Love is one of the most common words in both Christian and non-Christian literature. It is used in a wide range of situations with many different meanings. It is often used in a casual way which can influence our appreciation of what the word means in Scripture. In the Greek there are two different words and the one we focus on is ‘agape’ which occurs so often in the Gospel of John; he uses it 27 times; 9 times in today’s chapters (15 & 16).
Chapter 13 contains a key statement of the Master, “A new commandment I have given you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (verse 34). So how did Jesus love them? How did he set an example?
What events and words show this? He washed their feet and he used this as an example of how to serve. Few of us tramp dusty roads in sandals or with bare feet today, so to make a ritual of this would destroy the lesson. It was an example of love and humility towards one another. Jesus said, “I have given you an example that you also should do as I have done to you” (verse 15).
Not many hours later he would tell them of the ultimate act of love, saying “greater love has no man than this” (15:13). Jesus asked, “Who is the greater, one who reclines at table, or one who serves? I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27). So the love that Jesus showed was one of serving; he came as a servant but will return as a King. In serving Jesus, we must seek to show love by what we do.
There will be times when we need to be gentle as he was with his disciples when they faltered. He said “O you of little faith” (Luke 12:28); but read verses 22-31 and appreciate the context and our Master’s final point, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”. We might think of what we want, but our heavenly Father knows what we need.
Jesus did not send anyone away, they went away themselves when they found his sayings “hard” (John 6:60,66). Years later when John wrote his epistles he made one particular point which echoed these words, “let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18) or as the NEB version puts it, “love must be genuine and show itself by actions”.