In our continuing exploration of the Christ Church Vision Plan, this Sunday we will look to our desire to move more and more to an internal culture marked by GRACIOUSNESS. To move in a direction though, we must first be able to identify the desired destination. In this case, that means we must define our terms. The dictionary defines graciousness as “kindness and courtesy.” That’s a good start, but for our purposes it is appropriate to go beyond the dictionary…beyond mere “niceness.” We’ll spend more time on this Sunday, but when we speak of graciousness, we are speaking in terms of LOVE. Among other places in Scripture, John 13 has something to say about what it means to be loving.
Wednesday, August 28th
Larger Portion of Scripture - John 13
Focused Passage for Reflection - John 13:1-17
Reflecting on the Text:
What is love? We love the word, but often give little thought to its meaning. Is it an emotion, or is it an action? Does it have a time clock? A scoreboard? Must it be reciprocated? Do we choose it, or is it the result of chemistry? How do we nurture it so that it will grow? There are just many questions when it comes to “love.” Are you beginning to see how we use this one word to capture so many types of relationships, without really understanding what we mean?
In John 13, Jesus gives us a definition of love, not by opening the dictionary, but by His actively loving the disciples. So what can we learn from Jesus’ act of love? It all begins in verse 1. Having loved, Jesus continued to love. He loved all the way to the end. So out goes the time clock. This description of Jesus’ love is consistent with the character description of God we find throughout Scripture. He is a God of steadfast love and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6, Psalm 57:10, 100:5, 108:4). Jesus’ steadfastness endures to the end, because His love is rooted in the character of His being.
Then, beginning in verse 3, we see Jesus’ love (and His loving) on display. The verse begins with “Jesus, knowing…” So what did He know when He began this act of love? He knew His timing. That very night He would be arrested. He knew of His coming sacrifice. His arrest would lead to conviction, and to an excruciating sacrificial death. He knew the messiness of those for whom He would sacrifice. Later in John 13 He would foretell Peter’s denial of Him. If one of our friends would love someone in this way, we would likely try to stop them, calling them foolish. Yet for Jesus, this “foolishness” was the pinnacle of love.
Was this love merely an emotion? Well, in looking at the whole of Jesus’ life we would have to say that He must have felt an emotional connection with those whom He loved. But more than mere emotion, John 13 describes an act of love. Jesus washed His disciples feet, and this act is put forward as an example of His loving them until the end (v. 1). In the description of the act, though, we find a more complete picture of His love.
Jesus’ love was humble. He made Himself low, taking the posture of a servant. Thus, Jesus’ love was a serving love. He washed His friends feet, cleaning their uncleanness. And as He made clear in verse 8, His love was a blessing to the disciples. This act marked them as His own. It was a tangible way for Him to claim them…and don’t we all want to be claimed by someone? Finally (though probably not exhaustively), His love was a messy love, or maybe better put, a perfect love for messy people. As we’ve already said, He knew they would deny Him. He knew they would run away. He knew they didn’t understand. But He loved, right up until the end.
No, they didn’t understand at the time, but He would ensure that in time, they would. In time, the Holy Spirit would give clarity and understanding to all these memories. So Jesus commissioned the disciples, in time, to go and do likewise. “…blessed are you if you DO them.” (v. 17)
So how do we DO this kind of love? We turn off the scoreboard. We shut down the time clock. We actively, sacrificially serve the needs of others. We know it will be messy, but we do it for the joy of living in Christ. How glorious might it be if we more fully embraced this definition of love?!? It would indeed be glorious, bringing glory to God, but to love in this way requires more than learning about it. To love like Jesus loved first requires that we actually receive the love of Jesus. And in receiving His love, let us be transformed by it.
Questions for personal reflection:
In what ways does Jesus’ act of love challenge you in the way you love others?
In what ways does Jesus’ act of love encourage you as it is a picture of His love for you?
Read and meditate on John 13:34-35 in light of what we’ve discussed.