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The Next Level of Love
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31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once.33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 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. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.
Setting the Stage:
It’s the last supper, the day before Jesus was crucified. He knows the agony he is about to experience, but instead of focusing inward, he focuses on preparing his disciples for their life and ministry after his death, resurrection, and ascension back to God. He has washed their feet, and told them he’s about to be betrayed by one of them. Judas, the betrayer, steps out into the darkness to do his dirty deed.
So it’s finally just Jesus and his (real) disciples. He’s alone with his closest friends and followers, taking this last opportunity to tell them what He needs to tell them.
As the door shuts behind Judas, the plan that will put him on the cross is now set in motion, and Jesus says “The thing that is going to bring glory to the messiah and the one who sent him, it’s about to happen. I’m about to leave you, and it’s not a mistake. It’s a part of the plan. So here’s what I want you to know:
I’m giving you a new commandment: love one another. The disciples look at each other, probably thinking “um...God already told us to do that in Deuteronomy… and you reminded us about that being one of the most important commandments... that’s not a new…”
But Jesus keeps going: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. This is how people will know you are my disciples:if you have love for one another. Predictably, Peter pipes up. “Um jesus? I’m not hanging around to love these guys. I’m coming with you. I’ll die for you! Jesus responds: Die for me eh? As a matter of fact, you’re going to deny me three times before even tonight is over.
Playground Rules: From black and white to technicolor:
Jesus said “the thing I want you to be busy with when I’m gone, the thing I want to be your defining characteristic, is your love for one another. How are we doing at that? It’s funny because 2016 was such a crazy year, full of division, tragedies, chaos, all kinds of stuff. So when it was over, people welcomed the new year and said good riddance to 2016. And here we are, new years 2018, and for the last week, my social media feeds have been full of “bye 2017. We won’t miss you.” It’s crazy out there guys. These sort of things have always been going on in our crazy broken world, but now with the technology of instant communication, and especially social media--the ugliness of our world is inescapable. But the funny thing is that people really are trying. People are trying to love their families, trying to find purpose in life. Trying to figure out how to make peace on earth happen. But no matter how hard people try to do and say the right things, in our broken humanity, we revert back to our selfish ways. We keep score. We hold grudges. We spend so much time and effort jockeying for our position in this world. Trying to be the richest, the strongest, the most important, the prettiest, the most instafamous. So in the midst of that, we try to love people. But you know what problem is? People always get in the way of our selfish goals. Always. So if we live in the economy of earning, and winning, and jockeying, we’re always going to have trouble living this out. Have you ever been tasked with the job of supervising kids? Little tiny baby kids. They can’t even walk yet, but if another infant gets the toy they just threw down. All of a sudden they want that toy more than life itself. One of the interesting things about helping kids grow and develop is that the process changes from stage to stage. When kids are really young, things are really black and white for them. If a 6 year old hits his brother, and you tell Him to apologize--even if he says the right words, the tone of voice he’ll use clearly commmunicates something else: “I’m sorry, ya stupidhead.” The best part is, with kids, sometimes they’ll actually say exactly that, and then be surprised when the parent corrects them. “What? I apologized… to stupidhead…” As far as they’re concerned, they were told to apologize, and successfully did so. If you’re trying to teach a 4 or 6 year old how to love their siblings, it’s going to involve a lot of rules. Don’t do this, don’t do that. But as we grow, our capacity to understand the nuances of relationships improves. So the things you expect as a teacher or parent grow as well. One of the cool things about the story of God’s people is we see this exact principle of maturity and growth reflected in scripture.
After bringing the people of Israel out of Egypt, God says “we’re going to make a covenant, and I’m going to tell you guys how to treat each other. Cause otherwise you’ll all end up killing one another. This law included instructions to “love God and Love others,” but it included a lot more specific rules. And boy did they need it.
But when Jesus came, everything changed.
John puts it like this in For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. We got a ton of instructions in God’s revealed word to Moses. How to do this, not do that, etc. etc. And it’s good.
But it couldn’t fix our problem. You’ve heard the saying, “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.”
Because our problem isn’t an information or effort problem. It’s a heart problem. We are fundamentally broken. We can’t do it on our own.
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