What does John 15:13 mean?
ESV: Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
NIV: Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.
NASB: Greater love has no one than this, that a person will lay down his life for his friends.
CSB: No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.
NLT: There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
KJV: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Verse Commentary:
This statement is often used in reference to those who die—or are willing to die—in the service of other people. That's a valid interpretation, especially as Jesus is preparing the disciples for His impending arrest and death. However, there are additional applications to this teaching. The context of Jesus' statements about Christian life shows it's not "just" one's physical body which is in mind here. Christ has spoken about the need for Christians to "abide" in Him (John 15:4), which includes emulating His love (John 15:12).

In the prior verse, Jesus gave a command which is repeated several times in this conversation: to love each other (John 13:34; 15:12, 17). In this same discourse, Jesus identified obedience to His commands as a sign of true belief (John 14:15). He noted that Christians have no right to avoid those things Christ was willing to do for others (John 13:15–17). The ultimate act of love, of course, is to willingly offer one's life. For Christ to make such an offer to sinful people is indescribably merciful (John 10:17–18; Romans 5:7–8).

In daily Christian life, however, this verse still applies. Jesus' comments about following His commands, loving others, being humble, and so forth mean that "laying down one's life" is an attitude, as well as an action. When Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, He did something profoundly humble (John 13:3–5). Christian love is not meant to be "saved up" and exhibited only in grand gestures. Truly loving others, by "laying down" one's life, means "abiding" in the love of Christ (John 15:8–11), in a consistent, moment-by-moment approach.

The use of the term "friends" is important, as Jesus will clarify that He sees the disciples—and by extension, all believers—as His friends (John 15:14).
Verse Context:
John 15:12–17 builds on Christ's explanation of the vine and branches. Once again, Jesus commands His followers to demonstrate love toward each other. This is phrased, in no uncertain terms, as an obligation given directly by Christ. Jesus once again ties willingness to obey to the legitimacy of one's love for Him. This contrasts with the hatred shown by the unbelieving world, which He discusses in the following passage.
Chapter Summary:
This passage begins with a celebrated analogy from Christ: the vine and the branches. This includes the seventh and final "I Am" statement of the gospel of John. Jesus uses this metaphor to explain how our spiritual life, as born-again believers, is drawn from His life. God's intent for our lives is to progress from barrenness to fruitfulness, to spiritual abundance. Jesus also repeats His command for believers to love each other. In this context, He goes so far as to refer to those who follow His teachings as His "friends."
Chapter Context:
Jesus is in the middle of a long discourse given to the disciples, which began during the last supper. He presents the analogy of a vine and branches, then repeats His command for believers to love each other. Jesus also warns about how the unbelieving world will hate and persecute Christians. This leads into the teachings of chapter 16, which focus on perseverance in the face of trials.
Book Summary:
The gospel of John was written by the disciple John, decades later than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls “signs”—in order to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in all of the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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