Jesus’ Life of Love
Jesus Commands a New Way of Love
John 13:1–17, 31–35
“God created us to love and to be loved.”
“The most beautiful thing in the world is to love one another as God loves each one of us.”
“We must not be afraid to radiate God’s love everywhere.”
Mother Teresa not only spoke these words; she lived them. She loved people with God’s love. People dying forgotten in the streets, disabled children left abandoned, those shunned because of leprosy or AIDS, Mother Teresa cared for those others had forsaken. Regardless of age, sex, race, religion, illness or mental ability, she had compassion on them. And Mother Teresa knew that our love for others flows out of God’s love for us.
This truth may be clear to you, but it wasn’t always obvious to me. For the first 40 plus years of my Christian life, I falsely believed that loving God and others started with me—by my obedience to the law. I thought God was demanding that I love Him and others in my own strength. I had twisted something Jesus said about the Old Covenant law and thought it applied to me. Let me explain.
When a Pharisee came to Jesus asking, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36–40).
Now I see it clearly! These two commands sum up the Old Covenant law. And like all Old Covenant commands they are impossible to obey in our own efforts. The independent soul, cut off from Spirit-to-spirit relationship, can’t love God or others as required. We can’t produce the love. We weren’t meant to. God designed us to radiate His love, not to generate our own. The New Covenant makes it clear that “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
In John chapter 13, Jesus gives His new command to fulfill the Old Covenant commands. First, He shows the new command in action—by washing the disciples’ feet. Then He says: “A new command I give to you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
Read John 13:1–17, 31–35:
1It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” …
31When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
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.
34“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
1. Verse 1 says, Jesus “loved them to the end.” Today we understand that Jesus was about to be crucified, but the disciples did not. Knowing what we do now, how did he love them to the end?
2. What does Jesus do in verses 4 and 5 to show in action what He will soon be teaching with His words?
3. Imagine you are present as Jesus washes His disciples’ feet. How does that make you feel?
4. Jesus didn’t tell the disciples, “I love you.” Instead He washed their feet. Why do you think He did this?
5. In verse 23, John refers to himself as the disciple “whom Jesus loved.” Why do you think John refers to himself by this title rather than by calling himself, “the disciple who loved Jesus”.
6. Have you ever thought of yourself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved”? Why or why not? What thoughts or feelings arise when you refer to yourself by this name?
7. On this Passover night, Jesus took the wine and the bread and declared, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1 Corinthians 11:25). In verse John 13:34, Jesus speaks a “new command” to go along with the “new covenant.” What is the “new command”?
8. Earlier, in response to a question asked by a Pharisee, Jesus had summarized the two greatest Commandments in the Old Covenant (see Matthew 22:36–40, as quoted in the introduction to this lesson). What similarities do you see between these two commands and the new command that Jesus gave?
9. What differences do you see between these two greatest Old Covenant commands and Jesus’ new command?
10. What differences would it make in your life if you tried to live by obedience to the two Old Covenant commands versus if you lived by following Jesus’ new command?
11. Elsewhere John says, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). How does this relate to John 13:34?
12. According to verse 35, as disciples of Jesus, what is to be our defining mark? In what ways do you think you are living as a disciple of Christ according to this definition?
Sit in a quiet, comfortable place and put your bare feet into a stream, lake, tub or container of water. Imagine Jesus coming and washing your feet.
Sit in quiet openness to Jesus’ love for you. Hear His words of life to you: “I love you. I love you. I love you. Love others as I have loved you.”
Imagine Jesus’ words bringing life to your spirit, soul and body. Imagine yourself freely receiving from God and overflowing with love for others.
Respond to God’s love by letting His love in you flow out to all those who come across your path today.