There are days within our lives that we wake up with the expectation that the day ahead will be challenging. Perhaps we have a meeting about a particular challenge our organization faces or with a particular person whom we find challenging. Many possibilities exist and when the day ahead is expected to be a challenge, we often do not sleep well the night before.
I wonder how Jesus slept on the last night He would sleep. While the events leading up to Jesus crucifixion account for about 25% of each gospel, we do not have any real description of His sleep. We can tell by His actions that He was not tired and irritable like many of us might be which is amazing given the task ahead of Him. Sure, Jesus challenged the Sanhedrin as they continually questioned Him on the Tuesday before He was crucified, but we do not get any sense of Him being curt or otherwise rude (unless you want to consider His actions against the money-changers and sellers in the Temple, but they were being rude to God as Jesus made clear).
Even on Jesus last night with His disciples, He was calm. He was in control. And with all that faced Him in the coming hours, Jesus focus was still on serving and loving others. That absolutely amazes me! In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul wrote about making sure to be able to take the Lord’s Supper in good conscious (v 27-28). Given the divisions within the church at Corinth, Paul’s statement was a challenge. But Jesus did it. Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. And that includes Judas. John 13.26-30 make it very clear that Judas was still among the group after Jesus had washed their feet (John 13.4-5).
Why would Jesus do this?
And that is the last part of this great chapter in John. The verses that follow include Jesus giving them a new commandment: “love one another…” If the command stopped there, we could make all kinds of excuses for not loving others and maybe, maybe, find some justification.
But the command did not stop at “love one another.” Jesus continued: “…just as I have loved you.”
Ok, now we are beginning to be challenged.
Perhaps the disciples did not realize what Jesus was saying at the time, but it could not have been lost on them for long. Perhaps it was the next evening when they reflected on what had transpired over the previous couple of days, but eventually the idea that Jesus loving others and Jesus serving others included Him loving and serving Judas.
Again, we do not know about the sleep patterns of Jesus from the previous nights. But we know what awaited Him in a matter of hours. And a part of what awaited, and all that would come because of it, was because He was betrayed by one of His disciples…one of the disciples whom He loved…and whom He had humbled Himself to serve. And, lest we forget that Jesus knew what Judas was to do, we are reminded in the preceding verses that Jesus knew very well who His betrayer was (John 13.26 and 27).
But to further reinforce what the disciples were to do, Jesus continued the command concluding with the words, “…you also are to love one another.” Just in case the disciples missed the significance of the first part of the command, Jesus restates the words “love one another.”
I must admit that I wish anyone else had said these words. You probably do too. For instance, you might look at the title of this post and say, “What right do you (Andy) have to command me to love others?”
It’s a fair question. And my answer is that I have no right on my own to do so. Why? Because I do not love others correctly. Just as I do not always love God as I should. In the last two sentences, I have just admitted to breaking the Great Commandment (love God and love others) and the New Commandment (love one another). So, I have no right to command you to love.
But I do have every right to remind you to love even as I remind myself of that need to love. I can state it as a command (like the title of this post does), but not because of my authority; rather, I do so with the authority of Jesus.
And I do so remind myself that even if I am tired…even if yesterday was bad and tomorrow may be worse…even if the people around me are not kind, or worse want to cause me harm…even if any, or all, of those possibilities are true, or any number of other possibilities may be true, I am to love others because Jesus loves me.
So, yes, I will fail. And I may fail more often than I succeed. But that does not excuse me from needing to love others. But as I continue to grow into the man that God desires me to be, I can learn to love more…to love better…to love others…to love myself…and most importantly to love God, because He first loved me.
And the same is true for you.
“We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4.19)