It seems that until the end of his life Jesus was totally focused on one thing: love. Once again this morning the message is “Love one another as I love you.” There are two additional nuances to the message today (JN 15:12-17) that demand attention. Probably aware of what is going to happen to him, Jesus adds, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” One might assume that he was trying to get his disciples to recognize how much he loved them. But I wonder… I went on a retreat once whose topic was “Relationships” and in addition to how we felt about our relationship with God, the director asked us, “Is there any person in your life for whom you would be willing to lay down your life?” That is really a stunning question and if considered quickly might elicit a “yes” but upon reflection, one must admit that allowing oneself to be killed if necessary to save another would take great courage. I pondered it then and do now, only able to conjecture the lengths of my devotion and willingness as well as my strength in such a situation. Then I return to the understanding that Jesus was fully human, having laid aside his godliness to be with us and give us an example of what fully human might mean. And I am again immensely grateful for his steadfastness in the face of danger.
The second addition to the love message this morning is the reminder of Jesus to the disciples that they had not chosen to follow him; he had called them. “I chose you,” he says, “and appointed you to bear fruit that will remain.” We might all be able to look at some impressive accomplishment(s) in our lives that we consider as our “fruit”, but I think it is important to note what Jesus considers the best legacy. That last verse ends with a repetition of what he said in the beginning: “This I command you: love one another.” He seems to be intent on the message that if I have done that one thing in my life, and done it well, God’s dream for me will have been satisfied.