How many of you know the story behind the origins of Valentine’s Day. You know, it is called Saint Valentine’s Day for a reason.
Approximately 250 years after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, there was a priest by the name of Valentine. He lived in Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius, who was committed to rebuilding the once-great Roman army. However, he believed it was important for men to volunteer for armed service, rather than drafting men into service against their will. But, given a choice, most young men in the Roman Empire refused to serve. They’d rather stay at home with their wives and children that go off into battle.
Claudius came to believe that only single men would volunteer for service, so he issued a royal edict that banned all further marriages. He actually outlawed weddings in the Roman Empire, earning himself the nick-name Claudius the Cruel.
Valentine thought this was ridiculous! One of his favorite duties as a priest was to marry people. So after Emperor Claudius passed his law, Valentine secretly continued performing marriage ceremonies. He would whisper the words of the ceremony, while listening for soldiers on the steps outside.
One night, Valentine did hear footsteps at his door. The couple he was marrying escaped, but he was caught. He was thrown in jail and sentenced to death. Valentine tried to stay cheerful. Many of the young couples he had married came to visit him in jail. They threw flowers and notes up to his window. They wanted him to know that they, too, believed in love.
One day, he received a visit from the daughter of one of the prison guards. Her father allowed her to visit him in his cell and they often sat and talked for hours. She believed he did the right thing by ignoring the Emperor and performing weddings. On the day Valentine was to die, he left her a note thanking her for her friendship and loyalty. He signed it, “Love from your Valentine.” That note started the custom of exchanging love notes on Valentine’s Day. It was written on the day he died, February 14, 269 A.D.—a day that was set aside in honor of a man who gave his life for God and for love. Now, every year this is a day which honors Saint Valentine, but most importantly, we think about love. Everyone loves love! We want to be loved and we want to give love. The problem is—our love is lacking just like we are. Our love is often conditional, sometimes on our own mood or our loved one’s actions, appearance or attitude.
When it comes to love, all of us fall a little short, don’t we? My question for you today is—how do we develop and nurture a love worth giving on Valentine’s Day and every day? The answer, I believe, is found in God’s Word in John 15: 9-17. Let’s read what Jesus has to say in this passage, shall we?
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.”
Jesus had a lot to say about love, and His final night with his followers was no exception. During the course of the evening. which began in John 13 Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet “ It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.”
And this carries on through chapter 17. Jesus uses the L-word no less than thirty times in eighteen different verses. It doesn’t take Bible scholar to see that love meant a lot to Jesus, that this was his central message to His disciples. Zeroing in on this brief excerpt from the evening, though, I believe Jesus reveals for us how to obtain a love worth giving.
It all begins when we receive His love for us! Jesus knew that the time for him to leave this world had come. He knew that the time he had left with his disciples was short. And he wanted to spend that time showing them the full extent of his love. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Live within my love”(vs. 9 TLB). “I love you,”he told them! He loves you too!
A preacher once said, “Everything I ever needed to know about theology, I learned from just one song: ‘Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.’” Do you know the origin of that song? It first appeared in the form of a poem in a children’s novel written by Anna Warner in 1859. One of the characters in the story comforts a dying child with the words, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” A couple of year later William Bradbury stumbled across it, wrote his own tune and added a chorus. Within months the melody spread across North America like wildfire. A simple poem from an obscure novel became the most well-known hymn in the world. It’s been translated into more languages than any other song. It’s often used by missionaries as a teaching aid, because they favor its simple and easy-to-learn chorus.
Why has this simple song become so universally known and loved? Because it expresses the single most significant and profound truth known to humanity in three simple words—Jesus love me! A Master’s of Divinity won’t teach you anything more significant than this one song sung in Sunday-School classrooms all over the world.
Receiving the love of Jesus and living in his love every day, is the first and most essential step in having a love worth giving. Jesus explains it this way in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing”
In other words, as we draw closer to Christ and stay connected to Him, He funnels his love into our hearts; only then will we have a love worth giving, because His love is the only perfect a pure love this world has to offer.
He tells His love is characterized by sacrifice; He said: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” Jesus said (vs. 13 NLT). And that’s just what he did.
Receive His love—accept the wonderful, undeniable truth that Jesus loves you and draw close to Him, allow Him to pour His love into your heart. That’s the first step in obtaining a love worth giving.
