De-Feet can be a De-straction
De-Feet can be a De-straction
This coming Sunday we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Depending on where you attend church, your fellowship may also have services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and an early morning Sunrise Service, culminating in the worship service Sunday morning.
Maundy Thursday services often include foot washing to remind us of Jesus washing His disciple’s feet the night before His crucifixion. This event is also called “Holy Thursday.” This particular evening is often consummated with a celebration of Holy Communion.
The word “Maundy” comes from the first word in the expression “mandatum novum” which are the first two words in John 13:34 as translated in the Latin Vulgate. Novum represents new and mandatum means commandment. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you.”
I have heard of Maundy Thursday, normally in conjunction with foot washing, however I have rarely had anyone give careful attention to a wonderful truth which Jesus calls the new commandment, and which He taught His followers that evening.
Most believers are familiar with the command to love our neighbor as ourself, but how often have we been exhorted to love each another as Jesus has loved us. Loving people as we want to be loved is good, helpful, and relatively easy to understand and practice, for we know ourselves. We are very aware of how we want to be loved and treated.
Loving others as God has loved us, is significantly different. It is vertical in nature. It necessitates mediating on how we have been loved by the Son of God.
Even though the words “new commandment” or “novum mandatum” are not used in John 15:12 Jesus issues the identical command, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
The more I have pondered how to love others as Jesus has loved me, I have found myself looking up instead of around. My gaze is heavenward as I consider Jesus: laying His life down for me, taking my sins upon Himself, praying for me, serving me, loving me while I am a sinner, forgiving my sins, and many more acts of love. I remember that Jesus was meek and lowly of heart and welcomed children. He was good and kind.
I have made lists of how Jesus has loved us and what He is like. Many of His inestimable acts I cannot emulate for they are unique to God’s divine Son, but there are several that I can apply to how I can love my wife and family. I can pray for my family. I can serve them. I can be kind and gentle.
Jesus says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) He then follows up this command with a definition of love: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) This is sacrificial love. It costs Jesus His life.
God’s Love, the Greatest Love, is Priceless and Costly
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
“God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son.” (john 3:16)
The love of God, as demonstrated and introduced by Jesus, requires a new word to represent it.
I recently learned that this divine love is a uniquely Christian concept. In the world in which we live, “eros” or physical attraction, dominates movies, television, and the media. Love is represented as a powerful magnetic allure between a man and a woman. The idea of a commitment to lay down one’s life, which Jesus did for us, and which He is now calling us to emulate, is very different. This divine love is captured in the Greek word “agape.”
Dr. J. I. Packer writes in his wonderful book, Knowing God, that the word “agape” “seems to have been virtually a Christian invention-a new word for a new thing.” The Strongs Greek Concordance corroborates this assertion as it says, agape is “a purely Biblical and ecclesiastical word.” (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 1973), 124.
In Your Father Loves You, Dr. Packer also teaches that “Agape draws its meaning directly from the revelation of God in Christ. It is not a form of natural affection however intense, but a supernatural fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). It is a matter of will rather than feeling (for Christians must love even those they dislike-Matthew 5:44-48) … It is the basic element of Christ-likeness.” (Colorado Springs, CO: Harold Shaw, 1986), 9, 81-82.
Dr. John Stott defines agape as “the sacrifice of self in the service of another.”
As I have delved into this concept of agape self-sacrificing love, I have seen that the new command, or novum mandatum, is the basis for Paul’s command to husbands, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:25) These words are an extension of John 15:12-13, “Love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
Go and Do Likewise
As we celebrate the love of God in sending His Son to die for us this week, may we also be reminded of one of the last exhortations of Jesus to His followers, to love and sacrificially commit to serving others, as He Himself loved, served, and sacrificially gave His life for us.
“We love because He first loved us.” (1John 4:19)
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:11)
Seeking to love others as I have been loved,
PS If you are interested in exploring this subject further, consider reading the book, Loved to Love, Loving Others as Jesus has Loved Us.
I will be presenting workshops at these upcoming events:
April 21-23, Duke Energy Center, Cincinnati, OH
May 19-21, ICHE, Bourbonnais, IL
June 3-4 MACHE, Arden Hills, MN
Podcasts may be found here.
I am continuing my series on finding Jesus in the Tabernacle.
311 Jesus the Perfect Sacrifice
312 The Bronze Basin or Laver
313 The Tent of Meeting
314 The New and Living Way through the Veil
315 The Cleansing Water of Life