers a multitude of sins. Stay well.
– John Moore