It is Thursday of Holy Week. Jesus is back in Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover and, as only he realizes, for the giving of his life. Much will happen tonight. Jesus will wash the Disciples’ feet (John 13). He will give us some of the most glorious teaching in scripture about the Trinity and the coming Holy Spirit (John 14-16). He will offer his priestly prayer for himself, the Disciples, and us (John 17). And he will give us a new commandment, the commandment to love one another as he has loved us. This is where we get the name “Maundy Thursday.” Maundy means mandate or command. The command to love.
John 13:34. 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.
But Jesus didn’t just throw this command out there as a new law for us to keep. His words weren’t just a rebooting of the Torah’s “love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus’ washing of the Disciple’s feet isn’t just an example for us to follow, a visualization of the commandment. There is more. There is more to this Thursday night. There is a meal.
Luke 22:14-23. And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves.18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. 21 But behold, the hand of him who betrays me is with me on the table. 22 For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined, but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed!”23 And they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.
Two little words jump out from Jesus’ reinterpretation of the Passover meal: for you.
My body for you. My blood for you.
This is why the new commandment to love one another is not just a new commandment. It’s not just a new law to keep or a just a reinterpretation of an old law. In giving of his body and blood, his life, for us, Jesus has fulfilled the law. He has kept it for us. In our place.
This alone is what empowers us to love one another, the truth that Christ has loved us.
Until you receive the love of Christ, you will never love like Christ. Until you are forgiven by Christ, you will never forgive like Christ. Until you are cleansed by Christ, you can never cleanse another.
Love is not a law to be kept. It’s a life to be lived. And it’s a life that has already been lived. By Jesus. For you. In your place. When you really believe this, you will keep the commandment to love joyfully, willingly, and naturally.
God, the order is important: you loved us first, so that we could love you and others. Jesus, I believe that your life of love lives in me. Your mandate to love is now my life, my nature, my very being. Thank you for living for me and loving for me. Amen.