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Gospel according to John 13: 31-35 (NIV)
31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: where I am going, you cannot come.
34 “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
“Love one another,” Jesus instructed his disciples (less Judas Iscariot) in the upper room on the night he was to be betrayed. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
His command is that we love others in the same way that he himself showed his love to those who follow him.
How had Jesus loved those who followed him? Although this statement preceded his death on the cross, there is no doubt that he knew what awaited him at the hands of the Jewish authorities and the Roman Governor. His love was to the death, his death, in order that others may by his sacrifice live.
His love is evidenced by his incarnation. He “who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! (Philippians 2: 6-8).
His love exercised discipline, as when he cleared the temple courts of merchants and money changers (John 2: 14-16).
His love challenged and corrected wrong doctrine, as was the case when Nicodemus came to him at night (John 3: 2-15).
His love coached and cajoled in order to reveal the truth, as with the woman at the well at Sychar in Samaria (John 4: 5-26).
His love brought healing and hope where hope was almost gone, as with the official from Capernaum whose son was near death (John 4: 46b-53).
His love desired that people should stop sinning and live a new life in obedience to God. His love therefore caused him to tell them so explicitly, as with the invalid man by the pool at Bethesda (John 5: 2-14).
His love was compassionate towards the hungry crowds. He would not let them remain that way, as when he miraculously fed five thousand by the far shore of the Sea of Tiberias (John 6: 1-13).
His love was also directed to individuals who suffered a disability from birth, as with the man born blind to whom Jesus gave sight (John 9: 1-12).
His love for the family of Lazarus did not prevent him from permitting them to endure a period of real distress so that he could teach others about his true nature as “the Messiah, the Son of God who was to come into the world” (John 11: 27 and following).
We readily see that, although Jesus’ love was boundless, he exercised his love through the teaching of hard lessons as well as through compassion. To love one another like that, we are not absolved from making decisions from time to time that require us to exercise “tough love”.