If you knew you would die within the next 24 hours, what would you do, who (if anyone) would you spend the time with, and what would you say?
When Jesus met with His disciples one evening in an upper room, He knew He was about to die. By sundown the next day, He had suffered arrest, unjust trials, severe abuse, agonizing crucifixion, and death.
Jesus chose to spend the evening before His death with His disciples. To see what He did and hear what He said, I encourage you to read or listen to John 13-17, which is often called the Farewell Discourse.
Among His words of instruction, command, hope, and encouragement, Jesus repeats this command to His followers word-for-word (13:34; 15:12):
that you love one another, just as I have loved you.
The repetition of the exact words adds weight to His intention. It is inescapable that followers of Jesus are to love, just as Jesus loves.
How can we do that?
Before we answer that crucial question, let’s explore what it looks like to love like Jesus.
The frequent appearance of a word in a text or conversation indicates its importance.
In the New Testament, the Gospel that John wrote has the second-highest number of occurrences of agapē-love (both noun and verb) after another of John’s writings, 1st John.
John 13-17 is about 18% of the content of the Gospel of John, and yet that section incorporates over 70% of the uses of agapē-love. We cannot afford to ignore this concentration of agapē-love language if we are to learn more of what it means to love like Jesus.
With this in mind, let’s look at John 13:1-17.
The scene in the upper room opens with this statement (John 13:1):
Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved [agapaō] His own who were in the world, He loved [agapaō] them to the end.
Jesus “loved them to the end,” which one Bible commentator (Edwyn C. Hoskyns) observes can also be rendered “completely, finally, to the uttermost, unto death.” In the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ, agapē-love is fully expressed. Other texts confirm this:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Here are three qualities that show us what it looks like to love like Jesus.
The opening scene (13:4-17) manifests the nature of this agapē-love. Jesus removes His outer garment, wraps a towel around his waist, takes a basin, and kneels to wash and dry the feet of each of his disciples.
In that setting, the washing of feet was the duty of a lower-end servant. And yet, Jesus willingly undertakes this task for His disciples as an expression of His love.
Our Lord’s love is expressed in the humble service of others (Philippians 2:5-8).
A little later, Jesus commands His disciples: “Love each other as I have loved you” (15:12). These words are followed immediately by (15:13),
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
In this context, our primary understanding is the love of Jesus shown on the cross.
However, we cannot dismiss an application to ourselves as His followers. Jesus gives everything, even life itself, for his friends. In the same way, our Lord’s agapē-love is manifested in us by sacrificial giving to others.
In the next verse (15:14), Jesus states:
“You are my friends if you do what I command.”
It is not that our obeying Him results in loving Him; instead, our love for Him is manifested by our obedience to Him.
For some of us, connecting obedience with love seems strange. And yet, in this farewell scene, the link between obeying the commands of Jesus as a manifestation of genuine love is emphasized numerous times.
On several occasions, Jesus links His love for the Father with His obedience to the Father:
the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. (14:31)
If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. (15:10)
In the same way, the Lord Jesus links our love for Him with our obedience to Him. Here is a sample of some of those texts:
If you love me, you will obey what I command. (14:15)
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him. (14:21)
If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. (14:24)
The inverse is equally true (14:24):
He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.
Our Lord expresses His love by willing obedience to the Father.
In the same way, we manifest our love for Jesus by our obedience to Him.
Jesus is the epitome of God’s agapē-love. Among other qualities, loving like Jesus means to be like Him in:
What other insights can you add concerning expressions of the agapē-love of Jesus? You can use this link to let me know.
It is expected, even commanded, that followers of Jesus love like Him.
What needs to change for you?
Image credit: Statue at Dallas Theological Seminary of Jesus washing feet
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