The second step is to reciprocate his love. In Jesus’ day, a rabbi’s disciples were generally known as his servants. But Jesus changes that and shows them His love by telling them, “You are my friends if you do what I command you. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know what his master is doing. But I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I heard from my Father” (vs. 14-15 NCV).
In your relationship with God, Jesus promotes you from a mere mortal servant to friend—which sort of begs the question: what kind of friend are you to Him? Are you reciprocating that love?
It’s one thing to say, “Jesus loves me.” It’s whole other thing to say, “I love Jesus” and REALLY mean ti. Can you say that? Do you love Jesus? Do you love God? Is your love for him reflected in how you live your life? When we sing “Oh, how I love Jesus,” do you mean it? We may never be able to love the people God has put in our lives, if we don’t start by loving God Himself first.
Jesus said that the first and greatest command is this: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’Mark 12:30
Our love for God—for Yahweh, for Jesus, for the Holy Spirit—must be the driving force of our lives. If everything we do isn’t spurred by our deep love for God, then nothing we do really matters.
So how does reciprocating God’s love manifest itself in practical ways? Well, I would say it’s not too different from any other love-relationship. It’s built on trust, communication, adoration, etc. In other words: faith, prayer, and worship. The thing about loving Jesus, though, is that our love for him needs to be all-consuming. When I first fell in love with my wife, I thought about her constantly: while eating breakfast, at work, waiting in line at the grocery store, pumping gas—I couldn’t stop thinking about this woman! I often talked to myself about her and contemplated all the things I loved about her. Thinking about her like that helped me feel close to her even when we were apart. By constantly think about her, I was abiding in my love for her and her love for me. That’s essentially what it means to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and abide in his love for you—it affects every aspect of your life.
Going right along with what Paul says in Romans 12:1-2 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Loving Jesus means we: “Take our everyday, ordinary life—our sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering”
Now, as we continue to receive and reciprocate God’s love, there is a third ingredient that completes the recipe is to… RECYCLE HIS LOVE
Repeatedly throughout this passage and the rest of the chapter, Jesus says,“This is my command: Love each other” (vs. 17 NIV). Once we’ve receive the love of Jesus into our lives and reciprocate his love, then we’re ready to recycle that love—to share that God-like love with the rest of the world.
Jesus was very specific, though, about how we should love people. In John 12:12 He said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you”
This commandment knocks the walls out of any definition that would limit the scope and intensity of love. We are to love as He loved.
Just hours before issuing this comprehensive command, Jesus demonstrated it. The spring showers would have most likely turned the Palestinian dirt into mud—mud which would have oozed into the open toed sandals of the disciples. So it was customary for a servant to use a basin of water and a clean towel to wash their dirty feet before sitting down to dinner.
As the disciples reached the upper room, they probably spotted the towel and water basin easily enough, but there were apparently no servants around. So while the rest of them gathered around the table, possibly tracking mud through the house, Jesus prepared to do something wonderful.
The Bible says, “He rose from the table, took off his outer garment, and tied a towel around his waist. Then he poured some water into a washbasin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist” (vs. 4-5 TEV).
Jesus Christ—the son of the living God, the Alpha and Omega—got on his knees and washed filthy Palestinian feet. It’s almost too much to believe. But it’s even more amazing when we realize that this was a demonstration and lesson not only of humility and service, but unrelenting love!
“Looking back on that night,” writes Anne Graham Lotz, “John must have recalled the tender tone of his voice, the loving look on his face, the gentle grace of his gestures, the piercing passion in his eyes, the princely posture of his person, and been awe-struck that Jesus had expressed his love for his disciples to the utmost degree of which he was capable—through serving them!”
As we seek to grow in our capacity to love—to have a love truly worth giving—let’s continue to look to the heart of Jesus and learn to love like Him.
Saint Valentine may have become infamous for defying the Emperor and standing up for marriage, but what really made him a saint was that he received the love of Jesus, reciprocated that love, and recycled it through a life of service. When you and I do that, we are no less saints than was Saint Valentine.
I want this church, more than anything else, to be a community of love. I want to be able to come here, and I want you to be able to come here, and feel totally and completely loved. Nothing, according to Jesus, is more important than loving God and loving people. If we love each other as God has loved us, then we will become a church of love that will act like a magnet, drawing people who are starving for love into the presence of Jesus and the salvation that he offers.