John 15:12-17 (NIV): “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. 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. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.”
Jesus’ core commandment at the Last Supper, the one that makes all of the others possible, is self-sacrificing love for each other. Just look at the chain that obedience to this command sets off:
If a person lays down his life for his friends, he becomes a friend of Jesus, not just a servant. (By the way, the command is to actually lay down one’s life for one’s friends, not just “be willing” to lay it down; to actually live one’s life as a sacrifice, putting God and the kingdom’s agenda, and the legitimate needs of your fellow Christians ahead of one’s own.)
The command loops back around: If you are Jesus’ friend, that is because you have been obedient to Him, and have shown your love for Him by sacrificing your life for Him. This is the basis of the commandment in Romans 12:1 to offer your body as a living sacrifice. If you are a friend of Jesus, it is because you have obeyed Jesus in sacrificing your life for Him, for His kingdom, and for His agenda. If you count yourself too busy, or your agenda too important to lay it down for Him and for His kingdom, you will remain a servant at best, and the keys to the kingdom will remain hidden to you.
But the chain moves on: if you lay your whole life down as a living sacrifice for Jesus and for those in the kingdom, if you are willing to take up your cross daily and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23-24, a synonym for choosing and then actively living out each day a life of self-sacrifice), then you will bear fruit that will last into all eternity. And if you live this kind of self-sacrificing, fruitful life, then you will receive whatever you ask from the Father, because when you ask from this position, you will truly be asking in Jesus’ name, as His representative.
But it must all begin with self-sacrificing love, love fully lived out in a life that is laid down for others, just like the life of Jesus is.
Father, I am amazed at all that You have packed into those few short verses! Lord, my life is Yours – You saved me, buying me with the blood of the Lamb, and I am totally Yours. I lay my life down for You and Your kingdom today. Use me, or lay me aside; exalt me or bring me low; let me be honored for Your name’s sake, or let me be mistreated and persecuted. Send me wherever You need me, and I will lay all else aside for Your agenda. I am Yours to command. Only let all that I have, all that I am, be spent for You today. Amen.