A New Commandment
By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell
Scripture Readings: John 13; Matthew 26:26-29
Key Verses: John 13:34-35
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”
Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday and in our small church we always have a dinner and a special service afterwards. We have remembered this day in different ways in recent years, but mostly we have remembered it as the “Last Supper” that Jesus had with his disciples, the time when Jesus also rose up from supper and washed their feet, and then also when Jesus revealed that one at the table would betray Him, when He foretold of his death, when He shared bread and wine and asked them to remember Him—the wine representing the blood He would shed for them, the bread representing His body which would be broken for them, that He was entering into a new blood covenant with them and that they would be forgiven for their sins because of His sacrifice. It was also a time when He delivered a new commandment—to “love one another.”
The Maundy Thursday service is usually somber as we remember that Judas betrayed Jesus and then the disciples would one by one fall away, denying they even knew Him. There is a lot that occurred at that supper—much that I could write about, much that we should remember. But, I’d like to remember His love for us and the new commandment for this post.
I will focus for a moment on who Jesus was in telling us to “love one another” and His authority to do so. Jesus, God Himself and also human, was a servant leader—He led by serving in a role of humility which He demonstrated from His earthly beginning until His death on the cross. At this “Last Supper,” as He celebrated the Passover with His disciples, He demonstrated this humility by washing their feet. It was an act of humility and an act of kindness, an act of love. It was also a symbol of washing them clean, as in forgiveness of their sins. As he performed this act of washing, he said to them that they should do this for each other. They should care for one another, even if it meant doing something like washing each others’ dirty feet. It was an example—an example of the kind of love He had been teaching them all along. The King of Kings became not an earthly king with all the regal trimmings, but humbled Himself to exist in a man’s body with little in the way of earthly belongings, and here He demonstrated that He was willing to humble himself further by washing their tired, dirty feet. He knelt down and washed their feet!
And after supper, Jesus told the disciples that He had a new commandment for them—He commanded them to love each other and that by that love others would know that they were His disciples. They were to share His love with others, they were to live as He lived, they were to love one another.
And because He entered into a new covenant—covenants were sealed with a blood sacrifice by their tradition—He was foretelling of his sacrifice on the cross. That He would sacrifice Himself for atonement of their sins. That He loved them that much. That God the Father loved them so much that He sent Jesus to die for them. And that they were to love each other. And that they were to love each other as He had loved them. How could He demonstrate His love for us and teach us to love each other any better than that?
Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, as we approach the cross this week, may we remember your love for us and your commandment to love each other, to love each other as you have loved us. Amen.