“When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! ” (John 13:31–38, NIV)
“Love one another as I have loved you…”
Now that’s a tall order! How many examples of that do you see around you?
The honest truth is that not many of us have loved someone else to the point that we have been falsely accused, tortured and cruelly crucified on their behalf. For that matter, I don’t know that many of us have even lowered ourselves to the point of washing another person’s feet as an expression of humble devotion. Is it really possible to love others like Jesus loved us?
If the picture you have in your mind is our personal commitment to mirror the life of Jesus by following the example of His love for others, then I would say that we are setting ourselves up for failure. Asking ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” is a great question, but the fact of the matter is, nobody has the ability to match the pattern of His life. His ways are not our ways and the depth of His love is humanly incomprehensible. The example of Peter’s denial seems to illustrate this point.
Peter was a courageous man whose faith stood out boldly in the landscape of the disciples. When Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?”, it was Peter who replied, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” His confession is one of the great professions of faith in all of scripture. And yet, Peter would not risk ridicule for the sake of following Jesus, much less give His own life.
At least not yet…
In just days, Peter would stand before the people and boldly proclaim Jesus as the promised Messiah. It was a step of faith that could (and eventually did) end his life. So what is the difference between the Peter who fearfully denied Jesus and the Peter that stood up on Pentecost and fearlessly proclaimed salvation in Christ alone?
The difference is the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Without it, following the example of Jesus is only wishful thinking. It’s an admirable effort to live a good life, but it will always fall short of what is necessary to be a child of God.
Following Jesus, loving as He loved, is based on the power of the Holy Spirit and not the power of the human will. It is accomplished not by valiant effort but by willing surrender. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life by trusting Jesus will find it.
Each day, every one of us has to make the choice of who will be in control. Choose today to surrender to God so that He can do in you what you cannot do for yourself. Your life literally depends on it.