Recently I had the opportunity to conduct a wedding ceremony on a Marae located in the Taranaki. It was a daughter of a family who are great friends of ours and we have had over the years opportunities to be involved in their family tangi's and birthday celebrations. I have always found these opportunities to be an open door to share the love of Christ.
At that particular wedding I shared from 1 Corinthians 13 and described how love for another person is defined by what it comes up against in life. It is the experiences of life that give love shape and meaning. And that love needs to be tested in order to be proven true; so for example to be patient when the natural response is to be impatient, to be kind when the reaction is to be unkind. Love is defined by how it responds to the challenges it comes up against in life. And we see Jesus provide a perfect example of this kind of love in John ch.13, where in the face of imminent death he takes on the role of a servant and washes his disciples feet.
In this chapter, Jesus breaks into our world with a profound demonstration of love. It was just around the time of the Passover Feast, the beginning of a long night that would include our Lord's betrayal, arrest, and on the following day - Passover day - his crucifixion. In these final hours he shows his disciples just how much he loved them. In knowing that he is about to leave them, Jesus passes on to his disciples this legacy of love. He frames it in the words of a new command - "Love one another as I have loved you" (John 13:34-35). New, in the sense that it is modeled after Jesus' sacrificial love and new also in the sense that it is only possible to do - by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
The evidence of discipleship would no longer be the physical presence of Jesus - picture the Twelve following Jesus around the Galilean countryside. Now his disciples are given a new mark of identification, a new badge - love for one another as Jesus had loved them. In the physical absence of Jesus, it is now love for one another, that is to be the defining mark of a follower of Jesus. "By this the world will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."