One of my all time favorite movie series is Pirates of the Caribbean. I love how Johnny Depp, Kiera Knightly, and Orlando Bloom meld into their characters so fantastically. I become nearly convinced the Black Pearl is a real ship and that if I’m lucky I may catch a glimpse of the Flying Dutchman as a green flash on the horizon at sunset. But there is a speech spoken by Knightly’s character, Elizabeth Swan, in response to cries that all hope is lost that propels the third movie to its climax.
[Crew] Our final hope has failed us.
[Elizabeth] “It’s not over.”
[Will] “There’s still a fight to be had.”
[Gibbs]”We’ve an armada against us, and with the Dutchman, there’s no chance.”
[Elizabeth] “There’s only a fool’s chance.”
[Barbossa] “Revenge won’t bring your father back, Miss Swann, and it’s not something I’m intending to die for.”
[Elizabeth] “You’re right. Then, what shall we die for? You will listen to me! (shouting) Listen! The Brethren will still be looking here, to us, to the Black Pearl, to lead. And what will they see? Frightened bilge rats aboard a derelict ship?
NO. NO, they will see free men and freedom! And what the enemy will see is the flash of our cannons. They will hear the ring of our swords, and they will know what we can do. By the sweat of our brows and the strength of our backs, and the courage of our hearts.
Gentlemen. Hoist the colors!”
That line: “Then what shall we die for?” gives me chills every single time. It commands your attention and your thought. In Pirates they will die for freedom, a noble a cause as there ever was, but today’s verse isn’t about freedom. It’s about loving others and being willing to die for them.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.
-John 15:12-14 (ESV)
I love the imagery this passage conveys. Jesus has just finished telling his disciples to abide in Him, that He is the true vine. I like to imagine the Disciples were confused at the end of this speech as they usually were, and that Jesus, seeing their faces, laughed gently to Himself and summed it all up telling them to love everyone as he loved them, and that the best way to demonstrate that is to die for your friends. I imagine at that line, the Disciples became even more confused and maybe even frightened, because Jesus is still with them. He isn’t dead. And they certainly do not want Him to die for them! But Jesus, unswayed by their looks continues on, telling them that they are His true friends if they do as he’s commanded them.
The passage today begins in John 15:12 with Jesus commanding us to love everyone as He loved us. So how did Jesus love us? Sacrificially, selflessly, unconditionally, generously, with forgiveness and compassion; He loved us with pure, true love. It is not fathomable for humans to love as Jesus loved on our own, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27, ESV), but as shown in Mark, it is possible with God’s help. Every day we must choose this sacrificial, unconditional love.
But how will we know if we are fully loving how Jesus loved?
Well the scripture for today answers that as well. In verse 13 it goes on, “Greater love has no on than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” If you will go so far as to die for your friends, who are imperfect, sinful people, then you know that you are loving as Jesus loved us. We know this because this verse is foreshadowing of Jesus being arrested, beaten, and crucified on the cross for every single one of us.
I like to think that verse 14 goes further than just the immediate passage. That while Jesus does what his Disciples to be willing to and even actually die for each other, that Jesus really means to keep all the commandment He has given them over His time with them.
I like to think that I would love those around me so selflessly that if the need arose I would indeed die for them, but hypotheticals are nothing compared to real-life scenarios. All I can do now is pray to for Christ to make me more like Him every day.
So what shall we die for?
Freedom? Happiness? Some other noble cause?
As for me, I would die out of love for my fellow man so that in so doing I demonstrate Christ’s love for others. And while I hope that day would never arise and that I may continue to die to myself out of love of others, if it should….I hope I would.