Sixth Sunday of Easter – 09th May 2021 — Gospel: John 15,9-17
New Status for Abiding in Love
The central theme of today’s gospel is the exercise of love, namely “love one another”. Though reference to love has been completely absent in Jn 15,1-8, it is repeated 9 times in this section, especially 5 times in verse 9 alone. The exhortation “love one another” is a “command” that more clearly marks a grammatical insertion (verses 12 & 17) for two major sections. The first section (15,9-12) focuses on the abiding relationship of love that binds Father, Son and disciples into one and the second section (15,13-17) focuses on empowering love of the Son by which he laid down his life for his “friends.” This exhortation is a restatement of the love commandment of Jn 13,34, where it is called a “new commandment.” The repetition underscores and advocates the new component of love motif: self-sacrifice. Thus Jesus extends the depths and extent of this love by saying that the greatest expression of love is dying for one’s friends.
Love is to be seen above all in the love of the Father as shown forth in the love of the Son. As the Father has loved, so the Son loves. The Son’s love imitates and mirrors the Father’s love. The Son’s deep love in the giving of his life for his friends stems from the way the Father has loved the Son. To abide in the Son’s love is to know oneself as abiding in that same love which originates in the relationship of Father and Son. Love is the fruit of the abiding relationship of Father and the Son, just as it is of the Son and those who follow his words. Jesus calls upon his disciples to keep this love as “commands”, which is mentioned 5 times. It is simply an extension of the commands of the Father which Jesus has already kept. Jesus asks now his community of disciples to model in the abiding love which he has with the Father. It is based on obedience to God’s commandments, best expressed as self-giving and sacrificial love. In this way, abiding, loving, and keeping commandments are all bound together in a mutual relationship.
Further Jesus speaks of the power that giving of life to transform the disciples’ relationship and calling into a new status. His disciples are no longer counted as “servants” but as “friends.” It is not on the basis of anything that they have done for him but on the basis of what he has done for them. He has made known to them everything that he has heard from the Father. This new status contrasts with the master-slave relationship which was a one-way relationship. Jesus is saying here two things: he is the disciples’ friend. He is willing to give his life for them. Yet he is not his disciples’ equal. He retains a singular position. But he has brought them into a relationship of reciprocal love, creating a community of friends, willing to sacrifice themselves for each other. In fact, while Jesus invites his disciples to secure themselves in the abiding love of the Father, he wishes that they remain in his sacrificial love and delight in his friendship.