Jesus often does the unexpected.
One of His disciples was called Simon the Zealot. He had been part of the Zealots who used violent methods—even murder—to try to rid the Jewish people of the Roman oppression.
Matthew (Levi) was a Jewish man who had been a tax collector for the Romans—exactly the opposite of Simon and the Zealots.
The result? Jesus calls them both and puts them on the same team! I’d bet he even put them together a lot. Jesus was trying to teach them to love each other and He’s showing us the same thing.
The setting of John 13 is the last meal Jesus will have with his closest followers before His death on the cross. Jesus washed their feet and then told them to serve the way He did. He predicted His betrayal and Judas has gone out to fulfill this prophecy. Jesus told the remaining disciples He was soon to fulfill His mission on this Earth. Need a reminder of what we know of where they were seated?
Jesus looks into the confusion of this strange evening and tells them in John 13:34-35:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”John 13:34-35
New International Version
Jesus started this cycle of love. He says, “As I have loved you…” (verse 34). How did Jesus love them? He served them as a slave would do. Even in this very scene of John 13, He had just done a slave’s job of washing their feet. In a matter of hours, Jesus would die a criminal’s death and serve us on the cross.
And He says, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
This kind of self-sacrificing love would signal to the world who His disciples are. Verse 35 is sometimes quoted out of context. I’ve heard people say, “The world will know we are Christians by our love.” And the implication is our love for the world.
But that’s not what Jesus is saying here. He specifically states “everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (emphasis added). Who’s the “one another”? Other members of the family of Jesus. Other Jesus-followers. Christians.
Don’t forget how Jesus has defined “love”: service.
If our service for Jesus doesn’t change our service for other people who believe what we believe, then the world would certainly reject our message.
When I was a child and teenager, I dreaded church business meetings. For those of you in churches that are some level of congregational, you know what these are. For everyone else, this is where the members of the congregation show up for a special meeting to hear reports, vote on budgets, and any other matters of business.
I didn’t dread them because they were business meetings. I dreaded them because I often saw how “Christians” acted. Stubbornness, contrarianism, “gotchas,” and self-centeredness were proudly on display at many of these meetings.
That’s not the serving love Jesus told us to have. What if non-Christians were present? What would they see? What do they see when one church is fighting with another church? What do the lost see? Is that a message proving the love of Jesus has changed us?
Beloved, if the love of Jesus in our hearts cannot cause us to change, then what hope does the world have of trusting the Savior to change them?
It’s no wonder Jesus said the world will know we are His by our love for each other.
Our unsaved friends, family members, and coworkers are watching us. They’re listening to us at restaurants. They’re reading our comments on social media. They expect us to be like them. Jesus calls us to the unexpected: self-sacrificing servanthood.
Remember what Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34b).
What can we learn from the demonstrations of the serving love of Jesus? How can we better demonstrate this kind of serving love to other Jesus followers?