Love Each Other
Today is the Thursday of the Holy Week, called Holy Thursday or Maundy Thursday. The maundy means “command”, from the Latin word, “mandatum“. This was Jesus’ last Thursday before He died. On this day, He had dinner with His disciples – the Last Supper, and washed their feet. After washing the feet of His disciples, Jesus said, “Since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you“. (See John 13:14-15). He also taught His disciples about leadership when He realized they were arguing amongst themselves about who was the greatest.
The commandment that Jesus gave His disciples, that has given this day its name, can be found in John 13:34-35, which states as follows, “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.“
As followers of Jesus Christ, we ought to examine our lives on a day such as this against this commandment. Are we loving each other in the same way that Jesus loved His disciples? Again, Jesus shows through this commandment that the best way to teach people and lead, is by example. Jesus always led by example. “Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” He did not say just as you have seen the religious leaders love others or just as has been written, you should love each other. But rather, do what you have seen me do to you. He then told His disciples that by obeying this commandment they will prove to the world that they are indeed the disciples of Jesus Christ. The evidence of our Christian faith is the love we show each other. Our love must be shown in words and deeds. The world will then see us and know that we are indeed disciples of Jesus Christ.
Another thing that jumped at me from reading the passages on Maundy Thursday is the theme of betrayal that runs through all the accounts. Jesus was betrayed by His own disciples and His best friends. Think about it; even Jesus who was God, who had done so many marvelous things in the presence of His own disciples, was betrayed by them. How much more you and I who are only human?
Right at the dinner table, Jesus gave a hint of His betrayal when He mentioned that one of His disciples who was eating with Him was going to betray Him. This hint is captured in Mark 14:18-21 as follows, “As they were at the table eating, Jesus said, ” I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here will betray Me.” Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one?” He replied, “It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me. For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. it would be far better for that man if he had never been born!” We all know that Jesus was talking about Judas because eventually he betrayed Jesus. Jesus could have disclosed his name but chose not to so that the will of God shall be done.
The second hint of betrayal came when Jesus and the disciples were walking to Gethsemane. Mark 14:27,29-31 sets it out elaborately as follows: “On the way, Jesus told them, “All of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say, “God will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” Peter said to him, “Even if anyone else deserts you, I never will.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter – this very night, before the rooster crows twice you will deny three times that you even know me.” “No!” Peter declared emphatically. Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the others vowed same.” Can you picture your master telling you this? Of course we will respond the same way that Peter and the other disciples responded.
Even though He knew that these were just mere words, Jesus still went with His disciples to Gethsemane to pray. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me“. (See Mark 14:34.) They stayed alright, but they did not keep watch. Instead, they slept. These were Jesus’ best friends and close circle – Peter, James and John. They could not help Jesus in prayer when he needed them the most. Mark 14:41 states that, “When he returned to them the third time, he said “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest.” This reminds me of when you are going through a lot and those closest to you say, “we will pray for you” but instead, all they do is sleep. We cannot always rely on friends and family when we are in dire need of prayers. We should learn to trust completely in God.
Judas finally arrived and kissed Jesus signaling to the armed men who Jesus was. Mark 14:44-46 states, “The traitor, Judas had given them a prearranged signal: “You will know which one to arrest when I greet him with a kiss. Then you can take him away under guard.” As soon as they arrived, Judas walked up to Jesus, “Rabbi!” he exclaimed, and gave him the kiss.” The kiss of betrayal. In this world, not all fans or appellations are genuine. Judas walked up to Jesus and exclaimed “Rabbi!” which is what the disciples called Jesus, and kissed him. But that was the sign of betrayal. Of course, Jesus knew what the kiss meant because He is God. Many of us enjoy appellations and name calling but the very people celebrating you in your face are stabbing you in the back. We must be careful and know what premium we put on such fans and appellations. The Scriptures go on to say that when Jesus was arrested his disciples deserted Him and ran away. (See Mark 14:50.) This still happens today. When we find ourselves in a difficult situation those we think will be there to fight with us and for us will desert us and ran away.
Jesus’ right hand man, Peter, denied Him as Jesus had prophesied. That part of the story is captured in Mark 14:66-72. But what is interesting was how Peter denied Jesus on the third occasion. In Mark 14:71, the Bible states, “Peter swore, “A curse on me if I’m lying – I don’t know this man you’re talking about.” Peter had just had dinner with Jesus and now he says he does not even know the man they are talking about. Incredible. I mean Jesus washed Peter’s feet a few hours before this denial, and yet still Peter denied ever knowing Jesus. Can you imagine being denied in this manner? When the cock crowed, Peter remember Jesus’ prophecy and he wept bitterly. Poor Peter, right? Betraying your own best friend like this.
The lesson here is that we are capable of betraying each other but we should be quick to realize our fault and not lose our faith. Furthermore, as humans we should expect people to betray us, or better still, we should not be surprised when they do. Only God will not betray us. Instead, we should show the same love to those who betray us just as Jesus showed love to Peter. Before Jesus told Peter that Peter would betray Him, Jesus said, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers” – Luke 22:31. We should, therefore, pray for those who betray us so that they will repent. We should be like Jesus and not hold it against them. We should also have absolute trust and faith in God because He will never betray us.