Daily Reading & Meditation

Sunday (April 24): "Love one another as I have loved you"

Scripture: John 13:31-35

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of man glorified, and in him God is glorified; 32 if God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going you cannot come.' 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

Meditation: How does God reveal his glory to us?  During his last supper with his disciples on the eve of his sacrifice on the cross, Jesus speaks of his glory and the glory of his Father. What is this glory? It is the cross which Jesus speaks of here. The cross of Jesus reveals the tremendous love and mercy of God the Father and his beloved Son for the human race. John the Evangelist writes, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

The true nature of love
There is no greater glory and honor that one can offer than the willing sacrifice of one's life for the sake of another. This is the true nature of love - the total self-giving and free offering of one's life for the good of another. A mother who loves her child will do everything in her power to nurture, protect, and save the life of the child. A soldier devoted to his country's welfare, will endure any hardship and suffering and willingly sacrifice his own life to defend his people. God the Father showed the unfathomable depth of his love and mercy by willingly offering his only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world. To ransom a slave God gave his only Son. That slave is you and me and the whole human race which is bound in sin and death and separation from God.

The cancer of sin is healed by Christ's merciful love
Paul the Apostle tells us, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). The Lord Jesus died for our sins to bring us abundant new life in his Spirit and to restore our nature in the true image and likeness of God. The cancer of sin shows us the ugliness of greed, hatred, and envy which destroy the very core of our being and rob us of life and love. That is why evil infects the world which God created out of his boundless love and goodness. God did not create evil and suffering, but through suffering he conquers evil with goodness, truth, and mercy and righteousness.

That is why Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment and way of love - not a commandment that replaces the Old Covenant commandment to love one's neighbor as oneself. This new commandment transforms the old commandment with the love and mercy which the Lord Jesus poured out for us on the Cross of Calvary. There death was defeated, and sin was covered with merciful love and forgiveness, and Satan's power was crushed through Godly meekness and obedience. Jesus proved that love is stronger than death. That is how we overcome the world and conquer our enemies - Satan, who is the father of lies and a murderer from the beginning, the world which stands in opposition to God, and our own sinful pride and fear of death.

The love of Christ conquers all
The Father has glorified his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, by raising him from the dead. And the Lord shares his glory with us and with all who believe in him as their Lord and Savior. Augustine of Hippo wrote, God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love. God's love is direct, personal, and wholly oriented to our good welfare and happiness. What can hold us back from loving the One who suffered and died for us and who offers us abundant joy and happiness with him forever? Nothing can separate us from that love except our own stubborn pride, envy, and self-deception. Satan rebelled out of pride and envy - he wanted to be God's rival. Adam disobeyed because he listened to Satan's lie and deceptive promise to glory apart from God. We sin because we love ourselves more than we love God and our neighbor. Only the cross can break the curse of sin and bring full restoration of body, mind, and soul.

We are called to love as Christ loves us
We were made for glory - the glory which comes from God and which lasts forever. That glory can only be obtained in the cross of Jesus Christ. And the price for that glory is the total offering of our lives for the One who loved us first and who died on the cross to save us from everlasting death and destruction. God offers us the free gift of faith which enables us to believe in his only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who frees us from slavery to sin so we can live as sons and daughters of God. The distinctive mark of the followers of Jesus is love - a love not bound by fear, greed, or selfishness - but a love full of compassion, mercy, kindness, and goodness.

God's love has been poured into our hearts
How can we love one another as Christ has loved us? Paul the Apostle tells us that "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Romans 5:5). Jesus poured out his Holy Spirit on his disciples at Pentecost and he pours out his Spirit today on all who believe in him. If we yield our hearts to Jesus and submit to his will for us, then the Holy Spirit will purify all that is unloving, unkind, and unforgiving in us. The Lord wants to transform our minds so we can understand his word of truth and life which has power to set us free from ignorance, unbelief, deception, and prejudice.

This is the power that overcomes the world - the triumphant cross of Christ which breaks the destructive forces of sin, hatred, and division. And we share in the  power of Christ's victory by embracing the cross which the Lord Jesus sets before each one of us. What is the cross that I must take up daily in order to follow the Lord Jesus? When my will crosses with God's will, then his will must be done. The cross of Christ sets us free to live no longer for ourselves but for Christ and his kingdom of peace, joy, and righteousness (moral goodness). Our calling and privilege is to serve as Christ has served and to love and he has loved. That is the way we share in the glory of our heavenly Father who gave us his beloved Son who laid down his life for each one of us.

The distinctive mark of every disciple and follower of Jesus Christ is love - a love that is ready to forgive and forget past injuries, to heal and restore rather than inflict revenge and injury. The cross of Jesus is the only way to pardon, peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Every other way will fail or fall short of the glory and victory which Jesus Christ has won for us through his death and resurrection. If we embrace his love and truth and allow his Holy Spirit to purify and transform our hearts and minds, then we will find the inner freedom, joy, and strength we need to love without measure, to forgive without limit, and to serve without reward - save that of knowing we are serving the One who wants to be united with us in an unbreakable bond of peace and joy forever.

"Lord Jesus, your love knows no bounds and surpasses everything I could desire and long for. Fill me with the fire of your love and with the joy of your Holy Spirit that I may freely serve my neighbor with loving-kindness, tenderhearted mercy, and generous care for their well-being."

Psalm 145:1,8-13
1 I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name for ever and ever.
8 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 The LORD is good to all, and his compassion is over all that he has made.
10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you!
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power,
12 to make known to the sons of men your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds.

Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Christ's love goes further than anything previous, by Cyril of Alexandria (376-444 AD)

"He plainly indicates the novelty involved in his command here - and the extent to which the love he enjoins here surpasses the old idea of mutual love (Deuteronomy 6:5) - by adding the words 'Even as I have loved you, you also should love one another.' ... The law of Moses mandated the necessity of loving our brothers as ourselves, yet our Lord Jesus the Christ loved us far more than he loved himself. Otherwise, he would have never descended to our humiliation from his original exaltation in the form of God and on an equality with God the Father, nor would he have undergone for our sakes the exceptional bitterness of his death in the flesh, nor have submitted to beatings from the Jews, to shame, to derision, and all his other sufferings too numerous to mention. Being rich, he would never have become poor if he had not loved us far more than he loved himself. It was indeed something new for love to go as far as that! Christ commands us to love as he did, putting neither reputation, wealth or anything else before love of our brothers and sisters. If need be, we even need to be prepared to face death for our neighbor’s salvation as our Savior's blessed disciples did, as well as those who followed in their footsteps. To them the salvation of others mattered more than their own lives, and they were ready to do anything or to suffer anything to save souls that were perishing." (excerpt from COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN 9)

Meditations may be freely reprinted for non-commercial use - please cite: 
copyright (c) 2016 Servants of the Word, source:  www.dailyscripture.net, author Don Schwager

Scripture quotations from Common Bible: Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1973, and Ignatius Edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 2006, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.  Citation references for quotes from the writings of the early church fathers can be found here.


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