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"'My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's 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 so that you might go and bear fruit -- fruit that will last -- and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.
"'This is my command: Love each other.'" John 15:12-17 NIV.
Love... friends... fruit... ask...
Is there a progression in these words? Jesus was looking into the faces of eleven men who did not exactly love each other as He wanted them to do. There was constant bickering and competition between them; vying for top spot in the new government of the kingdom; James and john tried to get in first by sending their Mom in to speak for them. Perhaps they thought she would have more clout with Jesus!
"Love each other as I have loved you." That was a tall order for a group of guys who were as different as chalk and cheese and as far from each other in their experience and business lives as east is from west. Some were fishermen; one was a tax collector; some were political activists; some were nobodies -- no pedigree given; a heterogeneous group brought together to follow their rabbi and become like Him.
Did He really think it were possible for them to love one another as He loved them!? Although it was written into the constitution of ancient Israel -- "Love you neighbour as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), it was not big on the agenda of God's people. In fact, oppression of their own people was one of the reasons why they were sent into exile.
"The faithful have been swept from the land; not one upright person remains. Everyone lies in wait to shed blood; they hunt each other with nets." Micah 7:2 NIV.
No wonder, then, that Jesus had to give them a "new" commandment and repeat it over and over in the hopes that it would sink in! Like everything else He was teaching them in these last hours before His arrest, both their remembrance and their understanding depended on the Holy Spirit who was to live in them and empower them to be what Israel could never be. Although they had the commandments, they had neither the will not the power to fulfil them.
Friends! Imagine that! Jesus was elevating them to a new status, offering them friendship with Himself, with all the privileges that friendship offered. This new standing with Him, though, had one condition -- obedience. What does that mean? Was He looking for master/servant obedience while offering them friendship status? That does not make sense.
The friendship that He was seeking with them had a much more intimate basis than mere blind obedience. He was asking that they would become so one with Him that His values would become their values --that they would be walking together and looking in the same direction so that His vision became theirs,
His desires, intentions, plans theirs. This union would become so strong that they would begin to resemble Him in both character and lifestyle -- what He called "fruit". The closer they were to Him, the more fruitful they would become. And that was the prerequisite for answered prayer. To Jesus, prayer was not about “Give me; do this for me; help me; me, me, me." Prayer was about discovering what He wanted, what the Father had planned, and entering into it with Him so that His kingdom would come to earth and His will be done on earth as it was done in His realm.
In this unity of love between us and Him and between us as His followers, there is power to accomplish everything He has set out to do so that, what He set out to do in the beginning, will be accomplished and His kingdom setup on earth for His glory.
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