Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately. Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:31-35).

Jesus made this statement to the twelve just a few hours before he died. The “impossible” events that would occur the next few hours and the next few days would test the fabric of the disciples’ faith as had no other time or experience in Jesus’ ministry. There would be the confusing washing of the feet, the bewildering communion, Judas’ betrayal, fleeing disciples, Peter’s repeated denials, Jesus’ trials and crucifixion, reports of Jesus’ resurrection, and Jesus’ resurrection appearances to the disciples. In all this, a core truth held them together—the core truth of LOVE.

Nothing made sense until the disciples realized all that occurred expressed Jesus and God’s love. Being kind to a betrayer hurts! Fleeing hurts the deserted! Denial hurts! Death by crucifixion hurts! How can a resurrected person become an imposing, powerful political figure? What were the twelve to do with all that pain and confusion?

Until those men saw all those events as acts of love, nothing fell into place—not Jesus’ life and ministry, not their discipleship, not Jesus’ death, and not Jesus’ resurrection. After those men could see all the events as acts of Jesus and God’s love, everything fell into place. God’s love expressed through Jesus’ death made sense of pain and confusion.

May I suggest nothing basically has changed for the people (men or women) who accept discipleship by acknowledging Jesus as their teacher. Being people who choose to belong to God in a world filled with rebellious acts and personal indulgence is commonly confusing. Being people who follow Jesus in a world of death, betrayal, contempt for people, and disrespect for God is commonly painful. Declaring such a world "bewildering" is terribly close to understatement. So much happens that is mindless and confusing!

Until. Until when? Until we see God’s love. Then—and only then—do things fall into place. Notice the new commandment was not to love each other. The new commandment was to love each other as I have loved you. I do not love you because you deserve my love. I love you because I belong to Jesus. In Jesus God taught me how to love. God loved me far beyond any sense of devotion on my part, for beyond any loyalty on my part, far beyond any worthiness in me. It is God’s love for me that is the foundation of my love for you. Then—and only then—do things fall into place. Then—and only then—those who have not entered Christ will see that we are his disciples. Why? No one in this world loves like those who follow Jesus. The goal: to let Jesus teach me how to love. Why? So people can see an alternative way of life and death!

If I try to love you like God loved me, will you try to love me like God loves you? Have you read John 3:16 lately? “For God so loved the world ...”

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 15 May 2008

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