Summary: On the eve of the terrible crisis of the cross, Jesus gathers His followers around Him to teach His last lesson on love.
Jesus’ Lesson On Love
John 13:34-35 "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
On the eve of the terrible crisis of the cross, Jesus gathers His followers around Him to take the Jewish Passover. This will be the last Passover any Israelite can correctly take as a prophetic prefigure of the coming sacrifice of the Messiah-Redeemer. He uses the symbols of the Old Cov- enant to institute His Supper, the Supper of Remembrance, that will mark the culmination of the old and the beginning of the new when He cries out from the cross, "It is finished.."
It is characteristic of His ministry of perfection, that He uses this occasion to teach the great lessons found in chapters thirteen through seventeen of this book and those recorded in the parallel gospels. His great love, concern and compassion, compels Him to go even further and show His disciples the way of love in the object lesson of washing their feet. This last lesson of love could be summarized by the statement, "Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end." As He faces the awful agony of the cross, He pauses for a moment to teach us love and humility. The way of Christ and the way of the cross is the way of love. Paul described it as "..the most excellent way." Within hours He will flesh out this lesson on the cross. Let us look at Jesus' last lesson on how to love.
JESUS LOVED BY HIS SACRIFICE. The cross is God's plus sign in His love equation. "But God commends his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Ro. 5:8 ) Without giving there can be no real loving. "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich." (II Cor. 8:9) Jesus' last lesson on love illustrates the ultimate motivation for selfless service.
It has often been said that often what we do in the Lord’s service is not nearly as important as why we do it. It is sometimes quite discouraging to observe the continuing procession of people who seem to feel that obedience to God is a great burden rather than a glorious blessing. It would seem that they shoulder the burden of simple service as if it is something to be cast off at first opportunity and abandoned with the flimsiest excuse or pretext. At any gathering of pastors, you will find this phenom- enon is the most common source of discouragement expressed.
It seems a puzzling paradox that too many of those for whom our Saviour bled and died must be constantly encouraged to regularly attend the house of God and meet with Him and Honour and Glorify Him. They rather not be reminded to give of their substance to the Lord. They ignore all urgings to personally witness to the world of His saving grace. This contradicts our calling to joyous service motivated by love and gratitude. John said that if we really do love Him we will keep His commandments and that His commandments will not be difficult or burdensome. (See I John 5:3) He said this after having said we love Him because He first loved us.
Paul repeatedly appealed to the members of the early churches to predicate their service upon the fact of Christ's great loving sacrifice. He calls the people of God to live the crucified life and present themselves a living sacrifice in the Lord's service. (Romans 12:1-3) Why? Out of love and gratitude for our salvation. An attitude of gratitude must under gird acceptable service.
The motivation of His glorification will validate our service in the eyes of the Lord. "For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: And [that] he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again." (II Cor. 5:14-15) In His lesson of loving sacrifice our Saviour shows us that real love can best be expressed through sacrificial giving. On the cross our Saviour paid the ultimate price to meet our desperate need as sinners needing a Saviour. We are called to meet the needs of those around us, even when it costs to do so.
I read a story a time back about a man named James Harrison. Since I spent a number of years in the State of Arkansas in the U. S., the story was especially interesting. In fact, my family and I departed this same airport in December 1969 in a 707 to make our way to Australia: being led here to plant churches and a Christian School. James Harrison was a staff member of the Quachita Baptist University. The University Choir had made a tour in Europe and was returning home. As the plane touched down at Little Rock, a storm struck. The plan skidded off the runway and the cabin was ripped open.