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No Greater Love ~ The Gospel of John 15:12-13

Aug 09, 2015 ~ New City Church of Calgary ~ Pastor John Ferguson
Intro: In our summer series, we have sought to recapture Jesus view of marriage as a sacred covenant
entered into before God in which a husband and wife are joined by God into a one flesh union where they can
also become father and mother to any children their one flesh union produces. Last week, we looked at one
book in the BibleSong of Solomonwhich celebrates the covenantal sexual union of a husband and wife.
But that leaves us with a question that begs to be answered: What about those of us who are not married?
Or what about those of us who wrestle with SSA? What about those of us for whom erotic, sexual love is off
limits because we are not in a biblical, covenantal marriage?
Wesley Hill, Spiritual Friendship, My primary question, over time, became a question about love. Where
was I to find love? Where was I to give love? If Scripture and the Christian tradition were right that I
shouldnt try to find a husband, surely the apparent corollary couldnt be rightthat I was therefore cut
off from any deep, meaningful form of intimacy and communion. Could it?
The question for Hill became, How do I channel love? How do I find the right relationship in which it can
flourish? How do I find the right place for love?
Hill recalls reading Tom Stoppards play, The Invention of Love, about the poet & classicist AE Housman. In
the play, Housman meets his departed, older self who now inhabits the underworld. They have a discussion
about the Roman ideal of friendship, amicitia. As the younger Housman listens to the older Housman talk
about ages past in which a mans love for other men expressed itself in the heroic possibility of being
comrades in arms, i.e., a love that was willing to sacrifice oneself for his friends on the battlefield, the
young Housman declares, I would be such a friend to someone.
Hill: There is, in fact, a place for love, and its called friendship.
That thought rings hallow for many of us because when we hear the word friend, we think acquaintance.
The truth is, many friends are nothing more than acquaintances that we may like share common interests
with (sports, kids activities, hobbies, the desire to attain wealth or power). And b/c they are not real friends,
we like to keep them at a polite distance, and we certainly dont think of them with the word love.
Whats more, in Calgary were surrounded by 1.2 million people with countless opportunities for engagement,
but we suffer from what sociologist call, crowded loneliness.
Could it be that we live among countless people in our city without any real friends?
Could we be the first generation that knows nothing about the old virtue of true friendship?
Biblically, the notion of friendship has a rich legacymodelled preeminently by Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, one
of the aims of Jesus is to create a new humanity of friendsfriends that become our new family.
No Greater Love ~ The Gospel of John 15:12-13
John 15:12-13, This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love
has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.
1. The new commandment (cf. 13:34): to love one another as Jesus loved.
JI Packer, The Greek word agape (love) seems to have been virtually a Christian invention--a new word
for a new thing.
2. The new standard: laying down ones life for ones friends.
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I admit, this is challenging. I would easily, readily, and willingly lay down my life for my wife and my kids. I
wouldnt even think about it. But for my friends? That probably depends on how you define the word. My
Facebook page tells me, for example, that I have over 1200 friends, when in reality very few are my
friends. Most are acquaintances, some are strangers, but very few would be recognizable by this historic
designation of friends.
Aelred of Rievaulx, On Spiritual Friendship, See to what limits love should reach among friends, namely
to a willingness to die for each other. // Though challenged, though injured, though tossed into the
flames, though nailed to a cross, a friend loves always.
3. Do you have any friends that you love enough to die for? Can you imagine how much richer your life would
be if you loved some people outside your family like this? Can you imagine what the bonds of friendship
would look like that would compel you to easily, readily, and willingly lay down your life for your friends?
These wouldnt be disposable friendships, the kind we moderns easily make and just as easily forsake.
These would be binding friendshipsthe kind that are bound together with spoken or unspoken
promises, promises that are there precisely because they are friends.
Lets do a quick look at some deep friendship from the Bible, and I want us to not only note their depth, but I
want us to imagine what it would be like for us to say, I would be such a friend to someone.
1. Ruth & Naomi
(1) Noami urged Ruth to return to her mothers house as expected (Ruth 1:8).
(2) But Ruth said, Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go,
and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you
die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death
parts me from you (1:16-17).
Note: these words are a promise (sometimes used in weddings). But this is a vow of loyal friendship.
2. David & Jonathan
(1) 1 Samuel 18:1, 2-4. As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the
soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David,
because he loved him as his own soul. And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and
gave it to David, and his armour, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.
(2) David must flee from Sauls wrath (Jonathans father), and Jonathan risks his own life to help save
David. Realizing they are about to say goodbye, perhaps for good, And they kissed one another and
wept with one another, David weeping the most. Then Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, because
we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, The LORD shall be between me and you,
and between my offspring and your offspring, forever (20:41-42).
(3) David, upon learning of Jonathans death, composes a poetic lament & has it taught to Israel. In it, he
says, I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; very pleasant have you been to me; your love to
me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women (2 Sam. 1:26).
Prov. 18:24, There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (cf. Greater love has no one.)
Dt. 13:6, your friend who is as your own soul.
3. Jesus & his friends

