As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, “The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him. And since God receives glory because of the Son, he will give his own glory to the Son, and he will do so at once. Dear children, I will be with you only a little longer. And as I told the Jewish leaders, you will search for me, but you can’t come where I am going. So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
We have a tradition of gathering for Communion and worship on Maundy Thursday, the day before Good Friday. We remember how Jesus washed the disciples’ feet and spoke comforting words to them one last time before going to the cross. We celebrate Communion because it was on that night that Jesus told his followers to remember him in the bread and cup. Church tradition has long named that day Maundy Thursday, borrowing the Latin term for commandment or mandate. Jesus gave us a “new commandment” to love each other, and it should shape how we live out our faith in the image of our Lord’s self-sacrificing love.
This new commandment may not sound new to our ears. Love has always been at the center of how God reveals himself to us and at the heart of how He wants us to treat others. What Jesus said that night, however, raised the stakes in significant ways for his followers. First, Jesus calls us to prioritize love for each other in the church. Of course, we are also to love our neighbors, including everyone in need around us, but relationships within the family of believers must come first in our hearts and be defined by self-giving love. Jesus also asks us to love each other in ways that imitate his love for us. That means sacrificial love. It means putting the needs of others in the church ahead of your own needs. It means giving yourself away for the sake of lifting up a brother or sister. Then Jesus tells us that our love for one another will be a sign to the world around us. People will identify who we are by our love. They will see in us a reflection of Jesus. Even unbelievers will be drawn toward our Savior when they witness the ways we show love to each other in the church.
It might be tempting to dismiss Jesus’ words as we lament the world’s cynicism toward the church and their rejection of Biblical values. We may have a hard time seeing how anything we do in the church could impact unbelievers when so many seem hardened against things of faith. But we believe Jesus’ words, and in faith we trust that loving each other is one way – maybe even the best way – to prove to the world who we are and who Jesus is. Love in the name of Jesus has always been the most effective form of evangelism, whether it’s compassion shown to people in need or loving fellowship within the church family. The Spirit will use our acts of self-giving love to build up the church and to draw people to faith. Jesus gave us that command and made us that promise.
Father, You are love. You treat me with compassion and grace through Jesus Christ. Teach me how to love my neighbors and how to love my church family. I pray that my loving words and actions would show the world who Jesus is. Amen.
Pastor Mike Mirakian