“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
The word ‘commandment’ is a heavy word. Ten of them were once written on stone tablets. So when Jesus begins a sentence, “this is my commandment”, you know this is serious. Then He tells us what it is and we breathe a sigh of relief – “love one another, as I have loved you.” We all enjoy the word “love”. We like to love, and we also love to be loved. So this seems to be an easy commandment, until we realise how far Jesus wants us to be willing to go with our love – “lay down your life for your friends.”
This was once illustrated in an ancient story of a little cloud. One hot summer morning a little Cloud rose out of the sea and floated lightly and happily across the blue sky. Far below lay the earth, brown, dry, and desolate, from drought. The little Cloud could see the poor people of the earth working and suffering in the hot fields, while she herself floated on the morning breeze, here and there, without a care.
“Oh, if I could only help the poor people down there!” she thought. “If I could but make their work easier, or give the hungry ones food, or the thirsty a drink!” And as the day passed, and the Cloud became larger, this wish to do something for the people of earth was ever greater in her heart.
On earth it grew hotter and hotter; the sun burned down so fiercely that the people were fainting in its rays; it seemed as if they must die of heat, and yet they were obliged to go on with their work, for they were very poor. Sometimes they stood and looked up at the Cloud, as if they were praying, and saying, “Ah, if you could only help us!”
“I will help you; I will!” said the Cloud. And she began to sink softly down toward the earth. But suddenly, as she floated down, she remembered something which had been told her when she was a tiny Cloud-child, in the lap of Mother Ocean: it had been whispered that if the Clouds go too near the earth they die. When she remembered this she held herself from sinking, and swayed here and there on the breeze, thinking, — thinking. But at last she stood quite still, and spoke boldly and proudly. She said, “Men of earth, I will help you, come what may!”
The thought made her suddenly marvellously big and strong and powerful. Never had she dreamed that she could be so big. Like a mighty angel of blessing she stood above the earth, and lifted her head and spread her wings far over the fields and woods. She was so great, so majestic, that men and animals were awe-struck at the sight; the trees and the grasses bowed before her; yet all the earth-creatures felt that she meant them well.
“Yes, I will help you,” cried the Cloud once more. “Take me to yourselves; I will give my life for you!” As she said this, a wonderful light glowed from her heart, and suddenly the sound of thunder rumbled through the sky, and a love greater than words can tell filled the Cloud. Down, down, down; close to the earth she swept, and gave up her life in a blessed, healing shower of rain.
That rain was the Cloud’s expression of love. Showing such love meant her death; but it was also her glory. Over the whole country-side, as far as the rain fell, a lovely rainbow sprang its arch, and all the brightest rays of heaven made its colours; “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
One day we know we must die. So Jesus calls us to use our life and death to show love to others. And just think, our Master calls us to do this for our friends – He did it for us, when we were His enemies. What a wonderful Saviour we have.