Summary: The love that Jesus gives to everyone is one that brings eternal life
John 13:1-17, 31-35
On the evening before He died, Jesus was aware of the shame and agony that awaited him. This night on which Jesus shared Passover with His friends, has come to be marked by the Christian world as ‘Mandatum/Mandate’, or ‘Maundy Thursday’ because Jesus commanded his followers to remember Him and continue His teachings. In total love, Jesus wrapped a slave's towel around his waist, dropped to his knees and began one of the most menial tasks of the culture at that time: washing the dirty feet of his friends. It was the humiliating work of a slave, not the dignified work of a Master, let alone the Son of God.
Jesus knew that he was dining with Judas, who would betray him, and Peter, who would deny him three times. Yet he knelt before them and gently washed their feet anyway, modeling for them and for us a radical love that goes far beyond one’s worthiness. In this kind of love there is not only a willingness, but a plea for reconciliation - for broken relationships to be made whole again. The creator of the universe, through Jesus, willingly humbled Himself to reach out to the hearts of those who have fallen away and become lost, who would deny and kill Him. This is the sacrificial love of service.
William Gladstone, a member of the British parliament in the mid-1800s, announced the death of Princess Alice to the House of Commons. With the announcement, he told this story. The little daughter of Princess Alice was seriously ill with diphtheria. The doctors told the princess not to kiss her little daughter because that would endanger her own life by breathing in the child’s breath. Once when the child was struggling to breathe, the mother, forgetting herself entirely, took the little one into her arms to keep her from choking to death. Gasping and struggling for her life, the child said, “Mumma, kiss me!” Only thinking about her dying child and without a thought for herself the mother tenderly kissed her daughter. She got diphtheria and soon after Princess Alice died.
Real love forgets self. Real love knows no danger. Real love does not count the cost.
The gospel text today is about this kind of love:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just like I have loved you; that you also love one another.” (John 13:34).
Take note that love is not an option for the followers of Jesus. He says,
“A new commandment I give to you”. (John 13:34)
Not a suggestion, not a recommendation. A COMMANDMENT! This is not just a command to love our families or those who love us, not to try to love others, but to love everyone the same way that Jesus loves us.
“Love one another, just like I have loved you;” (John 13:34)
There is no way around this commandment of Jesus,
“Love one another.” (John 13:34)
Why does Jesus command us to love? He gives this commandment because there is a part of every one of us that rebels against the idea of pure, unconditional love. Despite the example that we have in Jesus’ total and unconditional love for us – there is a part of us that says such love is out of place in the world in which we live. There is a part of us that says – “sure, loving others is great – up to a point….”
Isn’t that what we do all the time?
We draw a line and say, “That’s how much we are prepared to love the next person”. We draw a line and say, “That’s how far we are prepared to do a kind deed for someone else”. We draw a line and say, “Those are the people we are willing to love”.
We are happy to love a selective way. We are comfortable with love that doesn’t make us extend ourselves to strangers, unpleasant or funny-looking people, unkind or uncouth people, mean or vengeful people, people who make us feel uncomfortable.
But that is not the commandment! What Jesus says is quite plain. We should love others in the same way that Jesus loves us. He loved the unclean, the demented, the socially outcast; He loved the righteous and powerful who would kill Him, and the weak and fearful who could not even defend Him. His love is a complete giving of Himself as friend, teacher, Son, healer, and finally in His death. We see that on the cross.
He had no thought for His own safety, but put his own life at risk. He was prepared to risk pain and suffering, even death, because in His love for us, He would not deny the truth or the way to eternity He was showing us.