Sermon on the Gospel of John | No Greater Love | John 15:9-17

No Greater Love (John 15:9-17)

My first job was as the youth minister for a congregation in Eastern Kentucky, and I soon started dating one of the young ladies in that church.

After she and I had been dating about a week, the church chartered a bus and took the youth group—and anyone else who wanted to go—to the King’s Island amusement park. The girl I was dating went; she and I had a blast that day riding different attractions and eating carnival food and getting to know each other.

We loaded on the bus as the park began to close and started the three-hour journey home. After an adventurous day, that girl and I were tired, so tired in fact that my girlfriend began to doze almost immediately after getting on the bus, and she was soon in a deep sleep. After she had slept an hour or so, Tammy woke up with a start, her eyes were wide, and she looked at me and said, “Justin, I love you.” And I burst out laughing. That probably wasn’t the reaction Tammy desired the first time she told me she loved me, but I’ll remember it to my dying day.

You probably remember the first time someone you love told you that he or she loved you. Maybe you remember the first time your spouse told you that he or she loved you. You might remember being in high school and that time your high school sweetheart finally said those words. You mothers likely remember the first time your child was able to say, “I love you.”

In this morning’s passage, Jesus told his disciples, “I love you.” Jesus told his apostles that there are serious responsibilities attached to his love. From Jesus’s words, we learn: “Jesus’s disciples are people of love.

Scripture (John 15:9-17)

verses 9-11:

Jesus had loved his apostles just as the Father had loved him. The apostles were, according to the Greek syntax, to begin abiding in Jesus’s love immediately.

The apostles were to abide in Jesus’s love by keeping his commandments. Abiding in Jesus’s love was, for the apostles, a practical experience of obedience, not some emotional high. And Jesus provided the apostles an example, for he kept his Father’s commandments.

verse 12:

Jesus’s commandment required the apostles to love one another as Jesus had loved them. His example allowed Jesus’s apostles to measure their love for one another.

verse 13:

Friends can show no greater love than laying down their lives for their friends. This statement obviously foreshadowed Jesus’s death on the cross for his apostles and all mankind. In the Greco-Roman world, dying for others was considered heroic, but that was not so among the Jews. In fact, one rabbi around to this period argued that one should value his own life above the lives of others. Jesus, however, destroyed that rabbi’s argument and demonstrated the greatest love and called for the greatest love among his apostles.

verses 14-15:

The apostles were now Jesus’s friends, not merely his servants. Two Old Testament figures were called friends of God—Moses and Abraham. Both of those men were friends of God, for God shared his heart with them; for example, he told Abraham about his plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, and he spoke with Moses “face to face.” The apostles were Jesus’s friends, for he had shared his heart and life with them.

verses 16-17:

Jesus chose the apostles, not the other way around. Everything Jesus had commanded the apostles in these verses was so that they would love one another.


Jesus’s disciples are people of love.” This week is Valentine’s Day; the world will think about love as chocolates and roses and nice dinners. Jesus calls his disciples—he calls you—to a life of real love. How can you be a person of real love?

One: You love the Son.

In this morning’s text, Jesus told his apostles to abide in his love by keeping his commandments. Many religious folks think loving Jesus is an emotional response; they may get carried away by swaying and waving their arms while someone performs a song or they may stand and shout during the pastor’s sermon or they may cry a river during an altar call.

There’s nothing wrong with responding emotionally to the gospel; how can you not get emotional when you think about all Jesus did for you? However, loving Jesus isn’t emotion; it’s obedience: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15).

Obeying Jesus’s words is a necessity: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt 7:21). Jesus spoke as the Father commanded him (Jn 12:49); therefore, the will of Jesus and the will of his Father are one.

How well do you honestly love Jesus? Does your life reflect obedience to Jesus’s words? Are you obeying the whole law (even those parts that are so difficult)? How much would Jesus say you love him?

Two: You love Someone.

In this morning’s text, Jesus told his disciples to love one another as he had loved them. Loving your fellow believers is not optional:

  • “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1).
  • “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8).
  • “This is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 Jn 3:11).

You must love your brethren. The hard part is that Jesus raised love to a new and high standard: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). I imagine we could try to get off the hook by saying Jesus was only talking about his own love for us, not the love we must have for each other. But John made clear Jesus does expect us to lay down our lives for each other: “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 Jn 3:16).

In John’s day, Christians could very well be called upon to die for one another. It’s always possible that some of us might die for each other—maybe shielding someone from a madman’s bullets or pushing someone out of the way of a car or getting on top of someone during a tornado. But, honestly, how likely is that?

How can you in 2024 lay down your life for the brothers? By being like Jesus: “Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:6-7). Jesus laid down his life of heavenly glory long before he ever laid down his fleshly life at Golgotha.

You see, every time you serve, you’re laying down your life—when you serve someone, you are giving up part of your life; you will never get that time or energy back. If I run out of gas on 225 and you’ve just kicked off your shoes and put your feet up with a bowl of ice cream but you still come to me, haven’t you given up part of your life for me? If I need you to run me to the grocery store or pick up a prescription or take me to the doctor or mow my lawn or a million other things, am I not asking you to inconvenience yourself and lay down part of your life? Every time you serve a brother or a sister at an inconvenience to yourself, are you not laying down your own life?

Love the brothers. What needs can you meet for a brother? What talents has God given you to help a sister? How will you lay down your life for members of this church this week?

Do you love Jesus? Are you obeying Jesus? Are you loving your fellow disciples?

This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at Church of Christ Deer Park in Deer Park, Texas.

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