Summary: Most people love only when it benefits them or meets their needs. Even though it is forbidden by God to hate another person, to nurse a grudge or to seek vengance, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” was the rule of the day, Jesus calls us to love
In our Scripture today, Jesus is sharing His last evening with His disciples before He is crucified. They’re together in the Upper Room and Jesus began the evening with washing the disciple’s feet, teaching them humility and servanthood. While they were eating, Jesus says that one of them will betray Him. In the midst of the resulting questions and turmoil, Judas quietly leaves. Jesus then begins to talk about what it means to be His disciple, his last instructions, if you will. ”Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved 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.”
Did you hear how Jesus started his words? “Let me give you a new command.” Love one another is not a new command! I’ve been hearing that ever since I was a kid! In fact, it’s an OLD command, as in Old Testament! Leviticus 19:18 says "Love your neighbor as yourself." That Scripture dates to more than a 1000 years before Jesus was born! How can He say that this is something new? What makes this command new is that we are being commanded to love people the way Jesus loved people! To understand what that means, we have to get back to the original language of the New Testament. In the Greek language, there are more than 13 words used that we translate as love. One of those is “Philia” which is brotherly love. That’s the love friends have for one another. Two other words in Greek translated as love, but not found in the Bible are ”Storge” (store gay) which is Familial Love. This is the kind of love a mother has for a child. Third is Eros which is romantic love. This is the passionate love couples have for one another in the first few years. But Jesus chooses to use Agape. This is best defined as unconditional, selfless, sacrificial love. This is the love which Jesus showed as he washed the disciples feet, a task so lowly that even a servant wasn’t asked to do this. This is the love which Jesus would show on the cross by dying for our sins. It is this love that God wants us to have for others. This is what makes this a new command because most people love only when they are loved. Most people love only when it benefits them or meets their needs. Even though it is forbidden by God to hate another person, to nurse a grudge or to seek vengance, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” was the rule of the day, Jesus calls us to love unconditionally, selflessly and sacrificially, while at the same time denying ourselves. This is why his words are a new command.
There are several things we learn about extending love to others. First, loving others is challenging. Have you ever tried to make yourself love someone? Have you ever tried to force yourself to feel love? It’s next to impossible. Yet Jesus commanded us to love one another! A command is not a suggestion or a request. A command is an order! We need that force and authority behind us telling us to just do it! So Jesus commands us to love one another! Loving others is difficult. There are a lot of people in the world who are not very likeable, much less loveable. The world is filled with mean, ugly, hateful people! Even when we fall in love, it’s difficult to maintain those warm feelings for very long. It’s tough for us to love someone all the time, even when we fall in love! And our tendency is when the going gets tough in loving someone, we usually give up. It’s too hard. It’s too difficult. So Jesus commands us to, “Love one another” in other words, not give up but just do it! But even that’s not enough. How do we make ourselves feel love for people?
That leads us to the second point, love is a response. Jesus goes on to say, “In the same way I loved you, love one another.” In these words, the disciples would have recalled the times when Jesus overwhelmingly loved them. When He called them to be a disciple in training to become a rabbi, their childhood dream long forgotten after they had been told they didn’t make the cut. When Jesus came to them in the midst of the storm. When he forgave them as the disciples fought over which of them would be the greatest in the kingdom of God. When he sent them out to minister and heal and how even though they failed miserably, he built them back up and loved them. When he taught them and they failed to understand again and again, the patience and love he showed as he taught them anew. When they failed to understand who Jesus was or even the extent of his power and knowledge, he continued to love and nurture them. When they rebuked Jesus because he said he must go to the cross, he lovingly corrected them. When they tried to intervene on the arrest of Jesus, he looked upon them with compassion at their lack of understanding. When they denied Jesus in his darkest hour and fell away from him, he reclaimed them, forgave them and loved them. And if all that wasn’t enough, in the cross Jesus showed the depth and breadth and height of his love for them as he died on the cross for their sins.