28 May 2024

‘Greater love has no one than … to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’

Sun stars shining through white crosses and red poppies. Out-of-focus people paying respect to fallen soldiers. Anzac Day commemoration. New Zealand. Picture: iStock

Bishop Grant Dibden 

25 March 2024

On Anzac Day we remember the endurance, courage and never give up attitude of our troops. The attitude that saw so many of our troops killed and that kept them in the atrocious conditions of Gallipoli, and in the trenches on the western front or on the Kokoda track, in the siege of Tobruk, in the jungles of Vietnam or in the harshness of Afghanistan. We remember their sacrifice.  

It’s why the reading often used on Anzac Day is: 

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 

The context is the upper room with Jesus and His disciples during the Last Supper. What Jesus shares is clearly very important because it’s among the last things He says to them. Obviously Jesus is talking about His death in their place, which is so significant that He tells then to continue to share the Lord’s supper from then on, to remember His sacrifice for them and for the whole world. But it’s more than just that. He calls for us to love one another in the same self-sacrificial way, to love each other as Jesus has loved us (John 15:12).  

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The men and women who gave their lives for this nation and their mates were showing the ultimate love for others. But these verses are deeper than even those extraordinary sacrifices because Jesus is the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the second person of the triune God, who is laying down His life for us! 

We ought to be a servant of His, but He now calls us friends if we do what He commands (John 15:14), just as Jesus does what the Father commands (John 15:10). Now do not misunderstand this. Obedience is what characterises Jesus’ friends, not what makes us Jesus’ friend. You are His friend because He loves you, shown completely and unsurpassably in His sacrifice for you, and how you respond is to do what He commands.  

Jesus died so you could be His friend. You can know the Creator of the universe, not just know about Him, but know Him. He know you, deeply and intimately. You can experience His love, and know you are accepted not because of how you live but because of what Jesus has done. And you can enjoy God forever as a friend where your joy is complete (John 15:11), not as a casual acquaintance. Doesn’t that fill you with wonder and thanks!  

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2000 years ago one perfect man, Jesus, gave His life so that all of humanity who trusts in Him will enjoy life for all of eternity.  

On Anzac day we remember the sacrifice of the over 100,000 Australians who have died in wars. Their blood shed on behalf of our nation.  

Lest we forget. 

The Right Reverend Grant Dibden is Anglican Bishop to the Australian Defence Force. 

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