Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A New Command

In John 13, Jesus is meeting with his best friends for a meal. He knows what's going to happen next, and as you can imagine, there is so much left that he would like to tell his friends. But first, he gets down on his hands and knees and washes their feet.

I don't know about you, but I feel awkward when people offer me compliments. I appreciate the encouragement, but I never know what to say. "Thank you" doesn't seem adequate and it always seems to imply that you think they're right, which feels arrogant. What do you think the disciples said to Jesus as he washed their feet? "Uh, gee, Jesus, thank you." I think the tension in the room must have been thick, the level of discomfort high, James probably pushed John ahead of him in line to put it off a little longer. They probably all hung back on the far side of the room and Jesus had to call them by name to come. Can you imagine this moment?

Well, if the level of discomfort was high while Jesus washed feet, then I think the level of relief and ease in the room must have been huge when it was finally over. I'm sure Peter was thinking, "Sweet, time to eat. Someone pass the wine." And all of the disciples kicked back, tired from their journey, weary from travel and ready for the Passover meal.

But, Jesus had more to say. First he tells them that one among them will betray him. They look around in confusion - "really, Jesus? After all this time and all we've been through together, you really think one of us is going to turn away from you now and sell out?"

Jesus understood their humanness far more than they did - the temptations, the fears, the insecurities and the weakness. And so, he gives them this most important commandment in John 13:34-35: "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."

Notice Jesus didn't say, "They'll know you're mine if you get everything right," or "They'll know you belong to me if you speak well and pray the best and build the best building." Jesus said, "They'll know you're mine if you love one another."

Jesus had taught his friends a lot in their time together, but more than anything he showed them real love. He showed them what it meant to go out of your way and be inconvenienced and abused for the sake of another. He showed them what it meant to see people we'd rather simply walk past. He demonstrated true brotherhood, the kind that stands up for friends and enemies alike and says, "no one will hurt you, not on my watch." He lived the love of a parent for a child, but he did it for everyone, and said, "I'll take the hurt and the pain so that you can be spared. I'll die so you can live."

We can't walk to the cross with Jesus, revel in his unbelievable love for us, and then keep it to ourselves. Jesus took his last moments, his most sacred moments with his friends and asked them to love each other. You might get dirty, you might get hurt, but it's the only way the world will know we belong to Him.

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