John 13:31-35 (ESV)
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
It was a Thursday, just before the Passover (John 13:1), and Jesus was preparing to die for the sins of the world. Like a good shepherd, he was ready to lay down his life for the sheep. And how was he spending this last day? He was spending with his disciples, serving them (John 13:1-20), warning them (John 13:21-30), and instructing them (John 13:31-35).
In his service, Jesus taught his disciples the necessity of humility and the true nature of greatness. For those that would follow Jesus had to recognizes that they would not know more glory and honor in this life than He himself had known. “A servant is not greater than his master, not is a messenger greater than the one who sent him,” Jesus explained. Being a disciple of Jesus was, as Eugene Peterson would say, “a long obedience in the same direction.” It required a servant’s heart.
To have a servant’s heart, one must love those that they serve, which is why Jesus gives the “new commandment” in John 13:31-35. According to Jesus, the “Son of Man” is due to be glorified. For nearly 30 years, the Son of Man had lived in relative obscurity until the time was fulfilled and he began his public ministry. For three years, he preached and demonstrated the Kingdom of God, subverting the expectations of the religious people of his day. But now, the time had come for His glory to be revealed. Yet, he would first have to pass through the valley of death in order to be “highly exalted” (Philippians 2:9) and declared the “Son of God in power” (Romans 1:4). But after His exaltation, Jesus would be “somewhere” that the disciples could not yet go. He would be, as 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 tells us, reigning from heaven until “He puts all his enemies under his feet.”
During this time of Christ’s reign from heaven, the disciples would receive the promised Holy Spirit (John 16:4-15), who would empower and comfort them in this continued presence on earth. And their continued presence would be known by their “love for one another.” Christ’s disciples were to love one another as Jesus had loved them. In other words, Jesus’ sacrificial, humble, others-oriented love was to become a model for Christian love during the time between his ascension and return.
On this Maundy Thursday, we remember this command and we pray that God the Spirit would perform His work in us, which conforms us to the image of Christ, which is the greatest demonstration of redeeming love. Maundy Thursday is a day to reflect on this command and to respond in Spirit-empowered obedience.
Directions for Personal Prayer on Maundy Thursday
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to Grant Humility
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to Grant Discernment
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to Empower Patience
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to Empower Love