As Jesus talked with His disciples the night before He died on the cross (John 13–16), He not only spoke to them about Himself and the events coming on the heels of that evening, but He spoke of their lives together and the suffering they would face as His disciples. He reassured them of His continuing presence and care even as He told them what the world would do to them because they were His.
But before he even said anything about how they were to live with each other, He began by washing their feet, doing the work of a slave.
Through His example the Lord Jesus made clear to the disciples the humility of service they were to live out amongst each other; He then explained His actions with His words.
Later that night He would give the disciples a new command—now He would teach by His words what He would the next day live out by going to the cross. Remember only two days earlier they had heard Jesus say that the greatest command was to love God, and the second greatest, to love their neighbor. Now He tells them,
As He talked with them, Jesus repeated His new command, setting His example as the standard for their love for each other.
That same evening He would pray:
In “The Mark of a Christian” I tell the story of how a kind and loving sister in Christ gave me the fish pendant in the above photo. I also write about the sad reality of those times when Christian love is as broken and cracked as the ἰχθύς wheel symbol on the left. You would think that the command Jesus gave the night before He died would be taken soberly and seriously by His disciples and obeyed. Alas, it is not.
We have lived in different cities and in very different regions, but everywhere we have too often seen church after church marred by a lack of service—remember that Jesus did the service of a slave—and a lack of love: unkindness, jealousy, arrogance, coldness, and apathy to the needs of others. Not just the people, but the leaders within the Christian church have had the same ideas about being great and being first that the disciples had when they squabbled about prestige and power in the kingdom of God. Rather than take the Scripture seriously about how to live and care for one another, far too many in the church draw their template from the surrounding culture. The ironic thing is that some within the business community recognize the importance of authenticity, generosity, and kindness, while Christians seem to have never heard of them, much less be on terms with the fruit of the Spirit. We should not be churches rife with favoritism who say ‘be warm, be filled’, but too often we are.
If the church is in any doubt as to what it means to love one another, Jesus gave us His example, and Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 defined love with characteristics we can see and recognize—attitudes and actions that flow from a changed mind and heart. Love is a fruit of the Spirit—not an ornament hung on a tree.2
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind, is not jealous, does not brag, is not puffed up; it does not act unbecomingly, does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered; it does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails, but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child. When I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now abide faith, hope, love—these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Maundy Thursday is named after the New Commandment:
“Most scholars agree that the English word Maundy in that name for the day is derived through Middle English, and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”)”3
The name of this day bears the mark of His command. Isn’t it time our lives were marked by it as well? Many churches have a Good Friday service during which they remember our Lord’s crucifixion. Perhaps a Maundy Thursday service should be considered as a time during which Christians in a local church would commit themselves anew to humble service for one another and to laying-down-life love for one another.
By Giovanni Giuliani Christus wäscht dem heiligen Petrus die Füße (Christ washing the feet of saint Peter). – Own work Wolfgang Sauber, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link Cropped from the photograph.
Ichthus (the ΙΧΘΥΣ) Wheel in Ephesus: public domain via Wikipedia.
The wheel is an overlay of the uppercase letters, ΙΧΘΥΣ. The fish has been a Christian symbol since the early years of the church. The Greek word for fish is an acrostic; each letter is the first letter of one of the five words of the phrase: Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior: ͑Ιησοῦς Χριστός Θεοῦ ͑Υιός Σωτήρ.
LSB: Legacy Standard Bible New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs (Steadfast Bibles, Irvine CA: 2021).
1Francis Schaeffer said the love of Christians for one another is The Mark of a Christian, and in the book he wrote by that name he called John 17:21, The Final Apologetic.
2As I first heard the fruit the Spirit described some fifty years ago.
3Wikipedia, Maundy Thursday.
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