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JOHN 13:34 (ESV)
“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.”
AS JESUS LOVES
When Jesus commanded his disciples to “love one another just as I have loved you,” they likely had a specific example in their minds. Just a few minutes earlier, Jesus had set aside his outer garments and wrapped a towel around his waist. He had poured water into a basin and washed their feet (Jn. 13:4-5)!
Within the customs of Jewish hospitality, this dirty task was typically done by the servant of the house. Nevertheless, Jesus, had been the one to wash away the Judean dirt from between their toes! This unusual moment in the upper room would have left an indelible mark in their minds. Their Lord and teacher had completed the undesirable task, but for a specific reason. He demonstrated his love for them and set an example of the kind of love that they were to show to others.
Yet, this was not the only example. His disciples would have been able to testify many ways in which Jesus had demonstrated love to them and others. Here are a few…
Jesus had saved a Galilean family from social embarrassment by turning water into wine during a wedding banquet (Jn. 2:11). Jesus had agreed to meet with Nicodemus, a high-raking Jewish leader, in order to answer some his deep spiritual questions (Jn. 3:2). Jesus had spent time with a Samaritan woman and revealed to her His messianic identity even though she was a social outcast…and a Samaritan (Mt. 6:11). He had compassion upon the crowds which followed him, enough to feed them through supernatural means (Mt. 14:14ff). Jesus had calmed a storm which had threatened the lives of his disciples (Mk 4:39). He had confronted an adulteresses’ sin with grace by offering forgiveness to her instead of condemnation (Jn. 8:11). He had made space in his schedule for children, offering them hugs and prayers of blessing (Mk. 10:16). Jesus had wept with his friends while grieving the loss of their brother (Jn. 11.35).
While Jesus was healing and teaching with the Father’s authority, he was also modeling perfect love to his disciples and to us. Each personal encounter in his public ministry sets for us an example of love.
Of course, it is Jesus’ willingness to suffer and die which most clearly demonstrates the love that he commands us to live out. We know that Jesus could have avoided the cross, but he gave himself up willingly (Jn. 10:18). We know that he could have debated his way out, but he submitted to the will of the Father (Jn. 6.38). We know that he could have condemned his accusers, but instead he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Lk. 23:34).
That historic moment serves as the pinnacle of manifested love which is accessible to us by faith. Consider that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8)!
Let us not forget that Jesus’ work on the cross not only redeems our souls, but also models sacrificial love. Jesus has taught us how to love and now His spirit empowers us to live it out. May we be just as willing to put others first as Jesus was for us!
Lord, help us to follow your example and love as you love. Amen.