31When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
OK, here’s what Jesus did not say:
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have really good theology…
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you believe the same way your really devout neighbor says you should…
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you never question the doctrines of orthodox Christianity…
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you are have better morals than others…
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have at least 25 biblical passages memorized…
Jesus is at his last supper with his disciples in John’s gospel, Judas has just left to betray him, and Jesus will be arrested and put on trial before too long. It’s time to get right down to it and say what needs to be said.
“Love one another,” he tells them. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
He’s already shown them what loving one another looks like during this meal. He has washed their feet and told them that serving others as he serves them is showing love.
He, after announcing that Judas will betray him later this evening, proceeds, out of love, to offer food to the one who will betray him.
And even after Judas has left to turn him in, Jesus focuses on preparing his disciples to show that kind of love to the world.
He feels so strongly about this, that ultimately, Jesus chooses the way of love even in the face of torture and death. He will not stop loving others. Even those who betray him, who deny him, who condemn him, who put him to death. Love is the be-all-end-all. Love matters, and it’s really the only thing that matters.
Jesus isn’t talking about a gooey Hallmark kind of love, but a love that makes you willing to humble yourself, willing to wash other’s feet, willing to turn away from power and violence, willing even to face death. A love that Jesus is more committed to than anything else.
That’s the love by which people will know we are his disciples.
Philip Yancey writes about a definition of love that Mother Teresa gave at a National Prayer Breakfast years ago.
Rolled out in a wheelchair, the frail, eighty-three-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate needed help to stand up. A special platform had been positioned to allow her to see over the podium. Even so, hunched over, four-feet-six-inches tall, she could barely reach the microphone. She spoke clearly and slowly with a thick accent in a voice that nonetheless managed to fill the auditorium. Mother Teresa said that America has become a selfish nation, in danger of losing the proper meaning of love: “giving until it hurts.”
Mother Teresa said that love is giving – giving until it hurts. That’s what Jesus does. In fact, he not only gives until it hurts; he continues giving until he dies. Regardless of the pain he will suffer. This way of life centered on love is so desperately important that he will not abandon it. Even in the face of death.
That’s the kind of love he commands us to show to one another. That’s the kind of love that reveals discipleship to the world.
The Cogswell family is mourning the loss of their mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, and great-grandmother Esther Renaud, who passed away Wednesday. They moved her into their house and took care of her as she weakened. They provided special memory events and went out of their way to bring some joy to Esther in her last weeks and months. Love one another like that, Jesus says.
We will be electing people into some council positions in a few weeks. Those who submit to being on the ballot know that they will face difficult decisions that may not be liked by everyone. But when you see the ballot, you’ll know that these are some of the people who love this church and are willing to face that. Love one another like that, Jesus says.
I was talking to someone this week whose job had been extremely demanding for an extended period of time. Against his better judgment, he was being required to work up to 80 hours a week for months. He told me that those extra hours cannot come out of his time with his kids, as this isn’t his kids’ fault. It will come out of my own time, not theirs. Love one another like that, Jesus says.
Be willing to serve. Be willing to sacrifice. Be willing to risk. Do it out of the love we have for one another. Love one another like that, because, Jesus says, that’s how I love you.
 Yancey, Philip. What’s So Amazing About Grace? 2003, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI. p.244.