“And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me Beloved, me who am but as a dog.”
In C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, one man exclaims this truth in awe and wonder of Aslan. Aslan, who parallels Jesus, is the King over all the high kings of Narnia who sacrifices himself for a son of Adam. His presence is inspiriting and his love and care for the creatures of Narnia is magnificent. In his character we see a glimpse of Jesus, our ultimate sacrifice, whose death and resurrection claimed victory over all sin and death. Jesus set aside the glory of heaven for us. The Lion became a Lamb and led himself to the slaughter (Revelation 5:5-6). If this is the fierce and unrelenting love that Jesus shows us, how much more are we to share the riches of this love! This awe-inspiring love is not confined to Jesus; it is a love that He calls us to magnify.
Looking at Jesus’ ministry, His love becomes ever more poignant in the final days before His death. John writes in his Gospel, “When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (John 13:1). Jesus knew the pain and agony that lay ahead of him, but He was filled with love for His disciples. Looking at the cross, any mere human would have been overcome with thoughts of their own pain and dread. Yet in His most difficult moments, our Savior God shows us the greatest example of what it means to love our brothers and sisters.
In the verses that follow, John describes how Jesus paused during a meal to wash His disciples’ feet. His disciples were shocked; this was no task for a rabbi, let alone a king. In this washing Jesus showed an act of radical humility. The King of all Kings, to whom every knee will bow, knelt down to wash the feet of sinful men. And after humbling himself in this way, Jesus said, “For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you” (John 13:15). Jesus asked His disciples to follow in His footsteps and serve selflessly. Yet this is no easy calling. This love meant washing the feet of the disciple who would doubt Him, the disciple who would disown Him, and the disciple who would betray His life.
Though we may not literally wash our friends’ feet, we can mirror the servant heart of Jesus. Loving those around us will often be painful, as we deny our own needs and desires to serve the needs of others. We may be reminded of the pain others have caused us and become tempted to view ourselves as superior. But in humility we are to consider others better than ourselves, just as Jesus humbled Himself (Philippians 2:3-4). No act of service can ever be beneath us if our God and King can lovingly wash the feet of those who abandoned Him. As we have seen how great our Savior loves, our hearts should overflow with this same desire to love and serve one another.
After washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus gives another great commandment before His death. He says to His disciples, those whom He called friends, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13). With his death in sight, Jesus knew the single greatest and most difficult act of love was on the cross. He was asking His disciples to see how greatly He loved them as He walked to the cross for their sake. Our perfect Jesus, undeserving of His death, humbled Himself and sacrificed His life for our sins. His love is the perfect example of love; it is unfailing and unconditional. Though we sin and forsake Him, He loves. And in His love we find this great call: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
Does our love for each other reflect even a glimpse of this great sacrifice? When Jesus says to love “as I have loved you,” and to serve “as I have done to you,” He asks for a love that is self-denying and sacrificial, boundless and free. This is a love that is willing to die for another, love whose greatest desire is to reflect our Heavenly Father. With Jesus at the center of our hearts, we are constantly reminded of His devotion to others as a model for our friendships. Though it may seem impossible to live up to His standard of perfect love, we have been given a spirit of power and love (2 Timothy 1:7). Through the Holy Spirit, God’s love has been poured out into our hearts, and we can have confidence that nothing will separate us from the love of Jesus. (Romans 5:5, 8:38-39).
Let us gaze upon the beauty of our Lord so that we may learn to love like Jesus. When our hearts are truly filled with the knowledge and experience of such great love, it cannot be contained. May this love overflow into our relationships as we seek the Lord beside our brothers and sisters.
May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13