John 15:12-17: The Primacy of Love

Read: John 15:12-17

Jesus’ command to the disciples was to love one another. Jesus reiterates the concept of love over and over in his last moments with disciples (John 13:14, John 14:15, John 14:21, John 14:23, John 15:9-10, John 15:12-13, John 15:17, John 16:27) more than anything else probably because he wanted the disciples to really get this part above all else. The primacy of love in the New Testament is undeniable. The synoptic gospels record Jesus saying that the two greatest commandments were to love God with the totality of one’s being and to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31, Luke 10:27) which is an echo of the Old Testament commands in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Paul echoes the Leviticus command in Romans 13:9-10 and Galatians 5:14, saying this command is the summation of the law. Matthew adds Jesus saying that on these things “hang”, in the manner of a weight hanging from a rope, the Law and the Prophets. In other words, without this primacy of love, the Law and the Prophets would come crashing down. Paul reiterates the primacy of love in 1 Corinthians. He calls love the “excellent way” and goes onto describe love in 1 Corinthians 13. He concludes the matter that love is greater than hope and faith. Without love, the gospel does not make sense either. Jesus says that it was because of love that God sent Jesus (John 3:16).

Jesus says that the greatest form of love is when a when a friend lays down his life for another. The obvious meaning of this is Jesus laying down his life for the disciples on the cross. Jesus demonstrated the greatest form of love in this manner. Laying down one’s life can also be manifested in how Jesus loved while he was alive to. Philippians 2:3-8 where Jesus humbled himself and took on the form of a servant and Jesus demonstrated this sort of love in an object lesson by washing their feet (John 13:5-15). Jesus does not speak to them as servants, rather as friends, telling them his business and he treats them as equals. He called them out so that they could go and bear fruit and so that their fruit would remain. By abiding in the love of Christ and by laying down their lives for one another, they would fulfill the law and make lasting fruit, so much so that in the manner in which God gave Jesus what he needed to bear fruit, they too could ask for what they needed to bear fruit and God would give it to them. This does not make God a cosmic genie, rather a loving Father who is concerned about drawing all people to himself. Those who love God will ask according to this purpose and obey his commandments.

Christians today are bound by the same love that Jesus was talking about to the disciples. In the same manner that Jesus called out the disciples to go and bear fruit, God calls Christians to go out and bear fruit. But the Christian must always stay connected to the vine and abide in the vine, loving God with the entirety of one’s being and loving others as oneself.

Lord help me to abide in your love so that I may bear fruit!