“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
How does the world know that we are the disciples of Christ? Is it because we know the truth and are able to explain God’s truth to them? Does the world know we are the true followers of Christ because we engage in the proper form of worship, have the correct form of leadership in the church, and follow what Jesus said we must do to be saved? These things are proper and good for us to do.
However, as the opening verses above clearly show, Jesus said that the world would know we are His disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35). Jesus says that His disciples were to love one another the way in which He had showed love to them (John 13:34). Earlier, John records how Jesus had loved His disciples to the very end of His earthly ministry (John 13:1).
If we are to love one another the same way in which Jesus loved His disciples, how did Jesus show love to His disciples? The 13th chapter of John further describes how Jesus showed love to His disciples. Following their supper together, Jesus rises, lays aside His garments, girds himself with a towel, pours water in a basin and begins to go around the room washing His disciples’ feet (John 13:2-5). He showed love to His disciples by serving them. After washing their feet, Jesus sits down and says, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:12-17).
Among those disciples whose feet Jesus had washed was Judas (John 13:21-30). Even though Jesus was deeply troubled because He knew Judas was about to betray Him (John 13:21), Jesus still showed Judas love by washing His feet. Jesus not only taught us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44-45), He gave us a powerful example of showing love to one’s enemies (John 13:5, 12). How many of us have matured in the faith enough to love our enemies the way Jesus did in this passage? How often do we allow the pain from past hurts caused by others to hinder us from following Jesus’ example to still show them love by serving them as Jesus served Judas?
Why did Jesus do this? Did Judas really deserve to be loved by Jesus? Judas did not DESERVE to be loved by Jesus, but Jesus DECIDED to love Judas. Jesus wanted His disciples to be different than the world. He wanted them to love one another in a way far superior than the love typically found in the world. It was essential that Jesus give them an example of the superior way in which they were to love one another so He washed Judas’ feet. Jesus did not want His disciples just to love those who earned or merited their love. Jesus wanted His disciples to love all men because that is what they chose to do!
I am amazed at this example Jesus gave at how we are to love one another. Today, I will love others, even my enemies, not because they earn it, but because, as a disciple of Jesus, I choose to!
“Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; ‘for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20-21).