“This is how everyone will recognize that you are My disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:35 (The Message)
By my best guesstimation, there must be at least 70+ hard sayings that Jesus made throughout the Gospels. John 6:53 truly is at the top of the list because this one made all those folks who followed the guy who provided the “free lunch” turn tail and walk away. I can imagine those people saying to themselves, “Eat flesh? Drink Blood? Nah, that’s just heresy.” Another would be from Matthew 27:46, as many would hear, “Eli, Eli, Lama Sabachthani?” (My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?).
But ultimately, I believe the hardest saying comes from The Upper Room. Jesus gets done washing the feet of His disciples (which in itself is a head scratcher for many) then they sit back and ready themselves for the Passover feast. Judas is pretty much told to beat feet outta there (after all, you’re betraying the Son of Man) and Jesus will announce to those remaining He’s going somewhere where they can’t. And before Peter can get a rebuke out (he did that frequently) Jesus will give them a new commandment.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciple, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Now the part that escapes most of us is what is said after this. Peter will challenge Jesus, this isn’t nothing new, but the key that makes all this “love one another” stuff is when Simon Peter says, “I will lay down my life for You.” Of course, Jesus has to tell Peter the unfortunate part, “Really? You’ll lay down your life for Me? The truth is before the rooster crows, you’ll deny Me three times.” So, we’ll focus on Peter’s folly because it easier for us to do. Peter and his big mouth had gotten him in trouble in the past and it is easy to focus on his failure as a disciple this way but this is the night before Jesus will do exactly what Peter said he’ll do…lay down His life for us.
The commandment to love one another wasn’t a new concept for the disciples of Jesus. Leviticus 19:18b would have told them to “love your neighbor as yourself” but what was new was they were now being told to love their neighbor because Christ has loved us. If they were truly walking in the dust of their Rabbi, the disciples would have seen that Jesus was setting an example for them. It’s not that Jesus was expecting them to do anything different than He, Himself had not already done but that practice the various aspects of Christ’s love.
The foot washing that starts of John 13 gives us an example of the sacrificial love Jesus had for His disciples. I mean, how many of your teachers or bosses starts off with a foot washing before class or the work day? Probably not many but wouldn’t our tone to the day be different if that happened? Hmm… And how about what we see at the end of John’s Gospel account? Jesus on the shore, cooking a meal and totally prepared to forgive Simon Peter Bar Jonah for having a case of the “foot-n-mouth”? That was a forgiving love that Jesus was able to extend even after being denied. Makes me wonder if I’ll be just as forgiven for my own moments of denial.
But then there’s John 13:35. What do you do with that? Genuine, deep-seated, constant, and self-sacrificing love for one another is supposed to be the distinguishing trait of those who dare to call themselves a Christian, but what would an atheist say about you? Would that same compassion that Christ had for those around Him be felt by someone who had no clue about the hope that’s in you? Or would you have to announce it so you could stand out in the world around you? I’m asking you as I ask myself because I wonder if I even make a dent to those around me. I sometimes got my own Peter moments to deal with too…hmmm.
At the end of the day, unless you’re one to enjoy keeping your joy to yourself, that to be known as a Jesus Freak, you must have Christ-like love. You could try and shortcut this by saying you love others like you love yourself, but that isn’t loving others as Christ loved you. You can hang a cross around your neck to symbolize that you identify as a follower of Christ, and that’s all fine and good BUT do you have it in you to actually hang on that cross? Just a few things to ponder on as 2021 kicks into gear. Amen?
Written by Chris Hughes: Chris is a husband, a father, has an education in Biblical doctrine and is a graduate of The Colony of Mercy. He has been a Freedom Fighter contributor since 2008. You can email him at email@example.com.