Readings: 1 John 4:7-14; Romans 13:7-10; John 13:1-5; 31-38
I remember listening to an Argentine pastor years ago, Juan Carlos Ortiz was his name. He spoke about preaching on this theme – love one another – as Jesus has loved you.
He preached on the same thing for six months.
In time his elders became concerned. They asked him if he could perhaps choose another theme.
His response was simple. “Until you do it, I will keep preaching it”.
Clearly they had some work to do.
Don’t worry. Six months is not that bad. I heard a story about a preacher on the radio this week – who started a series on Job – and kept going for 24 years. Okay not all the time – just on Sundays – and he did take a break for Easter and Christmas.
In case you thought last week was a challenge – that we should serve one another – here you find the underlying foundation of that service.
Love. This is part two of the message about serving one another. Remember we asked the question: “how will you be remembered” last week. Jesus says they will know we are his followers by our love.
So to the text in John 13.
The Gospel reading is unnerving really. As John begins to unravel Jesus’ teaching on love and the new commandment, Judas whom he also loved, is ominously brought to our attention;
Listen again: Joh 13:1 It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love. (Or – he loved them to the end.) Joh 13:2 The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.
How sad that this man represents the very opposite of what Jesus models and teaches on love. Jesus clearly took a risk on this Zealot.
How secure are you when it comes to taking the risk of loving others? You have to be very clear about who you are in Christ.
Jesus certainly was very clear about his identity and destiny. Look at the next verse:
Joh 13:3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;
Knowing this, he was able to show them the full extent of his love in the first act if you like:
Joh 13:4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. Joh 13:5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. We skipped the debate with Peter in the reading today – his resistance to having his feet washed.
Peter was not what you would call an early adopter of new ideas.
It’s the same today. You preach about things for years, and people resist.
They argue, debate and question – and seem to miss the point entirely. And then they hear someone else speak about it and the lights come on.
Often if and when the penny drops – when they actually get it – they’re unstoppable.
Joh 13:8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” Joh 13:9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
It’s all or nothing Peter.
It’s worth reading the rest of the narrative we missed. Putting it simply, Jesus washed their feet – and they were to do the same. Jesus continues:
Joh 13:16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Joh 13:17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
It kind of reinforces what we talked about last week about serving one another. We don’t have to carry a bowl and towel around with us and wash peoples’ feet all day. The point is that the servant did that chore – and we are actually servants.
The power behind that kind of desire to serve one another is the power of love – God’s love which is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who is given to us (Romans 5:5).
Through John 13 Jesus continues to reveal his plan and it reaches a highlight in verse 33 and 34:
Joh 13:33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. Joh 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
One would hope that our late adopter Peter would pick up on this and say – okay this is important. Jesus is giving a NEW commandment. I’d better take note – maybe write this down.
But no – he’s off on his crazy mission again:
He says this: Joh 13:36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Joh 13:37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
Jesus knows better. He says: Joh 13:38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
You’ve got these two men who are really type A men – wanting to get it done. Judas tries to force Jesus’ hand to overthrow the Romans. Peter wants to lay down his life impulsively. On the spot.
In the meantime – Jesus gives this new commandment. Love one another “as I have loved you”.
Not just washing feet. But giving up his life on the cross.
John backs this up in his first letter in chapter 4: 1Jn 4:9 This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 1Jn 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1Jn 4:11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
The real challenge is working out what this sacrificial love means in our modern world.
Do we know what this is? This is not about loving your neighbour – meaning wanting the best for them (as yourself).
It’s about loving each other as Jesus loved us. He is the model, the standard, the template. We are to love each other as Jesus loved us:
– here – across the wider church – and reaching the persecuted church.
WHAT DOES LOVING EACH OTHER MEAN TO YOU?
I had fascinating conversations with people through the week about this. We talked about how we need to stop petty arguments becoming big issues. That Jesus’ love is sacrificial. That it means giving time to people to help in practical ways. That it involves honesty – that Jesus took on a parenting role with his disciples. That training was involved in sending them out and then evaluating how they did. That it’s very hard if you want to be honest. That we need to resolve things – and tell people gently when they are out of line. That integrity and discipline is involved.
I found his poem which may speak to you about risk-taking in love:
Fully Alive – by Dawna Markova
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.
THINKING FURTHER ABOUT LOVE – here are some thoughts from my reading:
- This is not romantic love, not just being nice, or only loving those who love you back.
- When Jesus washed his followers’ feet, Judas was there. He loved them all.
- This is not a lofty ideal but a reality.
- Jesus’ cross demonstrates that “God so loved the world.”
- We do do it and can do it.
- Some people are very difficult – it doesn’t change our commitment to love them.
- We also fail – but we are in the forgiveness business – and that includes forgiving ourselves.
- Loving as Jesus loved is high-risk behaviour.
My thoughts include these:
Jesus also confronts people who are wrong. As does Paul after the cross – sin still has to be rooted out.
1 Corinthians 13 has love at the centre of all gifts which operate in the church.
I thought we could read it together: Replacing “love is” with “We are” and so forth.
Let’s say together:
Co 13:4 We are patient, we are kind. We do not envy, we do not boast, we are not proud. 1Co 13:5 We are not rude, we are not self-seeking, we are not easily angered, we keep no record of wrongs. 1Co 13:6 We do not delight in evil but rejoice with the truth. 1Co 13:7 We always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere. 1Co 13:8 We never fail. (ok that’s a stretch but it makes the point).
The song “One thing remains” by Chris Quilala helps us:
Higher than the mountains that I face, Stronger than the power of the grave; Constant through the trial and the change, One thing remains [x2]
It has this chorus: Your love never fails it never gives up it never runs out on me [x3]
That’s the point. It’s God’s love working through us. From the indwelling Holy Spirit.
When we are mean and selfish, narcissistic, cliquey, uncaring, we are not living according to the Spirit, but the flesh, what the NIV calls the “sinful nature” which is contrary to God.
In fact we are warned after the cross, after the message of grace, by Paul writing to believers, not to grieve the Holy Spirit. (See Ephesians 4:29-32).
Which as an aside means that quite a lot of us have a wrong theology of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit can be grieved. He is a person. Just by the way – if I hear you pray about the Spirit as a force or as an “it” in church from now on I am going to stop you and make you pray that line again. 🙂
The person of the Holy Spirit works in us, changing our hearts and renewing our minds – and pouring out his love in our hearts (Romans 5:5). He is the source of unfailing love.
Let’s love one another, people.
- It’s Jesus’ one command that is new. A new covenant love.
- Loving our neighbour as ourselves is old. It’s still valid though.
- Loving one another as Jesus sacrificially loves us is the sign of the new – the new covenant – new life – new birth – new community – new Israel.
- New hope – new future – new Kingdom in our midst.