Posted by Dave Brokaw
Today is traditionally called Maundy Thursday, from the Latin mandātum, command – so it’s really Commandment Thursday. Jesus gives these commandments to his disciples, and they’re found in John 14 and 15:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 14:34-35)
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:9-11,13)
Were these actually new commandments? The Lord had certainly talked about love before – love for God, our neighbors (which really meant everyone), and even our enemies. But this feels deeper and different, a set of final instructions from the God-man who knows everything is about to change, to his disciples who don’t really understand yet. And they’re all about love.
Is this hard to do, to love other Christians? Maybe it wouldn’t be, if Christians weren’t just “recovering sinners” themselves, and Jesus hadn’t said “as I have loved you” (that’s a high bar!). Or “shouldn’t be”, if “other Christians” would just remember that they’re supposed to be the servants!! But if you’re like me, with a lot more “home time” these days, you’re probably found it’s not hard to slide from love into self-focus, annoyance, and even anger.
Some other reminders of what communal love looks like, if the above wasn’t enough:
- Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant. (Matthew 20:26)
- Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. (Eph 5:22)
- Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. (Eph 5:25)
- Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them. (Lk 17:4)
And why does Jesus want so much for his disciples, and for us, to live in a communion of love for each other and with Him? It will show the world we’re different, we’re His disciples. But it’s also because He loves us and wants something for us that the world can’t give – freedom from sin and the true joy that comes only from a relationship with Him. The real Love Letter is His body and blood, his sacrifice to achieve that for us on the cross:
“This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me. This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”
Arguably the best summary of what would happen next, on the day we call Good Friday, is found in Isaiah. When he was tried by the Jews and Romans, Jesus chose to not defend himself and was executed based on trumped-up charges.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. (Isaiah 53:6-7)
Honestly, I don’t like being called a sheep. It doesn’t suit my pride! But it’s what I am, even though I love the Lord and want to follow Him. I stray. I have a sin problem that, like the SARS-CoV-2 virus, can destroy me and I have absolutely no way of fixing on my own. But Jesus, as the Lion of Judah and God of the Universe, did not have to take the role of a mute sheep or a lamb to the slaughter. He did not have to take my sin on himself. And yet He chose to do that because of His love for you and me.
Discussion/Application: How is your love relationship with the Lord and with the Christians He’s put in your life? Is it characterized by servanthood, submission, and sacrifice? Does it bring joy?
Bullet Prayer for the day: Lord, thank you for becoming a “sheep” for me – for willingly giving yourself to take care of a sin problem I don’t like to think about, but can’t ignore. I love you, and want to constantly remain in Your love. Help me to do that, and to share that love contagiously and freely with everyone You put in my life.