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Bible Commentary / Bible Study

Abide in my Love - Gospel Analysis of John 15:9-17

by Edward Markquart, Grace Lutheran Church, Seattle

Gospel: John 15:9-17

These following verses are the core, the center, the heart, the nucleus, the hub of Jesus’ teachings about love.

-As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. Again and again, we are asked to live in the love of Christ.

We recall that the Greek word for love is “agape” which has been translated as “charitable love.” This “agape love” is not “eros” or erotic love. Nor is it “philos” or brotherly or sisterly love for friends. Nor is it “storge” or family love. These are all forms of love. The gospels are consistent in using the word, “agape,” for love which is love for people who can’t pay a person back. This “agape love” is like grace, a free gift for others which is undeserved or unearned or unmerited. It is a free gift for those in need.

-If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. Circle the word, “keep.” Again Jesus asks us to keep his commandments. This is the fifth time in this section that Jesus has asked us to keep his word. When you keep the commandments of Jesus, you remain/live in his love.

We recall the following words about “mutual indwelling” from the Gospel Analysis for Easter 5B:

“As all spiritual fruitfulness had been ascribed to the mutual inhabitation, and living, active interpenetration (so to speak) of Christ and His disciples, so here the keeping up of this vital connection is made essential to continued fruitfulness.” Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871)

The word abide means “live.” To live in Christ and Christ to live in us.

The word, “abide,” is a dominant word in the Gospel of John and is repeated often. 17 of the 18 times the word, “abide,” occurs in the New Testament are from the Gospel or Epistles of John.

Scan the following references to the word “abide” in the Gospel and epistles of John

Joh 6:56 - Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them.

Joh 15:4 - Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.

Joh 15:5 - I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.

Joh 15:6 - Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.

Joh 15:7 - If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Joh 15:9 - As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.

Joh 15:10 - If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.

1Co 13:13 - And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

1Jo 2:6 - whoever says, "I abide in him," ought to walk just as he walked.

1Jo 2:24 - Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you will abide in the Son and in the Father.

1Jo 2:27 - As for you, the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and so you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, abide in him.

1Jo 2:28 - And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he is revealed we may have confidence and not be put to shame before him at his coming.

1Jo 3:17 - How does God's love abide in anyone who has the world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

1Jo 3:24 - All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

1Jo 4:13 - By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

1Jo 4:15 - God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God.

1Jo 4:16 - So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

2Jo 1:9 - Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

From the above readings from the Johannine literature, it is obvious that the word “abide” is a uniquely Johannine word that is used almost exclusively in the books that bear his name.

-I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. Circle the word, “joy.” Jesus wants his joy to be in us so that our joy may be complete, full, whole. Living in Christ and Christ living in us makes us filled with joy. There is an enormous difference between Christ’s joy and worldly joy.

-This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. There are those eight words again, “Love one another as I have loved you.” This is the commandment of Jesus. It is to love as he loved while he was on earth. These eight words summarize the whole Old Testament and whole New Testament. These words summarize all 1189 chapters in the Bible. These words summarize the purpose of our lives: to love one another as Christ has loved us.

-No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. The greatest expression of love is to lay down your life for another. We know of hundreds of examples of this kind of love, where people lay down their lives for each other. We immediately think of the military and soldiers laying down their lives so that others can live. We think of firemen, policemen, mothers, fathers, friends and many other people who sacrifice their lives so that we may live a richer and fuller life.

We recall Jesus’ words in John 10 about the good shepherd laying his life down for the sheep: “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” A primary characteristic of a good shepherd is that he is willing to die for the sheep. Jesus, of course, is describing his own life in that Jesus was willing to die on the cross that others might live.

The Gospel of John likes this phrase (“lays his life down”) and we see it in John 8:37, 15:13 and I John 3:16. In John 10, we hear the phrase, “lays his life down” five times within one chapter.

This phrase could be the heart of the sermon on love. What did it mean for Jesus to lay down his life for the sheep? What does it mean for us to lay down our lives for other people?

In the Old Testament, a shepherd did not lay down his life for the sheep. This is a new concept/understanding/knowledge in the New Testament that a shepherd would die for the sheep.

Nowhere, not once, in the Old Testament does a shepherd lay down his life for the sheep.

“The idea of a voluntary and vicarious death for the sheep is not found in the Old Testament nor elsewhere (Jeremias 1968:496-97; Barrett 1978:374).” JOHN, Bible Gateway, Commentary.

This idea of “laying down his life for one’s friends or for the sheep” cannot be underestimated and is at the core of Christianity.

We recall similar words in John 10: “For this reason the Father loves me because I lay down my life that I may take it again.” Here is that theme again. Jesus says clearly that the reason that the Father loves him is that he, Jesus, lays down his life for the sheep, that Jesus lays down his life for one’s friends. Our heavenly Father loves this quality in us as well: when we lay down our lives for others.

Jesus also taught, “No greater love has a person than this that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus also taught, “Whoever will find his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will find it.”

It is in giving that we receive.

We recall words from the famous prayer of St. Francis:

“for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

Dying to self is at the heart of being a disciple of Christ.

-You are my friends if you do what I command you. This is the sixth time that Jesus teaches us to obey his commands. In his previous teachings, when we obeyed his commandments, we were his disciples or we were loved by God the Father. Now Jesus calls us friends…if we do what he commands us. What does he command us? To love one another. Circle the word, “do.” The commandment is to do the love of Jesus in our daily lives.

We recall in John 10 that Jesus was commanded to lay his life down for others. We are similarly commanded by our heavenly Father.

-I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. Jesus calls us friends because he has revealed to us everything that he has heard from his/our Father.

-You did not choose me but I chose you. This teaching is also at the heart of Jesus’ beliefs. That is, we did not chose Jesus Christ but Jesus chose us.

-And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. Why were we chosen? To bear fruit, fruit that will last. When we pray, we ask for the will of God to be done. God grants us those prayers. To bear fruit is to live a life of love.

-I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another. How many times does Jesus have to say it so that his words penetrate our hearts, minds and habits? Jesus wants us to have love for one another. Sometimes, we can’t see how much we are loving others around us, but our friends often can.

We recall the Apostle Paul’s similar teachings about the great commandment of love. Paul’s understanding of the great commandment was based on his knowledge that Jesus taught the great commandment of love:

Romans 13:9-10: “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet’; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”

Galatians 5:14: “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Ephesians 3:17-19: “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (NIV)

Philippians 1:9: “This is my prayer: May your love overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight.”

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