The 13th chapter of the Gospel of John is, like all scripture in the Holy Bible, fundamental to the Christian faith. But John 13 has been foundational to Christians from the inception of the church of Jesus Christ and throughout the ages, since the Last Supper of Jesus and His apostles provides the basis of our sacrament of Holy Communion, also known to others as the Eucharist, or The Lord’s Supper. The blessed sacrament plays an important role in the Lenten observance of Holy Week, when faithful Christians all around the world pause to celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion on Maundy Thursday, thereby re-enacting and remembering The Last Supper event of Jesus and His apostles on the night He was eventually arrested, only to be persecuted, subjected to the mockery of a “trial,” and crucified the next day.
I’ve discovered through the years that it seems easier at times to follow the “practices” of Jesus (such as the Lord’s Supper) than to follow the “preaching” of Jesus, such as “just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” Consider the following Bible verses related to the Last Supper:
John 13:1, 34-35 – “Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that His hour had come to leave this world and return to His Father. He had loved His disciples during His ministry on earth, and now He loved them to the very end…34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
“A new commandment”—in Latin, a ‘mandatum novem’— “I am giving you.” “Love each other. Just as I have loved you.” That’s a commandment, by the way, not a suggestion!
Sometimes, it’s easier to follow the “practices” of Jesus than the “preaching” of Jesus, unless the preaching of Jesus is also a practice of Jesus, as it was at The Last Supper. There are at least three lessons we can learn from Jesus at The Last Supper: 1 – Loving isn’t the same as liking! (v. 34); 2 – Love each other, just as He loved us! (v. 34); 3 – Again, He gave us a new commandment—a mandatum novem—and not a new suggestion, as much as we would like for it to be! (v. 34).
His new commandment assumes a volitional act on our part, a choice, an act of the human will. It is a work of obedience to the will of God and becomes a testimony to the world. It is, in essence, our trademark. In the words of the song we sang as children while camping at Blue Lake, “They’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, and they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
And so they will, when we practice what we preach.