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(1) Lazarus
Mary & Martha sent a message to Jesus, Lord, he whom you love is ill. Jesus had such a deep,
loving friendship with them (cf. vs. 5, Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister [Mary] and Lazarus),
and Lazarus in particular, that simply by saying these words, Jesus knew exactly who they meant.
John 11:35, Jesus wept at the grave of his friend, Lazarus. In fact, the Gospel tell us that Jesus was
deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled (vs. 33 & vs. 38). Literally, quaking with rage.
(2) Disciples in general: John 15:12-13
(3) Disciples in particular
Inner circle of Peter, James, & John (e.g., Mark 5:37; 9:2)
John is referred to simply as the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 13:23; 19:26; 21:7).
Important Question: If Jesus was the perfect human being, and if Jesus wanted friends and loved
them deeply, then why do you think that deep, sacrificial friendships are optional?
(4) Jesus new family
Mark 3:33-35, And he answered them, Who are my mother and my brothers? And looking about at
those who sat around him, he said, Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of
God, he is my brother and sister and mother.

- Jesus scandalously redefined his family around his friends who have answered the call to follow
him and give their lives in service to the kingdom of God.
Mark 10:29-30, Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother
or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now
in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions,
and in the age to come eternal life.

- He seems to say, You will have friends who stick closer than a father or a mother or a sister or a
brother. You deepest friends will be your new family in the kingdom of God.
Love one another, welcome one another, serve one another, pray for one another, look out for one
another, encourage one another, show hospitality for one another, forgive one another, & yes, even
die for one another.
Following Jesus transforms our lives so that we would gladly
lay down our lives for our friends precisely because we love them.
Application: Follow Jesus into deep, loving friendships.
1. Jesus offers friendship with you.
(1) Jesus had a reputation for being a friend of sinners who receives sinners and eats with them (Luke
7:34 & 15:2).
(2) Rom. 5:7, For one will scarcely die for a righteous personthough perhaps for a good person one
would dare even to diebut God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died
for us.

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Jesus died for his enemies to make them into friends who become a part of his new family
2. Christs love compels us into life-giving friendships.
(1) 1 John 3:16,By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives
for our brothers.
(2) 1 Peter 1:22, Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love
one another earnestly from a pure heart.

Earnestly in Greek is a word that was used to describe a horse straining earnestly to win
the race.

It is also used of Christ when we prayed earnestly in the Garden of Gethsemane sweating
drops of blood (hematidrosis).

Question: What if we were to receive an evaluation of the way we loved one another? What if our
friendships were under the microscope for their depth, their authenticity, their level of self sacrifice?

1 Thessalonians 4:9-10, Now concerning brotherly love, you have no need of anyone to write you
for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another. But we urge you, brothers, to do
this more and more.

Ask yourself, Could I be such a friend to someone?


Imagine
What if we actually actually followed Jesus into deep, loving friendship?
What if we were the generation of people who actually loved one another in such a way that the most
natural thing to do is to gladly lay down our lives for one another?
And what if our great city took notice of the way we loved one another, and wanted to know more? And
what if we were able to tell them that the reason we love is because Jesus first loved us?
What if people took notice that we had been with Jesus, and they know that we are his disciples by our
love?
What if instead of being marked by crowded loneliness, our lives were rich beyond imagination because
of the company of friends that we keep?
What if because of the gospel of Jesus great love for us, we were the generation that the vision of
sacrificial friendship back to the world?
So take the next step in following the Lord Jesus into deep, loving friendship whatever your station of life.

NCC, may the Lord Jesus knit you into a family of deep friends
that stick closer than any brother precisely because
by His grace you have been made the friends of God,
and may your friendship overflow your lives for the sake of the world.
Amen.

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