Command to love one another is true measure of faith
John 13: 1-17, 31-35 – Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet
“It 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.
“The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Jesus 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.”
For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean.
“When 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. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.
"Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
“When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
“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.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Editor’s note: This is part five of a Journey to the Cross devotion from April 5 on Palm Sunday through April 12 on Easter. It includes a scripture reading from the gospels as we walk with Jesus. Please join me each morning when a new devotion is posted.
Journey to the Cross – No. 5 – April 9, 2020
The training leading up to serving on a Kairos prison ministry weekend includes up to 40 hours on weeknights and Saturdays for several months.
In one of the final team meetings, the Kairos leader and assistant weekend leader perform a ceremony of foot washing for the team.
The first time I experienced it, I know I wasn’t the only one to freak out.
There’s a stigma with feet. Some don’t like how their feet look. Their toes might be different then someone elses. Then, there’s the unclean toenails and collection of sock lint in the corners. Finally, the smell.
Feet do not generally cast an aroma of roses but more like sweaty gym socks.
I was humbled and moved to be the recipient with an older man before me, on his knees, began washing and drying my dirty smelly feet.
Then, as the leader, I was overwhelmed when I was the one doing the washing of the team members, those that sacrificed so much to embark on what we were about to face in bringing Jesus Christ to the inmates inside that prison.
The scope of being the recipient and the servant were empowering.
Picture yourself as if you were perched on Jesus’ shoulder in the book of John, the only gospel that records Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet.
He takes of his outer clothing, wraps the towel around his waist. He pours water into basin, begins to wash the disciples’ feet. Then he dries them with the towel wrapped around Him.
This is prior to going to the cross, which Jesus knows is coming, with the disciples that spent the last three years with Him, oblivious to Christ’s fate and their eventual roles in spreading the gospel throughout the world.
The disciples’ feet – compared to ours at Kairos – would have been more difficult to stomach … dirt and sweat encrusted with worn sandals after miles and miles of abuse in walking all around Galilee. Not even a Hebrew slave was expected to perform this menial service.
No wonder Peter was so up in arms at the mere prospect of Jesus washing his feet. Old Testament verses in Genesis and Judges refer to foot washing as a form of hospitality, but they merely display bringing water to their guests that they may wash their own feet.
Jesus is teaching a lesson in humility, learning to receive.
It foreshadows his death on the cross because we need to receive His gift, His grace as a sacrifice for us, if we are truly going to be cleansed.
Then comes the command to love one another – the greatest commandment – just as Christ has displayed loving service to them.
The love Jesus speaks about originates with Him. This Christ-like love is the sign by which others will know who is and who is not a genuine disciple.
Don’t all of us want to be known as a genuine disciple?
This commandment is not new – the command to love one's neighbor is found in the Old Testament in Leviticus 19:18.
But there’s a super-charged component now because forever we will be identified as one of His if we live out the love of Jesus Christ inside of us.
Love incorporates sacrifice, discipline, forgiveness and kindness.
Sacrifice occurs when we inconvenience ourselves for someone else.
Growing up, my father was hospitalized for six months with an unknown illness. My mom took care of her three sons during the day and worked at a Waldenbooks store at night.
Once, I woke up at 3 a.m. to find my mom doing mountains of laundry that three teen-age boys could produce. I cried.
I learned how to laundry that day to help with the sacrifice my mom was making for us.
Think of times in your life where others sacrificed for you. Use that to spur you on to completely give yourself for the good of others … so people will know you are His disciple.
Lack of discipline means lack of love. We know failure to discipline our children leads to problems. It’s not any different for us. Discipline is necessary. Discipline is applied to believers who are living in sin to help them address the sin and stop it.
In Sunday school class March 29, and we talked about the standards priests were called to live under in honoring God. If we don’t honor His name, God will curse our blessings, rebuke our descendants – and my personal favorite – smear dung of festival sacrifices on our faces.
We must forgive. We often hold grudges if someone offends us, but we can’t live there. True love doesn't allow that. If you wish to be a loving person, you must be a forgiving person.
Matthew 6:14-15 says: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
As a pastor at Snowdoun, we held a ceremony incorporating Staton Correctional inmate Jeffery Walker – who leads the Resolution for Men class with me inside the facility – as a new church member.
When I arrived at prison the next week, the entire mood of the class was different.
When I asked one of the inmates why, he said: “Because of Jeffery being forgiven and being included in your church, there’s hope for each one of us to be forgiven too.”
Jesus even forgave those who crucified him.
Francis de Sales was a Bishop of Geneva. He’s honored as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church and lived in France from 1567-1622.
He was once asked how to achieve the love of God. His response?
"Only one way, and this is to love God."
The question came back to him: "How does one find love?"
He replied: "By loving God."
The questioner was persistent.
"What do you do? What steps do you take?"
St. Francis replied: "You begin by loving, and you go on loving, and loving teaches you how to love. Then, the more you love, the more you learn to love."
Love is made up of sacrifice, discipline, forgiveness and kindness.
Do we show that kind of love today?
Wherever we are and in any circumstance?
Don't forget that this is not Jesus' suggestion. It is His command.
Jesus gives a mandate in the form of a towel.
The word “Maundy” that we use in Maundy Thursday services throughout the world comes from the Latin word mandatum. Jesus commands, mandates us to love.
Mother Teresa said this about the command to love: "God cannot command the impossible. Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand. Anyone may gather it and no limit is set."
So, let love – the kind Christ showed in washing the disciples’ feet and sacrificing himself on the cross for your sins – be the center of your life.
By this example they will know that you are one of His disciples.
Brad Zimanek is the Associate Pastor at Mulder Church in Wetumpka, Alabama. He worked in sports journalism for 32 years prior to answering the call to full-time ministry.