“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.” – John 13:34 (ESV)
Jesus is sitting at the supper table. His disciples – His closest companions – are all seated around Him. He is their teacher. All of a sudden He stands and grabs a towel. He gets down, lower than His disciples, and begins to wash their feet. He lays down his position of authority to perform a humble act of love for His disciples. After He does this, He explains to them that just as He washed their feet and served them, they ought to do the same for each other.
Following this beautiful, unconventional, baffling act of service, He takes his place at the table once more. His spirit is troubled. He feels the heaviness of what He knows is coming. It’s a weighty burden on His mind and heart. He then tells them that one of them will betray Him. He knows who it is. He had just washed the feet of the man who would betray His trust.
As this man, Judas, leaves the house, Jesus speaks of the glory of God in what is to come. His disciples are confused. They don’t understand the meaning of what He keeps saying, that He is going away to prepare a place for them. They have no outside knowledge of the miraculous resurrection as we do. They are left without the glorious finish that we find following the cross.
Jesus then says these words to them in this context:
“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 (ESV)
He washes their feet, tells them His troubles, sends Judas Iscariot to hasten the horror He knows will come, and tells His disciples to love each other with the love Jesus himself has shown them.
During this last meal He has with those He loves, He gives a new commandment. This is significant. These followers came from Jewish families, families that would’ve drilled the commandments into the heads of their children. And Jesus, establishing himself as the Son of God, and speaking with the authority given to Him by the Father, gives a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you”
He later explains exactly what He means. He repeats himself and goes on to explain what this love looks like…
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” – John 15:12 (ESV)
And the implication of how that will look in their lives…
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you…. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name [for the continuation of Christ’s work and the advancement of the Gospel (John 14:12-14)], he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” – John 15:13-14, 16-17 (ESV)
“THESE things.” That you lay down your life for one another. That you do good works in Christ’s name. That you keep the faith. That you glorify the Father. That you obey His commandments.
“SO THAT you will love one another.” Without the centering of one’s life around Christ, there is no way on earth that we can truly love one another as Christ loved. You cannot do it in your own power what was accomplished through the power of God, without the renewing, unfailing strength found in Jesus.
And directly following His commandment to love. Another implication. The world will NOT love you for it. You must love, unconditionally and sacrificially. But the world will hate you for your love, because they also hated Christ, who is the name you carry (John 15:18-19).
And His final words to them before offering up His prayer to the Father… “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 (ESV)
This is our last commandment from our Lord and Savior. That we love. And not that we love however we see fit in our own strength and design; but that we love one another, despite being hated for it, unconditionally like Jesus loved us and gave His life for us and humbled Himself to not only washing feet, but also enduring the most shameful, horrific sentence to express His love and save us.
We need not do it in our own strength. We have an opportunity to love the world as Christ loved, despite their hate, because Christ has given us His love and strength. He has OVERCOME THE WORLD. There is nothing this world can do to us that He has not ALREADY overcome. Not a single thing.
So, take heart, brothers and sisters. Your Savior has overcome. This world does not hold the power. Death does not have the final say. Christ has overcome it all. So, knowing this…love one another wholeheartedly. Don’t hold it back. Don’t settle for anything less than the reckless, passionate, wholehearted pursuit of loving one another. Find a way, this day, to show that unconditional love to those around you.