Who knew such a small word could be such a game changer? But Jesus changed everything with this one word. He forever set the tone for life in the Kingdom of Heaven with it. He used it to establish the singular command that would encompass everything else in the New testament. 


Here’s what I mean. During Jesus’ ministry on earth, he was asked by the Old Testament scholars of the day, “What is the greatest commandment?” To which he replied, “Love the Lord with all your soul, mind, heart, and strength. And the second is just like it, love your neighbor as yourself.” Now this use of “as” is not the one I’m referring to. Jesus was answering a question about the Old Testament. And he said those two commands summarized all of it. Just two things. I’ve always appreciated that, because I have a hard time remembering three things, much less ten commandments. 

But the “as” I’m referring to as the game changer summarized the entire New Testament. And it was only one thing. 

Here’s the story. On the night Jesus is to be betrayed and subsequently crucified, he gathered his disciples together for a little dinner. Not just any dinner though. The passover meal. What we refer to as the last supper. Pretty big deal. It was at this dinner that he introduced a new covenant, what we call the New Testament, established and confirmed by his own blood. And there would be a new law that governed this covenant.

So Jesus gathers with his disciples and says, “I’m going to give you a new command tonight.” I can imagine the disciples leaning in a bit to hear it. Jesus had been teaching a series of counter-cultural commands for three years now, but the way he said it sounded different. They were curious. What would it be?

“Love one another.”

To which I imagine the disciples scratched their heads a bit and thought “Duh, you’ve been saying this for years. Nothing new there.” But Jesus wasn’t finished. Here’s the big as. The game changer.

“As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34, NIV)

As I have loved you.

Well this changes everything. It wasn’t just love others as you love yourself. That was Old Testament teaching. And limited to a certain degree by how well you love yourself. (I’ve argued for years that if someone doesn’t love themselves, it will be impossible for them to love others well.) But Jesus takes it to a whole new level by saying love others as I have loved you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read right over that without giving it much thought. It sounded pretty similar to the rest of Jesus teaching.

But let’s think about this a little more deeply. Let’s look a little closer. How did Jesus love each of his disciples?

Well, let’s start with the Big 3, affectionately known as the Inner Circle disciples, Peter, James, and John. How did he love them?

Peter. A combination of brilliance and brokenness. I mean when he was good, he was very good. But when he was bad, he was a train wreck. (Reminds me a lot of me.) Peter was the first one to publicly declare that he believed Jesus to be the long-awaited Messiah, the very Son of God. And minutes later, he was rebuking Jesus for what he perceived as a death wish. Imagine Peter taking Jesus aside, and correcting him in love. “Uh Jesus, you gotta stop with this whole ‘I’m going to be killed thing.’ People are looking for a Messiah that’s going to rescue them, to free them from Roman oppression. No one’s going to keep following a guy who insists that he’s about to die. So we need to do a little course correction, a little re-branding here.” To which Jesus replied, “You’re thinking in human terms, but not in God’s terms.” The Father had something much bigger in mind than just geo-political freedom.

And then there’s the whole denying Jesus thing. Which is a pretty big deal. On the same night that Peter pledged he was willing to die for Jesus, he ends up denying that he even knows him. (His pledge was true, by the way. He just wasn’t very good with a  sword.) When Jesus tells him to put the sword away, Peter is disappointed. After all, this was his chance to go out in a blaze of glory defending Jesus to the death. But when Jesus wouldn’t let him do that, I think he was confused and disillusioned. Later that night when Jesus is being beaten and mocked, three different people ask him if he is with Jesus, one of his disciples. And three times he denies even knowing him. Three times. The final time with cursing and swearing “I don’t know the man!” 

And Jesus loved him.

What about James and John, the Sons of Thunder! Power-hungry and judgmental, they were perhaps more like the Pharisees than any of the other disciples. They wanted the best seats of honor, asking to be on the right hand and left hand of Jesus. They were judgmental and condemning, wanting to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans who didn’t appreciate their preaching. (They also struggled with a bit of racism. I don’t recall them ever asking permission to call down fire from heaven on unbelieving Jews.)

And Jesus loved them.

What about Simon the Zealot? The fiery nationalist who wore a red turban that said, “Make Israel Great Again.” An ardent member of the National Sword Association, he carried a sword at all times, because you never knew when you might get the chance to take out an unsuspecting Roman soldier. (The Zealots were actually known for doing this.)

And Jesus loved him.

What about Matthew the tax collector? A traitor to his own people, he was willing to pad his pockets with Roman denarii at the expense of his own brothers. What a piece of work.

And Jesus loved him.

Then there’s Thomas. Good ole’ doubting Thomas. Who never really believed that Jesus was the Son of God until after the resurrection. (And even then he was a little skeptical.) So Jesus says to him, “Look at my hands and feet. Put your hand in my side. Stop doubting and believe.” And for the first time recorded in Scripture, Thomas says, “My Lord and my God.” 

And Jesus loved him.

And let’s not forget Judas the betrayer. The man who betrayed Jesus with a kiss for thirty lousy pieces of silver, the value of a slave. But Jesus still calls him friend.

And Jesus loved him.

And we don’t even know the myriad of issues all the other disciples had, other than they were constantly arguing about who was the greatest, who would be in charge after Jesus died. Three different times they bring up the conversation, including the very night that Jesus was going to be handed over for crucifixion!

And Jesus loved them.

This is the way Jesus wants us to love others. Unconditionally. Without judgment or condemnation. No matter what their issues, failures and faults. The way he loves us.

“As I have loved you.”

Which means it’s pretty important to know how Jesus loves you. Cuz’ if you don’t, you’re not going to be able to love others very well. We’ll cover that in the next blog post.