WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The night He was betrayed, Jesus gave His disciples what He called a “new commandment”: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).
What exactly is new about this commandment of our Lord? It was not a new thing that the disciples were supposed to love each other. Nor was it new that a high degree of love was required. God in His Law has always commanded His people to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). We even see love and compassion for enemies commanded in the Old Testament Law (e.g., Exod. 23:4), and Jesus opens up that reality in the Sermon on the Mount. So what’s new about this commandment to love one another?
The answer is, Jesus is new.
The Son of God came in the flesh to manifest love in a completely new way. The disciples were there sitting in the presence of the Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4:2), the brightest expression of God’s holiness and the perfect fulfillment of obedience to God’s Law. Jesus came, and He became the new standard of what love is. He made this clear by placing Himself at the center of His new commandment: “Love one another, even as I have loved you.”
So we should ask the question: How had Jesus loved His disciples?
Put yourself in the disciples’ sandals and think about the last three years of their lives with Jesus, their Shepherd.
- He came and called them by name out of their lives as fishermen and tax collectors to come and live and minister with Him.
- He’s been in their homes and with their families, eating and sharing fellowship with them.
- They’ve seen Him do the work of healing the lame and the blind, and He’s even healed their own friends and relatives and saved them from peril.
- He has comforted them in their distress, like when He calmed the storm and they feared for their lives.
- He’s spent three years gently rebuking them and leading them by the hand.
- He’s called them to share in His work and His power by sending them out to heal the sick, to give to the needy, and to preach the gospel of the kingdom.
- He’s defended them against the accusations of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the elders of their people. He’s even defended them against Satan’s attacks on their souls and on their faith.
- He’s been patient with their utter lack of understanding and their weak faith and their failure to trust in Him.
- He’s spent hours upon hours teaching them and praying with them.
- He’s called these men His friends and has such an affection and a love for them that He calls them “little children.”
- He has even made Himself lower than they were in many ways, the most astonishing of which we read about in the same chapter: He washes their filthy feet. He dirtied His own hands that their shame and filth might be done away with. He put their needs above His own.
Amazingly, not one of these expressions of Jesus’ love for His disciples comes close to what He was about to do for them. At this point in the story, it is time for Jesus to die for His friends. And through that act He will set a new bar for what it means for us to love one another. As we read in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
This is the kind of love Jesus commands us to show to one another. And when we do, He says that’s how “all men will know that you are My disciples” (John 13:35).
What would it look like for your love of your brothers and sisters in Christ to increase?
VERSES TO MEDITATE ON
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.
HOW TO PRAY
- Adoration – Praise Jesus Christ for the great love He has shown to His people by dying for their sake!
- Confession – Confess specific ways you have not loved your brother or sister in Christ as He has loved you.
- Thanksgiving – Thank God for specific people who have shown you the love of Christ by sacrificing their own needs for your benefit.
- Supplication – Ask for God to open your eyes and heart to opportunities to love others as Christ has loved you.