Jesus, in different expressions, often repeated the greatest of the commandments. Jesus was once asked, “What is the greatest commandment?”
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”37 Jesus replied: ‘”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”-Matthew 22:26-40
So here in our text, Jesus was teaching the two great commandments under which all the other commandments find their place. When Jesus says “This is My commandment…” He does not in any way mean that he is offering a new commandment, or a different twist to the commandment. Rather Jesus is offering the ultimate expression and understanding of the commandment.
“That you love one another as I have loved you.” Is Jesus not the ultimate example of loving your neighbor? He spent his life doing good. He taught the poor and the outcasts. He offered the comforting, uplifting words of the Gospel to the hopeless. He saved his harsh criticism for those who took advantage of the disadvantaged and treated them with contempt. He healed the sick, fed the poor, and had compassion on all the troubled.
But in the end, just how did Jesus love you? He died for all on the cross for you! He poured out his lifeblood as the redemption price for each sinner. He suffered all punishment for all sin ever sinned. That is the measure of love by which we are to love one another. We are called to suffer everything necessary to love and help our neighbor.
Jesus doubles down on this when he says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” Jesus did not have in mind some heroic deed, like taking a bullet for a neighbor. People lay down their lives in a hundred different ways for their neighbors. Our doctors and nurses and other health professionals risk their lives to serve the thousands of COVID-19 patients in the hospitals. Medical personnel out in the clinics and in the field expose themselves to infected patients as they are testing them.. Such work is sacrificial. It is laying down your life. EMTs, firefighters, police officers–all these risk their lives for the safety of their fellow citizens. Husbands who put away their own agenda, their golf game, their ego, their plans and aspirations in order to serve their wives and make it possible for them to do what they want to do- these are laying down their lives. Wives and mothers who put personal wants and desires away in order to help and serve husbands and children – these are laying down their lives for the sake of others. Whenever you put yourself aside and look to the wants and needs of others- this is laying down your life. And that love for others emulates and reflects the love of Christ
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are my friends if your do what I Command you.”You are a dear, redeemed friend of Christ. Serve someone after the love of Christ today. Lay down your pride and all your selfish ambition. Risk your peace, quiet, and well being to reach out and help someone.