Love One Another
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34–35
It’s Thursday of Jesus’s last week of earthly ministry. Jesus has joined with the Twelve Apostles to eat the Passover meal. Since the Exodus generation, Jews have eaten this meal to remember God’s rescue from centuries of oppression in Egypt. They remember when God looked upon the blood of the sacrificial lamb and spared his people from judgment – specifically, the tenth and final plague, the death of the firstborn. With this Passover memorial as a backdrop, and his crucifixion and death looming, Jesus gives his disciples a weighty and all-encompassing commandment. He establishes the standard for how Christians are to relate to one another, and describes how all people will know who Jesus’s disciples truly are. Here’s what Jesus commands:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Don’t mistake Jesus’s command to be: “Love one another as you think is best” or “Love one another as long as you are still taken care of.” No, Jesus’s standard for how his disciples then (and now) are to love one another is just as he has loved his disciples. How then does John 13 describe Jesus’s love for his disciples? Here are three brief observations:
1) Jesus loved his disciples by humbly serving them.
Jesus washed the dirty feet of his disciples. This was the work of a servant, and, undoubtedly, a disgusting job considering what those sandaled feet had touched in the streets of crowded Jerusalem. In serving them in this way, Jesus reminded his disciples of their need to be cleansed and that he is the Servant-Savior who alone does the cleansing. “If I (Jesus) do not wash you, you have no share with me.” (John 13:8) And, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45).
2) Jesus loved his disciples while trusting in his Father’s will.
Jesus loved his disciples knowing that one of them (Judas) would betray him. (John 13:2, 21) We have a window into Jesus’s thoughts as he took the towel and basin and began washing the feet of his disciples – including Judas. “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper.” (John 13:3-4). In the presence of a disciple-turned-enemy, Jesus trusted that his Father’s will was best for him. Jesus submitted himself to his Father’s will in the face of coming betrayal, suffering, and death.
3) Jesus loved his disciples “to the end.”
Jesus “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (John 13:1) Jesus loved his disciples all the way to the cross of crucifixion. He laid down his life and there is no greater love than this. (John 15:13)
In these uncertain and difficult times, as we strive to obey Jesus’s command to love one another, let’s remember and follow Jesus’s example of humble service to others and his unwavering trust in his Father. When our strivings fall short of Jesus’s standard, let’s remember that Jesus loved his disciples all the way to the cross of crucifixion. Jesus’s blood shed on Good Friday offers the only way to be forgiven of our sins, his resurrection on Sunday secures righteousness and new life for all who trust in Jesus, and the Holy Spirit empowers us to live righteous and love-filled lives.
Last, let’s consider that our love for one another is more than just a blessing for us to enjoy. Jesus promises that our love for one another will show “all people” what it means to be his disciple. May God use our Spirit-empowered obedience to this command to show others how those who belong to Jesus love!