Greater Love

April 14, 2017 – Good Friday
greater love
Read:  John 15:9 – 17, NIV
Focus:  v. 13, NIV

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 

In the midst of preparing these devotionals for this Lenten season, I remarked to our pastor that these devotionals are getting deeper and deeper theologically. He agreed with me. The one I was thinking of was this particular portion of Scripture where Jesus is directly speaking to the soon to be enacted events that took place during the Passover. This is so pointed and poignant; filled with meaning and pathos. I love Christmas and the stories from the Bible about it because that is sort of where it all started but Easter and the event leading up to it are at the top of my list because this is the culmination of why Jesus came as that tiny infant.

Love, real love, is at the center of this. This is love that is totally based on the Source of love – even more than that, it is based on LOVE, Itself! I did not use the word “Itself” lightly. Love is a person, a being. This is the Being – God – who created us and who has interacted with us down through the ages to show His love, His being, to us. Love, and the proof of that love, is preeminent throughout this portion. In here Jesus speaks of His relationship with His Father – God and His Father’s relationship with Him as being that of love. He brings it home to each of His disciples, including us, just how much that love is really at the center of everything we are and do and of who he is and what He does.

Twice in this short passage Jesus emphasizes what our relationship with each other is to be (see vv. 12 and 17). He even puts it as a command to emphasize its tremendous importance. I wonder sometimes how well we fulfill that command. I suspect you wonder also. This is of such importance that the beloved disciple, John, also reiterates it in his short letters. Is it any wonder that John’s writings are so beloved by most believers? I am struggling not to write a complete series of sermons right here and right now! Isn’t love at the center of God’s Word to us? John 3:16 puts it quite succinctly for all of us. So much so, that I don’t even have the need to quote it here. You are already remembering that verse in your own heart and mind.

It is time now to focus on our focus verse, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn. 15:13, NIV). Jesus is making a statement here that he reiterates in succeeding verses about friendship rather than servanthood. Friends are privy to much more of the personal life of another friend. Things are shared back and forth between friends that would not be shared with a co-worker or servant or employee. They have their function or place in our life but do not have the same privileges with us that a friend has. Jesus appears to be inviting them into His inner circle, a place previously reserved only for His relationship with His Father, God. The statement made is indicating the importance of His relationship with them. He is willing, and will, die for them. They really do not understand this yet but later on they will grasp the depth of this whole conversation. John is writing this after nearly 60 years of pondering under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit. The depth here is amazing.

Even more for us is the fact that this is not meant just for the initial group of disciples but is applicable to all who believe and thus become not servants but Friends of Jesus. My landlord, while attending Roberts Wesleyan College, was a Free Methodist evangelist who ministered for many years in Kansas and throughout the Midwest. His name was Rev. Warren Chase, and he had tremendous impact on my life during the almost 3 years I had the privilege of being around him. His favorite hymn was, “Friendship with Jesus.” It is an old one that is not often found in hymnals of today. Some lines from the chorus are: “Friendship with Jesus, Fellowship divine; O what wondrous sweet communion, Jesus is a Friend of Mine!” Aren’t you glad that Jesus is a Friend to you? If you do not yet know Him as your friend then it is my prayer that you would have that relationship with Him.


Day 45 – That You May Believe

Friday – March 25, 2016

Day 45 – John 19:28-37 dark cross

Focus: vs. 35

35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe.

The story of the death of Christ can be a difficult one to read and even more difficult to watch on the big screen. It was a bloody affair designed by the Romans to be as painful as possible for as long as possible. It was, essentially, death by asphyxiation, which is why we see the legs being broken of the other two men on the crosses with Jesus. With broken legs they could no longer hold themselves up in position to get air into their lungs. When they came to Jesus, however, they didn’t have to break His legs since he had already died. Instead, they pierced his side with a spear to make sure He was gone. When they did, blood and water flowed. It was significant enough to the executioners that they talked about it.

There are medical reasons for why this happened. The way in a person died during crucifixion would cause water to build up in the area around the heart. When Jesus’ side was pierced by the spear it must have burst this area of the heart open. What is more remarkable is the prophetic nature of how all this happened. John mentions this all took place to fulfill scripture. The first reference – that not one of his bones will be broken – likely comes from Exodus 12:46. The second reference – that they will look on him whom they have pierced – comes from Zechariah 12:10. John wants you to know this so that you will understand how Jesus continued to fulfill scriptural prophecy, even in His death. It continues to prove that He is the Messiah.

Today is Good Friday, the day of the death of Jesus which we remember during Holy Week. This is a dark day in the Church as we ponder a world where the Light has gone out and the earth is left in spiritual darkness. I can’t imagine the utter hopelessness that must have been felt by so many on this day. God showed up and we killed Him. People are still killing Him every day as they live in unbelief. Listen to the hope of Good Friday: In three days Jesus will rise again. If you think His death was amazing, wait until you see the stone roll away from the tomb!

Ponder the darkness today. It’s entirely appropriate to do so. As you think about the Light of Christ which shines in your heart, consider those who do not yet believe. Their souls still wander in darkness. Let your light shine!

Prayer Focus: Dear Jesus, help me to see the darkness of a world without You. Break my heart for the spiritual condition of so many that are around me. Help me to let my light shine so that others will find Your light. Amen.