There is no greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13
Throughout the Bible we are shown what perfect love is. While the world cheapens love and only makes it available to those who are worthy, God’s love goes far beyond. He raises the bar for what love does and what it requires.
The meaning of John 15:13 illustrates the extent that love requires one to go. While this verse has gained popularity in the past few years, we often miss the main point of this passage.
Most apply this verse to what a person does for another person. Which certainly is part of what this verse is communicating. However, that misses the full beauty and depth of John 15:13.
In this blog post we are going to dive deeper into Jesus’ words and look at what this “no greater love” really is. I believe this passage holds some powerful truths for you today that can challenge you in your life and faith.
Let’s dive into the meaning of John 15:13 to find out what they are.
Context Of John 15:13
In John 15 Jesus is getting closer and closer to his crucifixion. In his final days Jesus is found with his closest friends, the disciples. They had given up everything to follow him, and it’s through them that Jesus’ ministry will grow.
In the precious time left Jesus is giving them their marching orders and final teachings. In John 15 we find the final “I AM” statement, “I am the vine.” Jesus is encouraging his disciples that if they stay attached to him they will grow and produce fruit.
At the end of this teaching Jesus gives his followers a command: “Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12
Now, the disciples have now idea what Jesus is about to do for them. They can’t conceive that Jesus is going to go to the cross, die, and rise again three days later. Even though Jesus has told them, they still don’t understand.
When Jesus says to “Love each other as I have loved you” he’s referring to how he’s about to lay down his life for them. This is the kind of love the disciples are to mimic.
Meaning Of John 15:13
It’s in this context that we find the famous verse, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13
The meaning of John 15:13 is often missed because we regularly remove these words from their context. Jesus is saying you are my friends and I am about to lay down my life so that you may live.
To help us better understand the John 15:13 meaning we are going to break it down into two sections to see how we can apply it to our life today.
Greater Love Has No One Than This…
In the Bible there are four primary words that are used to describe the different kinds of love. (ADD LINK) There’s a word for the love between friends, erotic love, and familiar love. In the case of John 15:13 Jesus is using the word “agape”; its unconditional love that can only come from God.
Agape love is the highest form of love. John 3:16 shows us how Jesus perfectly encapsulates this love. Love isn’t something God does, it’s who he is. He loves us not because we deserve it or earn it. But because it’s all he can do.
What Jesus is saying in this passage is that this kind of love is different than what we can find anywhere else. There is no greater love.
The love the world displays is conditional. You have to earn it. And if you screw up it’s taken away. But Jesus’ love is unconditional. He gives us his love even when we don’t deserve it. He loved us while we were still enemies (Romans 5:8).
In the first part of John 15:13 Jesus is telling us about the kind of love he has for us and the kind of love we are to have for others.
Next he’s going to describe what agape love does for someone.
To Lay Down One’s Life For One’s Friend…
We can know Jesus loves us because this is exactly what he’s done for us (1 John 3:16). He gave up his life so that we could find life.
This doesn’t just include literally dying, although Jesus certainly demonstrated that. But this verse also implies that we die to one’s self. That we give up our desires for the sake of someone else.
Jesus qualifies who this should be done for, one’s friend. Most tend to interpret this verse as they should only love their friends. But the parable of the Good Samaritan challenges the scope of who exactly is our friend.
Jesus didn’t just die for those who deserved it, not one of us is worthy of his sacrifice. Instead, he died for everyone. No matter how broken, fallen, or messed up, Jesus died for you and me.
The meaning of John 15:13 is a challenge to do the same for those around us.
Final Thoughts On The John 15:13 Meaning
In John 15:13 Jesus alludes to the sacrifice he’s about to make. The disciples surely missed the true depth of these words in that moment. But after he died on the cross and rose again these words took on a whole new meaning.
Jesus showed that “there is no greater love than this” when he laid down his life for us. The main point of this verse is this: Jesus displayed the ultimate form of love for us by going to the cross.
This is what we often miss about John 15:13. We focus on the application, what we are to do. But the whole reason we are capable of doing this for others is because Jesus first did it for us.
Jesus laid down his life for you. Therefore, because of what he’s done, you are to go do the same for those around you.
That means that you are to die to yourself, your desires, for the benefit of those around you. Rather than fighting for your rights and what you deserve, you lay them down for their benefit. Just as Jesus first did for you.
Followers of Jesus are supposed to be known by our love (John 13:35). The John 15:13 meaning shows us what this actually looks like.
And just imagine the impact the church could make if this is what we did. If we laid down our life, our rights, our desires for the sake of others. Rather than fighting for what we deserve, what if we served? Loved? Sacrificed?
Jesus showed us the way. He had the right and ability to make demands and fight for what he knew was best. But he didn’t. He gave up his rights for our sake. Because of that the world has been forever changed.
Go and do likewise.
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