I have loved you, just as my Father has loved me. So remain faithful to my love for you. If you obey me, I will keep loving you, just as my Father keeps loving me, because I have obeyed him.
I have told you this to make you as completely happy as I am. Now I tell you to love each other, as I have loved you. The greatest way to show love for friends is to die for them. And you are my friends, if you obey me. Servants don’t know what their master is doing, and so I don’t speak to you as my servants. I speak to you as my friends, and I have told you everything that my Father has told me.
You did not choose me. I chose you and sent you out to produce fruit, the kind of fruit that will last. Then my Father will give you whatever you ask for in my name. So I command you to love each other. (John 15:9-17 CEV)
Jesus asked his disciples to be his friends forever. He was going to die for them, as a friend might die to save a buddy in danger. In this case, the danger he would rescue them from was their sins.
He wanted them to understand that they were his friends, not his slaves or royal servants. In contrast, the leader of the Roman Empire, the Caesar, was hailed as a god. All the people in the Empire were his servants. In fact, each year every person in the Empire was supposed to perform a sacrifice and announce, “Caesar is Lord!” Only Jews were exempt from this duty, because the Greek word for Lord was the same Greek word that the most widely read translation of the Bible used for God’s name. No Jew could call Caesar by that word. Then Jesus, God himself, the creator of the heavens and earth, declared to his followers that they were not his slaves. Slaves don’t need to understand anything; all they have to do is obey their orders. But friends do what they’re asked to do because they understand and because they love each other. Jesus wanted his disciples to realize that their relationship with God was not like the relationship between a master and his slaves. Unlike Caesar, the true God called his disciples his friends and asked for but one thing: that they love each other.