“It’s That Kind of Love” May 19, 2019
“It’s That Kind of Love”
For over 3 of the last 4 weeks, we have been working with Easter passages – stories of the resurrection and Christ’s appearance to the disciples. But this week, we go back to a story just before the cross and the resurrection. In John’s account, it is Thursday night: the night that we remember on Maundy Thursday. In fact the word Maundy comes from the Latin word manda’tum, meaning a mandate or command. So yes, on the night before Jesus’s death he is with his disciples – these are the ones who will bring the gospel to the world – with a grim reality: his death. Jesus is preparing the disciples for a life without him, at least a life without his physical presence. He is doing his best to comfort them and help them understand, but I don’t imagine there was a lot of understanding going on. I can only imagine the incredible sense of dread that must have been hanging in that room: the shock, the disbelief, the burning ache in your gut because you just know that things are going terribly wrong.
And so, Jesus speaks words of comfort; things are a little tense and everyone is on edge. But at the same time he is coaching, he is directing, he is showing them the mission that will lay before them after he is gone. I don’t imagine that the men who were eating the Passover meal with Christ understood the enormity of what Jesus had in mind. How could they? And so to prepare them to bring the good news in the world, to prepare them to be the body of Christ, he needed to show them the love of Christ. In John’s gospel, they went through that awkward moment when Jesus went around the room and washed their feet to show them the love of Christ. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke we know of how Jesus offered his body and his blood in the form of the bread and the wine to show the love of Christ. Wild stuff – extravagant!
The time for stories and parables was pretty much over. Jesus needed to show them a love that they had never known, a love that they could only imagine. They had to be able to feel it, to taste it, and trust that it was real and forever. They had to believe it in their gut because this all led to the mandatum, the mandate that is the crux, the core of our Christian faith. We read it in vs.34 when Jesus spoke, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Now, I have to ask, does that second part: “Just as I have loved you, so should you love one another,” does that make anyone else a bit uncomfortable, or is it just me? I mean, let’s face it, that’s a pretty tall order. How can I possibly love others the way that you love me?
One of my favorite seminarians, David Lose had a few things to say about this.
He writes, “Often when I’ve read this passage, I’ve gotten hung up on the second part:…. I’ve heard these words, that is, not just as a command but as a challenge. But I think I’ve heard it wrong. Because this is, after all, just hours before Jesus will be handed over, tried, beaten, and crucified…all for us. Not as payment against some wicked debt God holds against us. Not to make a just and angry God satisfied or happy. Not because this was the only way to satisfy God’s wrath and make it possible for God to forgive us. Rather, Jesus goes to the cross to show us just how much God loves us. Jesus has been extending God’s forgiveness and love throughout the Gospel, and as John reports in the opening line of this chapter, a chapter that marks the turn to the second half of John’s story. , “Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. And having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (13:1).
That’s what this verse is about. Jesus reminding us of just how much he loves us – and of how much God loved and loves us through him – that we might be empowered to love others, extending God’s love through word and deed, and in this way love others as Jesus has loved us.” (end quote)
We don’t have to be perfect – heck, we’re not going to be perfect – but with the love of Christ, we can be a force for good in this world. It’s that kind of love. It’s that kind of love that just by knowing that it exists, we can stay grounded in our faith. It’s that kind of love that brings light into our dark corners. It’s that kind of love that continually gives us reason to hope.
We were talking the other day about why it is that people go to church. The list was long and it made for great conversation. But then I stumbled on something written by a guy named Don Carson that spoke to me and spoke to the words of John today as well. He said, “What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. Christians come together because they have all been loved by Jesus himself. They are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.”
(Jn 13:34) “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” So yes, it’s that kind of love that brings us together: a love that is greater than our imagination, unconditional and unending. And it’s that kind of love that the world will always desperately need.
Amen & Shalom