Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. – John 15:13
Jesus was speaking to His disciples. In verse 15 He says they are not servants, but friends. Can you imagine Jesus calling you a friend? That is what He calls us as well, and later goes even farther and says we are part of His family.
Being a friend is a special relationship, because it implies choice based upon love and affection. No one can “make” you their friend, and likewise you cannot “make” someone be your friend. It is something both decide based on trust and a mutual connection. Jesus takes this seriously, and uses the relationship of friendship as a context for demonstrating the highest form of love.
People may die to protect their family or endanger themselves by acting instinctively during a threatening situation, even for a stranger. But Jesus is talking about thoughtfully and intentionally laying down your life for someone else, so that they do not have to face death. Of course He is referring to His own crucifixion that was approaching, and His willingness to save others through His own sacrifice.
Jesus wanted them to know that all of this was because of His love for them, the kind of deep love you have for a dear friend. More than that, He wanted them to take this as a profound example for their own lives. Some of the disciples would be put to death as a result of following Jesus, but all of us are also called to love others in this deep way. We are to live ready to let go of everything, even our own lives, for those around us. This is greater love!