“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35
At the celebration of the Passover, Jesus serves His disciples by washing their feet, a job only the lowliest of servants would have done. Right before Jesus gives His disciples this new commandment, He gently tells them that He will only be with them a little longer. “You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’” (John 13:33b). Then He says it: “You are to love each other JUST AS I have loved you.”
In order to properly understand what this means, it’s essential that we dig deep into who Jesus is and how He has loved the disciples, as well as us.
Who is Jesus? Throughout Scripture, we see that Jesus is the second person of the Godhead, the Son of God. He is one in essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, so He is God, and at the same time, He has His own special role within the Godhead. He is the Messiah, the Anointed One by God to save His people from their sins (John 1:34, John 10:30, John 21:26-28, Matthew 1:21, Matthew 16:15-17). Therefore, Jesus is holy, perfect, sovereign, good, patient, righteous, gracious, just, pure, merciful, faithful, all-powerful, humble, and loving.
Now, how has Jesus loved the disciples and us? He taught the disciples, exhibited patience toward them, served them, and developed a deep friendship with them. He is this way with us too! Most amazingly, He was humbly born of a virgin on this earth, lived perfectly in the place of His chosen ones, took their sin upon Himself, received all of the Father’s wrath for their sin as He died in their place upon a Roman cross, was buried in a tomb, and then He rose again after three days in order to extend to them, to us, the invitation of eternal life! He is a loving Rescuer who has pursued and forgiven His own. If you have trusted upon Him as the only One who could save you, then He has pursued, forgiven, and rescued you! He also continues to pursue and forgive you every day!
Now that we have gotten to meditate upon our loving Redeemer, how do we respond? “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We go and love others the way Christ has loved us: we pursue, forgive, serve, exhibit patience toward others, demonstrate humility, extend grace and mercy, and choose to be selfless. As Jesus said, in living this way others will know that we are His followers. How do we love this way? This is impossible on our own; we must depend upon the Holy Spirit. We can daily ask Him for help to produce His fruit of love in us. He can help us, and He also wants to help us. When we fail, let us get back up because of Christ’s grace and keep going hand in hand with the Holy Spirit.