He loved them to the end

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” (John 13:1)

We have looked at two conditions of fruitfulness so far: die to self, and remain in the Vine. As I pointed out in “abiding in the Vine,” Jesus tells us In John 15 v 8 that “producing much fruit” brings glory to the Father and is evidence of our discipleship. A third test, not specifically of fruitfulness but of the reality of our discipleship, is in the extent to which we fulfil the “new commandment:”

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13: 34-35)

Jesus didn’t pray for the world. He carried the love of God for it, He died for it, but He didn’t pray for it, so we mustn’t waste our time praying for it either: “I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.” (John 17:9) This means that we do pray for specific individuals that we believe God has put on our hearts, but we don’t “pray for the world” in general terms. But what Jesus does ask is that “the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:23) He wants the world to know that we are His disciples, and he tells us that this will happen if we love one another.

We tend to think of the Lord’s precedent of Love for us as His death on the Cross for our sins. There is indeed no greater love than this, but according to John 13:1 He gave the disciples a lesson in Love before He went to the Cross. He washed their feet. And He told them/us specifically: “”For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:15). He wants us to wash one another’s feet to demonstrate our love for one another, and if we do that the world will know that we are His disciples. It’s right there, and it’s been there for 2000 years: we know it’s true. But what does it mean?

The aspect of this story that is – I think – most frequently taught is that we need one another to clean off the “dirt” of our walk. We share, we confess, we pray for one another, we encourage one another, and so we keep our feet clean. But what strikes me is that Jesus “took off His outer garment.” What’s your outer garment? It’s what identifies us; what makes us stand out from the crowd – or possibly shows which crowd we belong to. But if we are going to show our love for one another in a way that the world will notice it’s no use to us at all: it needs to come off. To love one another we need to stop thinking about who we are. All I need is whatever will get the dirt off your feet.

Just today I have heard of two examples of people in ministry criticising other ministers. I think this is an example of what NOT to do. If I think your feet are dirty I need to take off my robe and come to you with water and a towel. We may well find out that mine are far worse than yours and need washing more urgently. What I don’t do is stand up with my robe on, so that everyone knows who I am, and tell the world about your smelly feet. This does not show the world how much I love you, but just confirms their suspicions about Christian hypocrisy.

Jesus is coming for a bride without spot or blemish. I think He wants us to show our love by helping each other to get ready of when He comes, and if we do that we will also be pointing others towards Him because they will see that we are His disciples.

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