Right before Jesus’ farewell discourse to prepare the disciples for his death and departure from the community (John 14:1–17:26), Jesus gives them a deceptively simple commandment: “Love one another.” He doesn’t stop there; his additional instruction about how to love one another—”just as I have loved you”—suggests that there is more to this loving than might first appear. Jesus essentially wraps the essence of who God is and why humans are created into this “new” commandment, “Love one another.”
By this point the disciples—and the readers of the Gospel of John—have learned from Jesus by watching him love, teach, heal, and interact with people. The disciples know how Jesus has loved and cared for them, but can they now love like Jesus? Would they wash one another’s feet as Jesus has? Would they break and serve bread while sharing the cup in remembrance of him as Jesus has? Would they calm one another’s fears as Jesus did on the sea to Capernaum? Would they die for one another?
Jesus has modeled how and whom to love; now he explicitly asks his followers to love “just as I have loved you.” To love like Jesus means to be present and empathic to people in times of need, as Jesus was for Mary and Martha after the death of Lazarus. To love like Jesus is to feed the multitudes by working for the equitable distribution of food. To love like Jesus is to heal by ensuring that everyone has access to medical and psychiatric care. To love like Jesus is to offer mercy to the penitent thief by reforming our unjust justice systems. And to love like Jesus is to receive as siblings in Christ all seekers of the good news. By these works of compassion everyone will know we are his disciples.
Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on us as we strive to love one another as you have loved us. Amen.
Change can be difficult. It is easy to get comfortable with what is familiar. In Acts, some in Jerusalem criticize Peter for having fellowship with the Gentiles. Peter explains that his actions are not his own idea but are inspired by a vision from God. This change leads to the spread of the gospel. Revelation speaks of a new heaven and a new earth. God cares for the earth that God created, but at the end of time everything will be changed and made better. In John, Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment, namely that they should love one another as he has loved them. This is how others will know that they are truly Jesus’ disciples. Psalm 148 is not about change but is pure praise for the works of the Lord.
Read Acts 11:1-18. God calls Peter to initiate change. How do you respond to changes in your church’s culture? How do you discern what changes are from God?
Read Psalm 148. The next time you sing, focus on praising God and sharing God’s love through your words and melody.
Read Revelation 21:1-6. How do you live a full life while waiting for the new heaven and new earth?
Read John 13:31-35. In the wake of betrayal, Jesus calls his followers to sacrificial love. When have you needed to heed the call to this type of love?
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