As the Father loves: remain

deeplyrooted-crAs the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. From the obligations placed upon his disciples (vv.1-8) Jesus turns to his love for them. He first tells them that his love for them is like the Father’s love for him. Then he commands them to continue in his love, suggesting that it is possible for people to live without being mindful of Christ’s love for them and so break the closeness of the fellowship. Jesus commands them not to do this.

The words agapao/ agapē (love), did not appear in vv. 1-8, but are found 9 times in vv.9-17. These words are prominent throughout the Farewell Discourse (John 13-17) with the verbal form occurring 24 times in those chapters (contrasted with 13 times in the rest of the book) and the noun form occurring 6 times in those chapters (and only once in the remainder of the book).

This verb in our text refer to:

  • God’s love for Jesus (v. 9, see also 17:23, 24, 26)
  • Jesus’ love for his followers (vv. 9, 12, see also 13:34)
  • The disciples’ love for one another (vv. 12, 17, see also 13:34-35)

The noun refers to:

  • Jesus’ love (v. 9, 10)
  • The Father’s love (v. 10)
  • Human (Jesus’) love that lays down one’s life for another (v. 13)

And it is not just these words. Closely related to agapao/ agape in John are phileo/philos (vv. 13, 14, 15). In other words, in these few verses there is a lot of emphasis on “love.” While there are some who want to point to a difference between agapē and philos, Gail O’Day [758] writes:

The Fourth Gospel uses the two Greek verbs for “love” (agapao and phileo) interchangeably (cf., eg., 13:2 and 20:2; 5:20 and 10:17), so when Jesus speaks of friends [philos] here, he is really saying “those who are loved” (cf. the description of Lazarus at 11:3, 11)…. A comparison of 14:15 and 21 with 15:14 suggests that to be Jesus’ friend and to love Jesus are synonymous, because both are defined as keeping Jesus’ commandments.

But have you noticed the nature of “love” that is the focus? What is absent in these verses are any words about the disciples loving Jesus or God. (Although such images are found in 8:42; 14:15, 21, 28; 16:27). This is not to say that is not important – clearly one of the great commandments is to love God. But here in the Farewell Discourse, on the eve of Jesus’ departure from their lives in the manner in which they are accustomed, the emphasis in our text is on God’s love for the (us) and their (our) love for one another.

Stoffregen cites Philip Yancy (What’s So Amazing about Grace? 68-69) writing about this:

Not long ago I received in the mail a postcard from a friend that had on it only six words, “I am the one Jesus loves.” I smiled when I saw the return address, for my strange friend excels at these pious slogans. When I called him, though, he told me the slogan came from the author and speaker Brennan Manning. At a seminar, Manning referred to Jesus’ closest friend on earth, the disciple named John, identified in the Gospels as “the one Jesus loved.” Manning said, “If John were to be asked, ‘What is your primary identity in life?’ he would not reply, ‘I am a disciple, an apostle, an evangelist, an author of one of the four Gospels,’ but rather, ‘I am the one Jesus loves.’“

What would it mean, I ask myself, if I too came to the place where I saw my primary identity in life as “the one Jesus loves”? How differently would I view myself at the end of a day?

Sociologists have a theory of the looking-glass self: you become what the most important person in your life (wife, father, boss, etc.) thinks you are. How would my life change if I truly believed the Bible’s astounding words about God’s love for me, if I looked in the mirror and saw what God sees?

To quote O’Day [759] again: “Jesus reminds the disciples (including the readers) that their place with him is the result of his initiative, not theirs; relationship with Jesus is ultimately a result of God’s grace (cf. 6:37-39, 44).” This a reminder that in the reality of the post-Resurrection world, when secular concerns and challenges brings them to edge of the strength and perseverance, they are loved.

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