Holy Week Devotionals Day Four:
The Easter Commandment
A new commandment I give to you,
that you love one another:
just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Today is Maundy Thursday. This name comes from the first word in the Latin rendering of John 13:34, “A new commandment (mandatum novum) I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” This commandment was given by Jesus at the Passover feast the Thursday before his crucifixion. So Maundy Thursday is literally translated as the “Thursday of the Commandment.”
This is the commandment Jesus gave his followers that night: “love one another: just as I have loved you.” But what about Paul’s words in Galatians 5:14? “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” If the whole law is fulfilled in “Love your neighbor as yourself,” what more can “Love one another as Christ loved you” add to the fulfillment of the whole law?
Jesus was not replacing or changing the commandment, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” He was explaining it and giving it clear illustration.
He is saying,
What does it mean to love one another “as yourself?” Watch me. Just as you would want someone to set you free from certain death, so you should set them free from certain death. That is how I am now loving you. My suffering and death is what I mean by ‘as yourself.’ You want life. Live to give others life. At any cost.
So, John says, “By this we know love, [And love is] that he laid down his life for us, and [Therefore] we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16). This is also seen in Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus in Jon 3:16. A correct understanding of the Greek word translated as “so” in this verse gives us a beautiful view of God’s love for us at work. When we translate John 3:16 literally from the original Greek it reads, “For [in this way] God loved the world, that he gave his only son, in order that all that believe in him may not perish but may have life unending.” It was a sacrificial and active love.
At the turn of the century, there was a popular Christian band named DC Talk. One of there hit songs was a song called “Love is a verb.” This is a message that we need to remind ourselves of daily. Our love for one another is not a dispassionate, far removed, emotional love. But rather, it is an active, self-giving, restorative love because that is how Christ has modeled the full embodiment of love for his people. As we talked about on day two, love is costly.
In the horrors of his suffering, Christ was sustained “by the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2). And that joy was the everlasting gladness of his redeemed people, satisfied in the presence of the risen king. That joy, for Jesus, was the thought of you being in his presence forever, redeemed by his blood. To quote the old gospel classic, “When He was on the cross, you were on his mind.”
Therefore, let us be swept away and overcome by the greatest love ever put in action on this Maundy Thursday and tomorrow as we remember Christ’s sacrifice for us on Good Friday.
“Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). He loved us to the uttermost.
Therefore, Church, let us be so moved by this love that it becomes our own. “He laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” This is the commandment. This is the love of Jesus.
As we enter this year’s holy week, pray:
That God would focus your mind on the love that Jesus has shown to sinners like us.
Thank him for his mercy and grace that we do not deserve.
Ask that, through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, you would never become numb to the sacrifice of Christ on your behalf to show his love for you.
Also, as we focus this week on what Jesus has done to bring salvation to his people, take this opportunity each day to pray for someone who does not know the Lord and ask God for opportunities for you to share the gospel with them.