Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
Here is the supreme test of love – the willingness to sacrifice oneself for another.
This is Christ toward us – no question but that He was referring to Himself in this passage, as He was already on His way to the cross. the cross did not come upon Him without His awareness, rather throughout His ministry, and we assume from His earliest conscious days on earth, He was aware of its looming reality. Despite its horrible reality, however, there was joy in the cross for Him, as we read in Hebrews, “”Who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame” (Heb. 12:2). This joy that was before Christ was our salvation and redemption. His sacrifice was not a mindless, pointless death – there is no joy in one’s mistreatment as an aesthetic, no joy in the death of a young man as an exercise by itself – rather through His death He achieved our justification, as He became sin for us and died in our place. As a stand alone experience, Christ despised the cross, as any one should despise his mistreatment at the hands of others. But as a contribution to our salvation, Christ willingly and lovingly laid down His life for us.
That He placed this teaching in the midst of His teaching about the Vine and the branches – that the life of Him, the Vine, flows through us His followers, the branches – teaches us what our lives will consist of. He is also teaching us about ourselves in Him in these words. We are prone to be selfish, and if not selfish, at least self-centered. We close our eyes to the misfortunes of others, but are quick to moan and groan about any injustice that comes our way. We rarely weep for another, but pour buckets of tears for ourselves. But Christ teaches us that if He is flowing in us, then this must change within our hearts and in our actions. The life of Christ flowing in us through His Spirit will lead us toward this same level of sacrifice for others – the willingness to lay down our lives for them.
We will probably not be called on to be physically crucified for another, though some have been through history, and even till today some are martyred for their faith, and not just for their faith, but also for what they have chosen to love by the Spirit. It is not merely faith in Christ and in the resurrection that takes martyrs to their death – it is also love for the things and the people whom Christ loves.
Yet we are each called to “die daily” and to live in the resurrected love of Christ for this world. It is the willingness to put aside our personal “rights” or personal agendas for the good of another that marks the Christian as alive in Christ. The remarkable thing of this attitude and act is the fulfillment and joy it brings to our hearts – just as with Christ. There is joy set before us, and perhaps we do not appreciate the form that love is acted out in – injustice, sacrifice, and mistreatment are not pleasant and we should, as Christ did, despise the shame that is ever put upon us – but love does not dwell on the negative matters, rather it sets before it the object of its love.
Who are you loving for the sake of Christ? Where has His life flowing in you taken you to make sacrifices for others? Are you quick to complain? Oh, especially with those regularly around us, love will also lead us to help them treat us justly – if we love others we will also want that they also measure up to love’s standard, but the spirit of our actions, if they are inspired by Christ our Vine, is patient, kind, considerate.