Love is a very common word in both Christian and non-Christian literature. It is used widely with many different meanings and is used in common speech today in a very casual way! Are those who read God’s word influenced by this? If we are it will undermine our appreciation of what this word means in Scripture. In the Greek there are two different words for love and the one we focus on is ‘agape’ which occurs so much in the Gospel of John; he uses it 27 times; 9 times in chapters 13 and 14.
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 had just washed their feet and he used this as an example of how to serve one another; however to make a ritual of this would destroy the lesson. It is an example of love and humility toward 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” soon to occur – 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, and he said “O you of little faith” (Luke 12:28; but read verses 22-31). We might think of what we want, but our heavenly Father knows what we need.
He did not send anyone away; they went away themselves when they found his sayings “hard” (John 6:60,66). When John, years later, wrote his epistles he made one particular point which echoed these words of Jesus, “let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18) or as the NEB puts it, “love must be genuine and show itself by actions”.