What do you want to be know for? Perhaps you want to be known for brilliance. Maybe you want to be known for athletic prowess. You might want to be known for good looks. It is possible that you want people to admire your power or popularity.
Let’s ask a deeper question. As believers in Christ, what should we be known for? Should we be known for impressive buildings filled with inspiring singing? Should we be known for relevance and cutting edge ministry? I have a proposal. Perhaps it is more of dream than a proposal. What if followers of Jesus Christ determined to be known for what Jesus said we should be known for?
It does not take a bible scholar to know what I am talking about. Jesus could not say it any clearer than he did in John 13:34-35. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.” Wait a minute. That is not a new commandment. The OT calls us to love one another (see Lev. 19:18). So what makes this commandment new?
The answer to that question is comes in the next part of v. 34, where we are told to love one another just as he has loved us. It is this love–this sacrificial, other’s focused love–that will be what Francis Shaeffer called our identifying badge to the world. We will be known as Jesus’ people by the quality of our love.
This begs a question: What should this love look like? The first answer that leaps to mind is the cross. He loved us to death. While that is true and primary, we have another picture given at the beginning of John 13.
The end is drawing near for Jesus. The shadow of the cross looms large over this scene. As a matter of fact, we are told “Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father.” Then we are given a summary statement that describes Jesus’ life and ministry. We are told, “Having loved his own in the world, he loved them to the end.”
This love shines against the black backdrop of evil. For it was in this very instance where we are told that Satan had already filled the heart of Judas to betray him. Anyone who has ever been stabbed in the back knows how that feels. The trusted friend forsakes you; the confidant gossips; and you are left with the sting of betrayal. When that happens, one thought often comes to mind–how can I get even? When think, plan, and strategize how to get revenge.
Jesus, however, is free from the petty forms of retaliation that often plague us. Instead he is freed to love. What I want to know is how is Jesus able to do this? How can he love in the face of pain? How can he bless when he is cursed?
The answer comes in v. 3. “Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God . . .” Here we see that Jesus knew who he was, where he came from, and where he was going. In other words, his statues as God’s Son and his future as the Christ were untouchable to Satan and the betrayer. No matter what they do, it will not alter who he is and where he is going. He status and his future are secure.
Simply put, he has all he needs. Thus he is freed to give others what they need.
In just a few months, I will begin a frustrating ritual. I will try to buy my dad a Christmas present. It is frustrating, because my dad is at the point in life where if he wants it he buys it. If there is a tool he wants, he buys it. If there are shoes he likes, he picks them up. Whatever he needs, he buys. Consequently, we are left looking to buy something for the man who has everything.
While I am frustrated, I have noticed that no one has more fun at Christmas than my dad. He sits in the corner with a focused camera, waiting to snap the perfect picture of a happy grandchild. He giggles with excitement as the paper is ripped. He laughs like a child as the child laughs.
How can he have so much fun? The answer is simple. He has all that he needs, so he is free to give. He is blessed so that he can enjoy being a blessing.
Jesus is doing something similar here. He is about to bless those out of the overflow of his blessing. What is shocking, however, is the form that this blessing takes.
I imagine that the angels in heaven where stunned when the scene in verses 4-5 unfolds. For it was at that moment when the one who created and sustains all things, the one who deserves universal glory, the one who is worthy of all praise, stands and then bows. We are told that Jesus rose from the supper and did what everyone else at the table was unwilling to do. He removed his outer garment, wrapped a towel around his waist, and began to wash their feet.
This was the job of the lowest slave. But up to this point, no one was willing to do it. Yet, Jesus did not need to be recognized as king. That statues would remain unchanged. So in the overflow of his love, he knelt down to serve.
The disciples are stung. Any one of them would have been a better candidate. Why did the sit there and let Jesus wash their feet? One protested, but Jesus told him that this was necessary for now. And then, in verses 12-15, he makes his point. “Do you understand what I have done to you?” he asks. “You call me teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”
In love Jesus humbles himself to meet our needs. Now he calls us to humble ourselves and meet the needs of others, especially those needs no one else is willing to meet.
I had a friend named Joe. Unexpectedly his wife grew ill. Actually that is an understatement. She went in the hospital with a rash and came out unable to walk and could barely talk or breath.
Before her sickness, she did it all. She balanced the checkbook and bought the groceries. Joe said that he would brush his teeth one day and notice that the toothpaste was low. The next day he would brush his teeth and find a new tube.
Yet, after her sickness, it was his turn to do it all, and he did. An entire community watched in amazement as he attended to her every need. When I would visit, it was like a seminar on how to love like Jesus. The love Joe had for his wife because his identifying badge to our community.
Wouldn’t it be great if we were known for this now? What if we decided to love like Jesus today? I have a feeling that if we did, it just might change the world, and we might be known as a Christian.