You are my friends. 15:9-17
In the style of a parable, Jesus, in verses 1-8, uses the ancient Hebrew image of Israel as a vine and applies it to himself. Explaining the image, Jesus makes the point that the person who abides in him, as a shoot abides in the vine, will bear fruit in abundance. Jesus now sets out to explain the parable.
v9. In the parable of the vine, Jesus describes himself as the vine and we as the branches. He makes the point that as long as the branch abides in the vine it bears fruit. Jesus' application is simple, we are to remain in him, or better, "continue with" him. Our continuing with Christ is best understood as a faith act: a believing in him, a living by faith, a reliant journeying through life with Christ. Jesus now draws out the idea of continuing with him; we are to continue in his love. Christ's love for us finds its focus in his death and resurrection on our behalf. Our faith in Christ rests on the grace of God expedited in the cross and empty tomb.
v10. Christ's commands are God's commands, in summary: "this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another", 1 John 3:23. A continued faith in Christ involves a continued reliance on Christ's act of love, namely, his death and resurrection on our behalf.
v11. Jesus has told us to continue with him through faith and allow that faith to bear the fruit of love. This reliance on Christ confirms our relationship with God; we find ourselves at peace with God, a friend of God. Happy is the person who knows they are God's friend.
v12-14. Christ's paramount command is that we remain in his love, rest on him, trust him, believe in him. As a consequence, our faith in Christ will prompt the fruit of love, or as Jesus puts it, his friends do what he asks. This fruit is the substance of his command, "love one another", that we love our brothers and sisters in Christ. The nature of this love is self-giving compassion, the perfect example of which was set by Christ himself. So, in our passage for study Jesus has redefined what it means to love God and to love our neighbor.
v15. "A servant does not share his master's confidence", but friends do. Jesus calls us friends because he treats us as friends. He has revealed the mysteries of the universe to us in the good news of the kingdom.
v16-17. Of course, our friendship with Jesus is one sided. He has done everything, even in giving his own life, to make it possible for us to abide in him and so become part of God's eternal elect people. The fruit of this relationship is love, the kind of fruit that is eternal. Since the fruit of love is a promised consequence of faith in Christ, we have Jesus' authority to pray for the compelling indwelling compassion of Christ to take root and grow love in our lives. What the Father promises to give us, he will give us when we ask in faith. So then, let us "keep on loving one another."
We get by with a little help from our friends, or so John Lennon told us.
It's very easy to miss a unique idea found in this passage. It's a commonplace idea and so it doesn't impact on us. Yet consider, where else are we told that we mere mortals can be friends with God's unique Son, friends with the creative Word of God, friends with the promised Messiah, friends with the risen and reigning Christ who at this moment sits at the right hand of the Ancient of Days bathed in glory. No religion, not that I am aware of, speaks of a relationship with the divine in terms of friendship. The divine is usually awesome, anything but friendly.
So, here we are confronted with the amazing idea that Jesus can be our friend. The idea that it is possible to find intimacy with the divine is mind blowing, but it is also easily understood. In fact, there is probably no better way to explain a relationship with God than in terms of being Jesus' friend. Even a child understands what it means to be someone's friend. So then, what does this passage tell us about friendship with God through Jesus?
First , our relationship with Jesus is totally one sided. Jesus virtually does everything to make the relationship possible. Jesus loves us with unquestioning active divine love, a love with which the Father loves Jesus: It is a love that takes Jesus to the cross on our behalf - there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends; it is a love which drives Jesus to reveal the hidden mysteries of the universe to us; it is a love which supports us in our life's journey and answers the prayer of faith; it is a love which incorporates us into the elect children of God, the eternal people who will reign with Christ in eternity.
Second, a relationship with Jesus has its responsibilities. Those who abide in Christ's love are instructed to love one another. Interestingly, love is actually a consequence of abiding. If we abide we will bear the fruit of love. Abiding in God's love comes down to believing, believing that the enlivening consequences of Christ's life, death, resurrection, ascension and heavenly rule are freely ours for the asking. Abiding is believing; it is faith in Christ. As for the fruit of abiding, loving one another, this fruit of love involves acting with merciful compassion toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. Seeing that our faith in Christ generates love, Christ's instruction to us is more a be what we are, than a dream the impossible dream.
So, how wonderful it is that Jesus calls us his friends. What we need to do now is allow his indwelling compelling to shape love in our lives; to care a little more for others and a little less for self.
Discuss how you would explain to a group of young people that Jesus is your best friend. How is it possible to have a can't-see and can't-touch friend?
Print-friendly: Sermon Notes. and Technical Notes
Index of studies: Resource library
Pumpkin Cottage Ministry Resources
Lectionary Bible Studies and Sermons