13Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table,[a] took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet,[b] but is entirely clean. And you[c] are clean, though not all of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants[d] are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 18 I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfill the scripture, ‘The one who ate my bread[e] has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he.[f]20 Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.”
21 After saying this Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, “Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. 23 One of his disciples—the one whom Jesus loved—was reclining next to him; 24 Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.”[g] So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot.[h] 27 After he received the piece of bread,[i] Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the festival”; or, that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him,[j] God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
A group of 4-8 year olds was asked, “What does love mean?” Here are some of their answers:
- “When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore so my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis too. That’s love.” Rebecca — age 8.
- “Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.” Karl — age 5
- “Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.” Chrissy — age 6
- “Love is when my mommy makes coffee for my daddy and she takes a sip before giving it to him, to make sure the taste is okay.” Danny — age 7
- “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” Bobby — age 7
- “Love is when you tell a guy you like his shirt, then he wears it every day.” Noelle — age 7
- “During my piano recital I was on a stage and I was scared. I looked at all the people watching me and saw my daddy waving and smiling. He was the only one doing that. I wasn’t scared anymore.” Cindy — age 8
- “Love is when Mommy sees Daddy smelly and sweaty and still says he is handsomer than Brad Pitt.” Chris — age 7
- “I know my older sister loves me because she gives me all her old clothes and has to go out and buy new ones.” Lauren — age 5
- “You really shouldn’t say ‘I love you’ unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” Jessica — age 8 (from Mikey’s Funnies)
These are all great definitions… and there is some real wisdom found here from the mouths of babes. It should remind us of our text for today. Verses that rewind the biblical story of before Jesus’ death and resurrection.
In John’s account, it’s Thursday evening, the night we remember on Maundy Thursday. In fact, the name “Maundy” is derived from the Latin mandatum, meaning a mandate or command, and comes precisely from this passage: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
Often when I’ve read this passage, I’ve gotten hung up on the second part: “Just as I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” Whoa, that’s a tall order, Jesus! Can I possibly love others the way you have love me?
I’ve heard these words, that is, not just as a command but as a challenge. But I think I’ve heard it wrong. Because this is, after all, just hours before Jesus will be handed over, tried, beaten, and crucified…all for us. Not to make a just and angry God satisfied or happy. Not because this was the only way to satisfy God’s wrath and make it possible for God to forgive us. Rather, Jesus goes to the cross to show us just how much God loves us. Jesus has been extending God’s forgiveness and love throughout the Gospel, and as John reports in the opening line of this chapter, a chapter that marks the turn to the second half of John’s story, “Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. And having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (13:1).
That’s what this verse is about. Jesus reminding us of just how much he loves us – and of how much God loved and loves us through him – that we might be empowered to love others, extending God’s love through word and deed, and in this way love others as Jesus has loved us.
We don’t have to do this perfectly to do it meaningfully, of course. Indeed, even as we remember those who have loved us, we probably acknowledge that while their love was not perfect, it was nevertheless powerful. So I want to remind you, Dear Friends, that God is love, that God sent Jesus to show us that we are loved, that this love changes us, empowering us to love others, and that even when we struggle to love – often for compelling reasons – yet God continues to love us and work through our lives to bless the world God has created and continues to sustain.
Mother Theresa had a unique phrase to describe this Christ-like love. She once wrote: “We must grow in love and to do this we must go on loving and loving and giving and giving until it hurts—the way Jesus did. Do ordinary things with extraordinary love: little things like caring for the sick and the homeless, the lonely and the unwanted, washing and cleaning for them. You must give what will cost you something. … Then your gift becomes a sacrifice, which will have value before God. Any sacrifice is useful if it is done out of love. This giving until it hurts—this sacrifice—is also what I call love in action.” It is my hope and prayer that we will love out Christ’s love in action and then “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Commentary provided by Mother Theresa, David Lose, Scott Hoezee, and Elizabeth Johnson