Easter 6

John 15:9-17

9As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

12 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15I 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. 16You did not choose me but I chose you. 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. 17I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.

“All you need is love,” the Beatles opined. Is this essentially what Jesus is saying when he instructed his disciples, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)? Perhaps, but Jesus adds a bit more content as to what that love looks like. The love Jesus encourages is the love made evident in his life and culminating in his death. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) The willingness to interpret the purpose of your life in its being laid aside for others (friends but remember enemies are also to be treated as friends according to Jesus) is the ultimate in discipleship.

Perhaps we should revisit for a moment the Greek word for life (psyche) which can mean physical life but doesn’t have to mean that. Psyche can mean one’s sense of self or, pushed to the extreme, self-centeredness. Jesus seems to be advocating a life which is not purely determined by personal self-interest. The essence of discipleship is seeing this kind of sacrifice not as a loss but as gain. Many, maybe even most people, can see their way clear to laying down one’s psyche (even bios=life) for family members, children and close friends. But doing so for Jesus’ wider definition of friends is more challenging and can and perhaps should spark vigorous debate.

I suppose Jesus also expects that the love he commands of his disciples (now friends) is cumulative. That is, the more it is practiced the greater it becomes.

Below is a poem about the strength of even a small faith expressed in love. I share it not so much because it naturally emanates out of our texts this week, but because I am always looking for an excuse to share it.

 

Small Wire

My faith
is a great weight
hung on a small wire,
as doth the spider
hang her baby on a thin web,
as doth the vine,
twiggy and wooden,
hold up grapes
like eyeballs,
as many angels
dance on the head of a pin.

God does not need
too much wire to keep Him there,
just a thin vein,
with blood pushing back and forth in it,
and some love.
As it has been said:
Love and a cough
cannot be concealed.
Even a small cough.
Even a small love.
So if you have only a thin wire,
God does not mind.
He will enter your hands
as easily as ten cents used to
bring forth a Coke.

Anne Sexton

 

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