John 13: 33-35 (MsgB)
“Children, I am with you for only a short time longer. You are going to look high and low for Me. But just as I told the Jews, I’m telling you: ‘Where I go, you are not able to come.’ Let Me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are My disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”
How fortunate those first century disciples were. Having Jesus of Nazareth with them, in their lives for three wonderful years. Speaking directly to you. Looking into your eyes. Placing His hand on your shoulder, praying for you one on one.
But now, He’s gone.
For two thousand years His physical presence has been removed from us. Yes, the Bible promises that He will return one day and we will see Him face to face. But until that day, we are left, like every generation that has gone before us, with the same emptiness those followers in the first century were just about to experience in their lives.
Jesus was leaving them, going to a place you and I can only touch in the here-after.
So in today’s passage, I’m moved by what Jesus tells His disciples as He is preparing to leave them. If it were me, I’d most likely have a long shopping list of instructions waiting to download upon my friends. I mean, think of it. Jesus, the Son of God, is just about ready to leave His earthly assignment, placing the Kingdom ministry of God into the hands of His followers. If I were in His sandals, I’d be worried to death.
Just think of how screwy and undependable these men and women have been over the last three years. Rarely do they understand the important lessons that Jesus teaches. Only on occasion do they seem to understand the magnitude of all that is happening around them. Most are expecting a Messiah to clean up all the earthly problems in their lives. Yet in truth, their problems are just beginning.
If I were Jesus, I’d be pulling out a pile of books for these guys to read. I’d be sweating bullets about the details these guys and gals will most likely mess up as I transition from my role of earthly rabbi to glorified King.
But not Jesus.
Interestingly enough, all Jesus does is give them a new command. An ‘eleventh commandment’, so to speak. One that both trumps and fulfills the first ten. A new law. A new tablet that has been written by the Living Word of God who is standing right before our eyes.
And on that tablet is one word. Agape.
The greatest commandment given by the Author and Perfector of the same.
Unconditional Love. Unmerited Acceptance. Eternal Blessing. Unearned Grace. Forever Forgiven. Good Beyond Description. Love Beyond This World. Always Present. God Birthed. Jesus Purchased. Holy-Spirit Driven. Love Without End. Amen and Amen.
And as Jesus stands in front of those who will become the very first leaders of the Church that will bear His Name, He says, ‘Do this one thing well (agape) and the world will see it and know that I AM who I AM and you are who you are.’
Hmm. Wonder what might happen if we dropped a lot of our other agenda items in church life and just focused on this One New Command?
Agape One Another.
Anybody wanna go first?
My prayer: Lord, Your words here are so simple. So clear. So concise. Yet, in all honesty, we leaders of Your church seem to want to complicate the whole thing, adding more fluff to this one new command You gave us. For that, Lord, I say I am truly sorry. Empower me, Spirit, to simplify my work, making ‘agape’ my job description for the day. For Your name’s sake.
My questions to ponder: Around our church in Cedar Rapids, we talk about our job description as Christians. As I see it, it is to go out each day and simply ‘love the hell’ out of the people around us. Why is it we think the Christian faith and the great commission must be more complicated than this simple command? What might it look like to reduce my ‘work-load’ for Jesus down to one simple word: AGAPE?
So what is God speaking to you today? Are you practicing the Kingdom presence of God?