On Thursday of Holy Week Jesus washed his disciple’s feet and gave them a new command- “love one another as I have loved you.”
This is a striking scene. This man is about to go to his death. A violent death. And a spiritual death. And his concern is for these men and women sharing the Passover meal with him. Anyone of us would be focused on ourselves as we faced the most stress filled situation of our short lives. But the Christ turned his attention towards others. His friends.
What do they want? But more importantly, what do they need?
They need to be cured of their sinful selfishness. Isn’t that what we all need? As Jesus washes their feet he demonstrates what it will take for them to overcome this selfishness: forgiveness and self- sacrifice. The foot washing showed them that they would be washed clean by God’s forgiveness and that they would be empowered to bring to others this same freedom as they learn to give their lives for others through the same self-sacrifice that it takes to wash someone else’s feet. To be their slave. The crucified life lived out as we become the people of the towel. Isn’t that what forgiveness truly is- to serve another?
Jesus also gives them a new command. “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). This simple yet profound command will give them, and us, our lives back. What Jesus just demonstrated through foot washing is stated in the command to love.
To love is to give to others your very life.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13.
To love in this way is to gain your life.
Jesus has shown us the meaning of life. The way to peace and joy. The great paradoxical truth, that to give your life is to gain it. And that to love we must first be loved by pure love Himself.
This does not replace the Great Commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It completes it. How do I love myself? By giving myself what I need most- life. But how do I gain this very life that I crave? By loving others as I have already been loved by God.
Do you see it? The source has changed. The motivation has changed. And the command that once brought condemnation and death now brings life. For that is what love is- to bring life. To give your life in order to gain another’s life.
This is a command that will never bring condemnation because the only way to obey it is by faith in the One who took your condemnation.