John 13:34-35 (ESV) | “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.
Read and consider this verse: “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 ESV)
Today we pause to engage with Maundy Thursday, the day Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples and gave them a new commandment. Maundy comes from the Latin mandatum novum meaning “new commandment.” Therefore, you could rightly call today “New Commandment Thursday.”
Take a few moment and let your imagination fill your mind with images of the last supper, Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, and sharing his parting words.
At first glance, it seems strange that Jesus says that he is giving the disciples a new commandment.
Notice the similarities between the command in Leviticus and the one Jesus gave to his disciples: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18 ESV)
The command to love your neighbor is not new. However, the way we are commanded to love our neighbor is new. In the Old Covenant, we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. In the New Covenant, we are to love our neighbors as Jesus loved us. Take a moment to consider what the difference is between loving others as you love yourself and loving others as Jesus loved us.
“… He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciple’s feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:4-5 ESV)
Here is a famous picture of Jesus’ love. In washing the disciple’s feet, Jesus showed us what his love looks like. His love is selfless, humble and unmerited.
Read why Jesus gave for washing the disciple’s feet: “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” (John 13:15-16 ESV)
Jesus is the Lord of all, yet he humbled himself to the position of a servant. This teaches us that there are no lengths to which we should not go to serve others.
It is a sobering fact to realize that those of us who have been served by the only one to whom all service is due, have regularly refused to serve others yet still claim the name of Jesus. How proud are our hearts? How quickly are we to receive the service of God and refuse to serve others? Take a moment to consider, lament, confess and repent of the ways you have refused to love and serve others the way Jesus has loved and served you.
Jesus lifted up the command of love from the Old Testament. No longer are we to love others inasmuch as we are capable of loving ourselves. Instead, we love them as Jesus loved us. Loving others as you love yourself means you love them at your level. To love someone below your station lifts them up to your level and loves them there. It does not lower oneself but elevates someone else. However, Jesus loved others by lowering himself below the station of those who should have served him. This love is both perfectly and ultimately shown in the cross of Jesus Christ.
Ponder on these words “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8 ESV)
Ultimately, it was Jesus laying down his life on the cross that taught his disciples and the world the lesson that washing feet could only partly portray. Jesus not only gave us an example of the New Commandment on the cross, but also the means to fulfill it. First, the mindset necessary to love others this way is ours in Christ (Philippians. 2:5). Second, the fullest way we can love someone is by pointing them to how Jesus has loved them. For no matter how much we lay down our lives for others, no sacrifice but Jesus can save them.
Read the words Jesus spoke before washing the disciple’s feet. “… Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ Jesus said to him, ‘The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.'” (John 13:8-10 ESV)
The real washing that comes from Jesus’ type of love makes us completely clean. This is the washing that comes from his blood, shed for us through his sacrificial love.
Prayer: Take a moment and thank Jesus for bowing down like a servant to give up his life to make us clean. Ask him to empower you to love others with this type of love and to embolden you to share the news of his love with those around you.