John 15:12-27 The Upper Room Discourse

A Servant is Not Greater Than His Master

At the beginning of the chapter we were told to “abide,” that is, abide in Christ and in His love. In that teaching we were warned by Christ’s parable of the vine and the branches. Why does it serve as a warning? It is a warning because unproductive branches are cut off and burned. There is judgment for those who are seemingly connected to the vine, but are not putting forward fruit. In this passage Jesus declares His disciples to be His friends and just as He wanted them to remain in Him, He now says that He wants their fruit to remain as well. So the long passages found in chapter fifteen are most definitely connected in thought. Jesus has chosen the men to be His friends so that they can produce fruit that will remain in the midst of the world’s hatred and even harsh persecution. It would be all for Christ’s name’s sake, so He would send a Helper testify of Him and help the disciples to bear witness of Jesus.

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You are My Friends [12-17]
Greater love has no one than to lay down his life for his friends. There is a fundamental change from the Old Covenant to the New: ‘servants’ give way to ‘friends’ (Carson, 510). We know our Master’s plan because the mysteries of God have been revealed to us. And with great knowledge comes great responsibility. Take note that Jesus wants obedient friends. Just because we are friends doesn’t mean that there is not a hierarchy in the relationship. Christ is the Head of every man, though they may be His friends.

Jesus calls His disciples “friends” for three reasons. First, He says they are friends if they do whatever He commands. Jesus wants obedient, faithful friends. Second, He says they are friends because a servant does not know what his master is doing. The disciples do know what the Lord is doing. Only friends know the private plans of another. Third, Jesus says they are friends because He chose them. It was Jesus who sought them out, called them to accompany Him, shared His plans with them, and ultimately died for them. Jesus chose those men.

Let me now answer this question, why were the disciples chosen? First of all, they were chosen to bear fruit. Secondly, they were chosen so that their fruit should remain. Just as they were to “abide” in Him, their fruit was also to “abide.” Finally, Jesus says that the disciples were chosen so that whatever they ask the Father in His name it would be given to them. This last part sums up several parts. This asking and receiving is predicated upon all that it means to abide in Christ.

Verses twelve through seventeen are bracketed at beginning and end by the same idea: Christ’s commandment is that His disciples love one another. Yet, the Lord has commanded spoken many commandments that we are to obey. How can He now say that He has a single commandment? “…Here He names only one, for it includes all others” (Harrison, 92). Jesus has maintained this position throughout His ministry. He has taught that love is the fulfillment of all the Law and the Prophets (love God is 1A and love neighbor is 1B, together they fulfill the Law). The Apostle’s also continued this teaching (see Romans 13:8 and Galatians 5:14).

Remember back to chapter thirteen, verse thirty-four where Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” This commandment that we are to obey by loving one another is governed by the phrase “as I have loved you.” How are we to love one other as Christ loved us? It relates back to the vine and branch illustration. I said that the same nutrients that run through the vine also run through the branches. You see, “…the love of Christ becomes our love which flows out to other believers”; all the branches share the same nutrients; all the disciples share the same love (Harrison, 92). Therefore, as Christ “expresses this love for [us] in death, [we] can surely express it toward one another in life” (Harrison, 93).

Therefore the World Hates You [18-20]
All of this talk about fruit leads to the next piece. As Jesus’ ministry/life proved and you know by personal experience, fruit will not come from every encounter with the world. Everything about the “world” hated Jesus. This has been a major point in John’s Gospel from the beginning. John 1:4 says, “And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it” and verse ten goes on to say, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.” On every side, Jesus faced opposition. The disciples would be in the same boat because they bore Jesus’ name. They were His disciples, His friends. The darkness likes more darkness, but is fiercely opposed to light and Jesus told them to let their light shine.

The world hates Jesus’ disciples precisely because they are not of this world. Yet, this is not strange. We should not be surprised by this resistance. The world “detests the other-worldliness of the Lord’s people” (Harrison, 93-94). We are foreigners in this world, simply pilgrims who are passing through.

The principle that Jesus bases this teaching on is important. This is obvious because the exact phrase is used twice in the discourse. He says, “A servant is not greater than his master.” The disciples would be treated by the world the same way it had treated their Master. What was the general response? The majority rejected His words and persecuted Him, while a small minority received Him. The same would be true of the disciples. Of course, this does not hold true for those who claim the name of Christ, but constantly compromise with the world. I think it would be a good thing to check our selves from time to time and make sure we are not conforming.

For My Name’s Sake [21-25]
Maybe you were relaxing because you read the word “if” in verse eighteen, but do not be confused. Jesus says in verse twenty-one that they “will” do these things to His disciples. The world will hate and persecute the believer specifically because he/she bears Christ’s name. “The root cause of persecution is now traced to the world’s ignorance of God” (Morris, 603). Jesus says that the world does not know the one who sent Him, namely our Father God. Also, we must add, the disciples would receive hate and persecution in Christ’s name. That would serve as a witness to the truth of the Gospel. We have not suffered this type of persecution in our life-times, but we may experience it shortly. The ruler of this world walks about this country like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour and he has fooled many. Uphold the name of Christ proudly and gracefully, but be aware that persecution may soon come.

People today prefer to remain neutral, either consciously or subconsciously, in reference to religion. Most people will talk about “God” with no reference to Christianity or the Bible. Yet, I must say that Christians are called “Christians” because we believe that God has revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. There is no such thing as a Christless Christianity. If you hate Jesus, then you hate the Father in heaven (and there are many who hate Jesus). You can not love God and not love His Son whom He has sent. They are intimately related and inseparable.

John has already told us in 3:19, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” What Jesus means by verse twenty-two is that people now have no way of covering up their sin. The clearest light of all has shined into the darkness of the world. The world truly has no excuse. We can see this most plainly among the Jews of Jesus’ day. They had rejected the words and works of Christ and in doing so declared their hatred for both the Son and the Father. Jesus claims for Himself Psalm 69:4 which says, “They hated Me without a cause.” And the world will hate believers with a cause, namely: Christ Jesus.

When the Helper Comes [26-27]
Make sure that you understand that Jesus mentions the Holy Spirit here because it is the Spirit who will help the disciple to handle the pressures of the world. It is the Spirit who will testify of Jesus and help the disciples to bear witness to the truth about Jesus. That is why He is called the Spirit of truth. The Holy Spirit gives a faithful and accurate testimony concerning Jesus. The disciples could do the same, with the help and counsel of the Spirit, because they had been with Jesus from the beginning of His public ministry. The Spirit and the disciples would both bring to light the same Christ and the same message of Good News. Yes, the Spirit will bear witness to Christ, but also “there is a responsibility resting on all Christians to bear witness to the facts of saving grace” (Morris, 607). Do you remember what Jesus said during the Sermon on the Mount? He said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” If we point to Jesus, whether in word or in deed, our Father in heaven will be glorified.

Notice from the first section to the middle section that Jesus tells His disciples that they are no longer servants, but they are now friends and then He goes on to say that He is still their Master. I think Christians must uphold both sides of this coin. Jesus Christ is our Lord and our friend. He has chosen us and set us apart that we may go and bear much fruit. Our Lord set aside His life for us that our sins may be forgiven and in response we are able to set aside our lives to bring Him glory. Would you show His worth in all you do? Would you show His value in all you say? The world may hate you for it, but maybe…just maybe…someone will be saved from this present wicked age.

You really show who God is when the pressures of this world bear down on you. Do you crumble and in response complain and argue or do you instead persevere until the end with joy in your heart knowing that if the world hates you it first hated Christ? Remember: A servant is not greater than his master.