Jesus taught many things. He taught things that seemed to contradict the current religious practices (but not necessarily the scriptures they were founded upon). He taught things that did not make much sense to some people. He taught things that drew huge crowds. He taught things that ultimately got Him killed.
As much as Jesus taught, it seems like everyone around Him would have been carrying a pen and paper waiting for some new knowledge to be dropped. Everything He said was gold. So I wonder how intimidating it must have been when he said, “Hey, listen. This is new and it is important.” I bet this conversation was a pretty big moment for His disciples.
As for the lesson itself, it seems pretty simple on the surface. Love each other. Well, duh. Everything He had taught up until then revolved around love. That is a given. But then Jesus clarified. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
That changes things a bit. Jesus was not what you would call a normal dude. He did things differently. So how exactly did He love His disciples? How did he treat His friends?
It is obvious that He spent a great deal of time with them. Not only were they with Him when He was teaching, but they also spent almost all of their “down time” together when they were out on the road. He shared meals with them and engaged in fellowship. He shared lessons with them that He did not necessarily share with everyone. Jesus opened up to His friends and let them know parts of His purpose and His mission that He didn’t tell anyone else. It was obvious that Jesus loved them and trusted them. (Note: The trust comment is a relative one, as He knew that Judas was about to go all Judas on Him.)
Jesus also challenged His disciples and held them accountable. He showed them tough love on many occasions, especially Peter.
Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Matthew 16:23 NLT)
Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?” And Jesus replied, “You can’t go with me now, but you will follow me later.” “But why can’t I come now, Lord?” he asked. “I’m ready to die for you.” Jesus answered, “Die for me? I tell you the truth, Peter—before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” (John 13:36-38 NLT)
So how did Jesus love His friends? He spent time with them. He shared very personal, private things with them and invited them to do the same. He held them accountable to following God with their lives. He was willing to care for them and cry with them, and He was willing to yell at them and get in their faces. Jesus loved them fully and completely.
When we choose to love each other in those ways, that is how the rest of the world knows that we are followers of Christ. They will know we are Christians by our love. By our love.