“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” —John 13:34-35
Commandments are an essential part of the Christian faith; the Ten Commandments shaped the legacy of God’s relationship to the Children of Israel for centuries. The Old Testament contains over 600 laws for the Children of Israel to follow, and by the time we encounter Jesus in the New Testament, we still see evidence of the Commandments in the everyday lives of the people He encounters. Often, Jesus challenged the Commandments of old with more simplistic commandments, rooted not in mundane rule following, but in a change of heart.
When Jesus gives the Disciples the commandment to love one another in John 13:34, Jesus took a laundry list of commandments and simplified it down to one: Love one another. We’d think that having to follow only one commandment is easier than following the 600 laws in the Old Testament plus the Ten Commandments God gave Moses, but if we’re honest with ourselves, this single commandment is the hardest of all.
Maundy Thursday, a time where we remember The Last Supper, finds its place within the commandment Jesus gives in John 13:34. In the original Greek, the word mandātum means “mandate” or “commandment,” which is where we get the word “Maundy.” Maundy Thursday is about the commandment or mandate Jesus gave the Disciples to love one another. It is the commandment to be genuine, kind and intentional toward one another; to love others with the same kind of sacrificial love with which Jesus loves us. On Maundy Thursday, we often participate in the act of washing of feet. This act of love is the physical expression of Jesus’ command in John 13:34 — to put aside the things that divide us and offer humility and love to others.
God, we are grateful for the opportunity to love other people as you have loved us. Let us remember the sacrifice you made so that we don’t have to be consumed with the weight of so much. Let us find liberty in your love and find joy in giving love to others. Amen.
Alisha L. Gordon, M.Div., is the executive for spiritual growth for the United Methodist Women national office.