This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.
In just a few hours Jesus will demonstrate the greatness of His love by laying down His life. But before He goes to the cross, Jesus calls on all who would follow Him to love as He has loved. Here is both the measure and source of our love: “as he has loved us”. Jesus defines love as sacrifice, as the laying down of one’s life. Few of us will have opportunity to lay down our lives for others. If we do, it could happen only once. The love Jesus calls for is a love that we will show daily. It is a love that will mean giving ourselves for the good of others. It will mean paying a price in order to meet the needs of those around us.
We might wonder how Jesus could command love. We tend to associate love with a feeling, with a fondness for a person. If you don’t feel love for someone, what can you do? How can Jesus command love for people when we don’t feel any love, or like for them?
Jesus commands love because love is a decision, not a feeling. We decide to act for the good of another, to put them first regardless of how we might feel. We make a choice out of obedience to Jesus to be gracious, kind, long-suffering, forgiving, and even to wash feet that are filthy. This is the love Jesus commands. It is this love that identifies us as Jesus’ friends, as we live in Him, and He in us.
The church father, Jerome, tells that when the Apostle John was very old, he was so weak he had to be carried into the church in Ephesus. At the end of each church meeting, this beloved disciple would be helped to his feet and asked to speak to the people. Each time John would repeat the same few words: “Little children, let us love one another”. In time the people began to weary of hearing the same words, and asked why John always said the same thing. “It is the Lord’s command”, was John’s reply. “And if this only is done, it is enough.”
I asked Jesus, “How much do you love me?”
And Jesus said, “This much”.
Then he stretched out his arms and died.
What are there in Jesus’ words today to know; to feel; to do?