Today is Maundy Thursday. Maundy comes from the Latin word for command, and the connection is to Jesus, on the Thursday before He died, giving His disciples a new command. He said, “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” (John 13:34-35 ESV). Now, it might sound strange at first that Jesus would call this a new command, because the command to love is throughout the Old Testament. But what made this command new was the type of love and the example of the love that Jesus commanded. He said we are to love one another just as He has loved us.
The commandment to love here is a command to live out gospel love… the type of love we see on Good Friday and Easter… the type of love we read about in Ephesians 5:2, where we’re told to, “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (ESV). This is a Christlike, sacrificial, God-glorifying love that we are commanded to have. A love that is not only like Christ, but a love that flows because of Christ and His great love for us. As 1 John 4:19 puts it, “We love because he first loved us” (ESV). And we are to love as He has loved us. The love commanded here is an ἀγάπη (agapē) love: meaning a divine love characterized by sacrifice in the pursuit of another person’s good… especially the eternal good of being reconciled to God through Christ and enabled to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.
This is a love that is only possible by God’s grace. The world does not have and thus cannot exercise this type of love. Even though believers and unbelievers may both do things that are for another person’s good, and even if they do the same things, our motives and goals are ultimately different, and therefore our love is not the same. For the Christian, our love is a Maundy Thursday type of love. It’s a love that is commanded by Christ, that is demonstrated by Christ, that is fueled and motivated by Christ, and it’s a love that has as its goal the glory of Christ through the salvation of sinners.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a quote from Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit. When Gandalf the Grey wizard is questioned about why he chose Bilbo, a small hobbit, to go on a big journey and take on many big tasks, he says, “I’ve found it is the small things. Everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay.” Right now the world seems to be facing a big problem (COVID-19), but we’re being asked to do our small part through ordinary things (clean hands, masks, gloves, social distancing, staying home, etc…) to keep the darkness at bay (stop the spread). And all of us (the whole world) should be doing this as an act of love for our neighbor. But for the Christian we’re doing it out of obedience to God’s Word that calls us to 1) obey and honor the governing authorities, 2) to love our neighbor as our self, and 3) to live and love ultimately out of obedience to the command we see in John 13. And that means that our ultimate goal in staying at home, or in doing whatever we do… indeed our ultimate goal in the big intentional things we do, or in the small, everyday, ordinary things we do… our ultimate goal should be to love God by loving people with a Christlike love that is seeking to do people the eternal good of being reconciled to God through Christ and helping them be enabled to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. True Christian love is always tethered to the glory of God and the good of His people.
As Christians we have been commanded to love. But, because of how we’ve been loved, who we’ve been loved by, and how we love Him this Maundy Thursday love shouldn’t merely ring in our hearts as a command, but as our all in all. Indeed, we shouldn’t live lives of love merely because we have been commanded, but as 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 says, we should be controlled and compelled to love by the love of Christ. Just looking at these two verses should compel us to love because they are saturated, not only with Maundy Thursday, but Good Friday, and Easter truths, and thus the love of Christ. It says, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (ESV).
So, as you think about Christ at the Last Supper, during Passover, in communion with His disciples, giving them and us this new command to love one another as He has loved us, don’t merely feel the weight of the command, but feel the weight of the amazing gracious gospel love that is being referred to… The love we see played out on Good Friday. And let that love so grip you that it controls and compels you to live and love others for the sake of Christ… to no longer live for yourself but for Him who for your sake died and was raised. For that is what Maundy Thursday is all about.