“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13: 34-35
Jesus’ command to love at the Last Supper is no great surprise. He had lived His life and ministry as a living example of love, hadn’t he? But he tells his disciples that they, too, will be known throughout the world as His followers by the way they hew to His particular brand of love. What set Jesus’ love so apart from the way we normally use the term? Most of us, I would hazard to guess, if asked, would be able to define love and, hopefully, have known something of love ourselves. “I love you” are three words we use frequently (one could say often use carelessly) to a spouse, child, friend, or even about our favorite brand of coffee. But Jesus tells his disciples that they are to love in such a way that people will know that they belong to Him. How does one love in a fashion as to mark ourselves as Jesus’ own?
On this Maundy Thursday, as we are in a time of bearing witness to the Passion of Jesus, we have our answer to the vexing questions of Jesus and love. Jesus, on the night before His crucifixion, ties a towel around His waist and washes His disciple’s feet. He then gives them the gift of His Body and Blood, the first Eucharist, a source of continuing strength, remembrance, and a pathway to enter into the grace of God in Christ over and over. And, then, we look at the lengths that Jesus goes to for our sake: abandonment by His friends, denial by Peter, betrayal by Judas, mocking, beating and spitting from authorities and soldiers; and agonizing death on the Cross. Jesus’ love transcends getting anything in return for that love, is totally selfless, and is signified by complete obedience to God’s will for His life. We become recognized as Christ’s followers by proclaiming His life and love, His sacrifice, and living a life of love and hope born of our confidence in the promises of God in Christ. In Christ, our love becomes hope. Through Christ, our love bears all and endures all things. The love of God in Jesus Christ never ends. When we live in the shadow of Christ’s love, we love with an intensity that can change the world; a love that makes and marks us as Jesus’ own.