I want us to turn our attention to John 15:11 because this is the thesis statement for this paragraph. “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” This is a huge statement. What Jesus is teaching these apostles is the key to them having joy to the fullest. Isn’t this the high pursuit of the world? Everyone is looking to maximize their joy, happiness, and satisfaction. Yet the scriptures describe for us how to have full joy in life. So let us listen to the words of Jesus as we read John 15:9-17 considering how Jesus is offering us full joy for our lives.
As The Father Has Loved Me, So I Have Loved You (15:9)
This truly is a mind-blowing declaration that we need to take a moment to consider. Think about for a moment how deep the Father’s love is for the Son. I believe this is another reason why the second person of the Godhead is given the term “Son.” Not only is Christ the Son because he shows subordination to the will of the Father, but the Father and Son terminology pictures a depth of love that is inexpressible. Do not think that because the apostles are the audience for Jesus at this moment that this statement does not apply to us. In a few paragraphs Jesus will pray to the Father desiring that those who will believe in Jesus through the word of the apostles will know that Jesus loves us as the Father has loved him (John 17:21,23). This is why the apostle Paul would write to the Ephesians telling them “to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19). What love Jesus has for his disciples!
Remain In My Love (15:10-11)
Now Jesus calls for his disciples to remain in his love. Live your life in the love of Jesus. But how do we do this? Is remaining in the love of Christ simply a feeling? How do we remain in that incomprehensible love? Jesus explains how in verse 10. Jesus remained in the Father’s love by keeping his Father’s commandments. In the same way, we remain in the love of Jesus by keeping his commandments.
I do not believe the point that Jesus is making is that when you obey Jesus, then he loves you. But when you disobey Jesus, now he does not love you anymore. Therefore you are flinging in and out of the love of Christ by each decision you make. There is no comfort or hope if that is the case. If remaining in the love of Christ depends upon my obedience to his commands, then I am certainly doomed. My joy will never be full if every sin and every mistake takes me out of the love of Christ. So I do not think this is the point that Jesus is making since it does not fit the rest of the teachings in scriptures about the love of Christ.
Rather, loving the Lord is not about having a feeling but is a call to obedience. We cannot say that we love the Lord but then not keep his commandments. What Jesus is fairly radical and I think we can easily miss it. Too often we approach the Lord in terms of straight obedience. Obedience is depicted as our duty and a hardship. Obedience is pictured as something we have to do. In our own words we see this kind of thinking come out. We speak of having to go to church. We ask if we have to do something for the Lord. Do we have to go to Bible classes? Do we have to read the scriptures? Obedience is pictured as slavery, keeping us from doing the things that we want to do.
But is this the picture of how Jesus remained in the love of the Father? Is this the idea that Jesus left for us: that he served the Father in obedient misery? Obedience was not duty, hardship, or doom and gloom. Obedience to the Father did not keep Jesus from doing all the things he wanted to do. What Jesus wanted to do was be obedient to the Father. It is not that we have to obey to show our love. It is that we love the Lord and want to show that love, which is only displayed though obedience to the Lord. When we are living in the love of our Lord, we will want to obey. This is what Jesus is saying. No one is living in the love of the Lord and not obeying Jesus. This was the point of the first eight verses of John 15. Branches that are remaining in Jesus bear fruit. Remaining in the love of Christ means that we will do as he asks of us. Listen to how the psalmist pictures this truth:
“I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8 ESV)
Obedience to the Lord is the means to full, lasting joy. Joy logically follows when disciples realize that loving Christ is true life. This is what will fill us. This is what we are looking for. Satan tries to deceive us that his temptations are the way to true joy and that God’s way is restrictive and joyless. The world insists that turning from sin to follow Christ will take away all your joy and all your pleasures in life. Jesus insists on the opposite. True, lasting joy that fills your life to the maximum is found in remaining in the love of Jesus. Listen to what Jesus is saying: you will find true joy by doing what he says.
Love One Another (15:12)
Jesus now pictures the high standard of love that is given to us. Love one another as Jesus has loved us. This is an amazing call for Jesus’ disciples. Remaining in the love of Jesus means that we will love one another. If we love Jesus then we will desire to express our love for one another. Loving Jesus leads us to love others. John made a similar declaration in his letter:
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:16 ESV)
Full joy comes from loving one another. Once again, loving others is not a dreadful duty. We are filling up our joy by loving others. Where the world tells us that true joy is found in selfish living, I believe most of us have recognized how empty such a lifestyle is. Jesus again gives us a counter-cultural, counter-intuitive command that our joy will be full when we love others as Jesus has loved us. The apostle Paul said it this way to the Ephesians elders as he was leaving them.
In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35 ESV)
You Are My Friends (15:13-15)
Jesus now says something else spectacular to continue to show the full joy we have available in Christ. In verse 13 Jesus begins with a statement. Great love is shown by laying down your life for your friends. What more can a person do to show love for another person but to give your life for another! Now listen to what Jesus does with this in verse 14. “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Jesus is going to lay down his life for his friends. We remain friends with Jesus by doing what he says. His friends are characterized by obedience.
But I want us to not pass by this description too quickly. We are not longer his servants. Consider this for a moment. How glorious it is to simply be servants to Jesus! There is nothing better than serving our great God. However, there is something better. Jesus has revealed his plan to his disciples. Therefore, they are not merely servants who serve without any knowledge of what the master is doing. They are friends because they serve knowing what the master doing. Jesus has revealed all that he has heard from the Father. Jesus calls us friends. This is a rare picture in scriptures. Abraham was one of the few who was called a friend of God (James 2:23). While Jesus walked the earth he was “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34). How amazing is it that God can come to us and call us his friends! Our joy will be full when we are friends with Jesus! We will be friends with him when we remain in him and live in him and he in us through his words.
I Chose You (15:16-17)
The final words of Jesus that make our joy full is the way Jesus chooses. Jesus is speaking to his apostles about how he appointed them to be his apostles. They did not choose Jesus but Jesus chose them. Their appointment to apostleship was not based on their own merit, but by the grace of Jesus. The apostle Paul could not help but proclaim that point in many of his letters. Further, Jesus did not choose them because they were rich or powerful or eloquent. No apostle submitted a resume to be one of his chosen apostles. Jesus simply appointed them to go and bear fruit. The disciples had a mission to focus on. While these words were directed to his apostles specifically, the application is for us also.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (Ephesians 1:3–4 ESV)
We were chosen to be holy and blameless before our God. To use the words of this gospel, we were chosen by God to bear fruit. God’s election removes all pride and any consideration of merit and forces us to rely completely on the glorious grace of God. Looking at God’s grace to love us despite our actions, we must love God and, noticing John 15:17, we must love one another.
Jesus says that your joy can be full. You can be satisfied in Christ alone. Be satisfied by knowing that Jesus loves you like the Father loves Jesus. Joy and satisfaction is found in obedience to God’s commands, not running away from God’s commands. Be satisfied in the knowledge that we have been drawn to the Father in a deep relationship that we are not merely servants, but we are friends of God. This knowledge propels our faith and causes us to love the Lord our God and to love one another. This love for God and one another will bear fruit, showing that we are remaining in Christ.