Summary: A sermon on the command of Jesus to love one another.

TOPIC: ?A New Commandment?

TEXT: John 13:34-35

Here?s the scene, from the 13th chapter of the Gospel of John: Jesus and his disciples are in the Upper Room. It?s the Last Supper. Judas has already left to do his evil deed of betrayal. Jesus and the other eleven disciples are still at the table, and Jesus is telling them how he wants them to carry on, how he wants them to live after he is gone. And this is what he says:

?Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples ? when they see the love you have for each other.?

Now, you?ve probably heard sermons about the love command before, but this new command must be important. It?s part of Jesus? final words to his disciples, kind of his death bed wishes. And he doesn?t say: ?Guys, let me make a few suggestions about how you might live in the future after I?m gone.? No, he says: ?Let me give you a new command.?

So that?s my first point: Jesus has commanded us to love one another. Have you ever tried to make yourself love someone or something? Have you ever tried to force yourself to feel love? If you have, then you know that it is almost impossible to make yourself feel something. It?s hard to make yourself like someone or something, much less make yourself love!

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was in the first grade. I don?t remember my teacher?s name. I don?t remember much about who was in my class. I remember the principal, Mr. Ballew. I?ll tell you why in a minute. A lot of other things are fuzzy, but I remember the day I was detained at lunch! Our class went to lunch at the same time everyday. When we went through the line, we were dished up whatever was on the menu for the day. We didn?t have much choice in the matter, as I recall. Do first graders have any choices in their lunch food today? Anyway, on the menu that particular day was broccoli. I hated broccoli. When I got to our table and began to eat, I pushed the broccoli to the side. No way was I going to eat the broccoli. I probably hadn?t ever tasted broccoli, but I knew that I didn?t like it, and I wasn?t going to eat it!

That?s when my teacher, whose name I can?t remember, stepped into the picture. ?Roger, you know the rule. Everyone has to clean their plate.? Well, it was child abuse, plain and simple! DHR should have had magnetic cards on the lunchroom tables with an emergency phone number! I looked at my teacher and said: ?I don?t like broccoli.? And she simply repeated the command: ?Everyone has to clean their plate.? I was defiant. Broccoli would not cross my lips. My tongue would not touch the stuff. No way, no how!

Miss-I-don?t-remember-her-name said: ?You can?t leave the lunch room until you clean your plate.? I sat there. She called the class to attention and told them that everyone was going back to the room -- except Roger. I was mortified. I sat there as my classmates took their lunch dishes to the dirty-dish window, lined up, and left the lunchroom without me. That?s when the principal, Mr. Ballew, got into the act. I remember his name because several grades later, he delivered the paddle blows when I got ratted out for calling some kid a less-than-complimentary-name on the way home from school. Mr. Ballew was an Alfred Hitchcock look alike. You know, kind of round, pear shaped. After school he smoked cigars. He was an imposing, frightening figure. He said, ?Son, you?ve got to clean your plate.? I started to cry. I took a bite, and chewed it slowly, trying with all my might not to spit it out or get sick. When I had swallowed it, Mr. Ballew left the room, too. The older kids were coming in for their lunch periods, and there I sat, tears falling into my broccoli, and I slowly took another bite and swallowed hard.

It seemed like I sat there for an eternity. Finally, the Lunchroom Lady got into the act. As I sat crying, she came to check on my progress ? and took pity on me. She was a woman of great compassion. At least that?s the way I remember her, because she took my tear soaked plate of half-eaten broccoli to the dirty-dish window, helped me dry my tears, and sent me back to class. I was nearly gagging from the taste of broccoli in my mouth. You can?t force yourself to like broccoli.

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