Loving Like Him
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Read John 13:34-38 (ESV)
“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.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.”
What can we learn about loving each other from the way Jesus loved Peter despite his upcoming denial of Him?
If you study the life of Simon Peter in the Bible, his ardent, passionate love for Christ shines through. He was the first to proclaim the deity of Christ (Matthew 16:16-17). Along with James and John, Peter was in Jesus’ inner circle, the only three present at Jesus’ transfiguration (Matthew 17:1).
When Jesus was walking on the water, Peter jumped out of the boat to go to join Him (Matthew 14:28-29). In John 13:6-9, when Jesus started to wash their feet, Peter wasn’t about to let Jesus stoop that low. That is, until Jesus said that if Peter doesn’t get cleansed, he can have no share with Him. At the prospect of being apart from Jesus, Peter wanted a full bath, not just a foot washing. Coming up in John 18:10, we’ll see that Peter was also protective of Jesus when he cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest when Jesus was being arrested. Peter was a devoted disciple of Christ even though he was often brash and impulsive.
So, it doesn’t come as a surprise when, in today’s passage, we read that Peter declared that he’d even lay down his life for Jesus. It was in keeping with his character. But what surprised Peter was what Jesus said next. Jesus told Peter that actually, Peter wouldn’t lay down his life for the Lord. Rather, when Peter was afraid of being guilty by association and was afraid for his own life, he’d deny even knowing Jesus, not once, not twice, but three times!
But despite Peter’s cowardice and failures, Jesus was not done with Peter. Spoiler alert, when we get to John 21:15-19, we will read of Jesus’ loving restoration of Peter. He mercifully forgave Peter and still had big plans for him. In the book of Acts, you can read about Peter fearlessly leading the early church and preaching the Gospel until the day he died a martyr’s death.
In today’s passage, Jesus said that He had a new commandment for them, that they love one another the way that He loved them. But how did He demonstrate His love for them? He willingly laid down His life for them. He loved them sacrificially. He loved them selflessly. And He loved them mercifully. Consider how much love He showed to Peter by not only forgiving him but also for graciously allowing him to lead His church and share His Gospel in a way that left an indelible mark on the entire world.
Friends, Jesus said that all people will know that we are His disciples when we love one another the way that He loved us. Apart from Christ, that is an impossible mission. We can never perfectly love others the way He loved us. But in Him, we are transformed and empowered. Romans 5:5 says that “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Like Peter, we have been forgiven much and loved much. So, we should be the first to forgive and love others.
Lord, thank You for the gift of Your mercy and grace. Please forgive me for all the times that I have denied You with either my words or my actions. Help me to love and forgive others just as You have loved and forgiven me. Amen.
Reveal: How can loving our Christian brothers and sisters the way that Christ loved us draw people to the Lord?
~ Pastor Nat Crawford