"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another." --John 13:34
New can be described as a plethora of things. It can be exciting, challenging, and daunting among many other adjectives. New is all of these feelings and much more when Jesus provides us a new command because it is personal and should be incredibly motivating. Anytime you see the words highlighted red, meaning the words are an exact quote from Jesus Himself, in your Bible you should pay attention; especially so when God in flesh is giving us a new standard for the way we live our lives. So naturally the first thing that comes to my attention in John 13:34 is "A new commandment I give to you"
The command to love your fellow man was not a brand new command itself as Leviticus 19:18 tells us:
"You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am The Lord."
So the logical question is to ask why Jesus claimed that this was a new command when it had already been stated in the Old Testament? Jesus Christ answers this question with the following text in John 13:34
"Even As I have loved you."
This is what truly makes the verse profound and new; He not only loved His neighbor as Himself, which is what we are called upon to do back in Leviticus, but He stepped it up another notch and loved His fellow man more than Himself. He sacrificed His life for others. The verse creates a much higher standard for Christians. The most intimating part is that as His followers we are called to imitate Him; meaning we are to be ready on moments notice to lay down our lives for each other. Crazy, right? That is no small command! No system of morality had ever suggested any thing so amazingly selfless. Jesus wants love to be our specialty, brand, and a name we wear proudly as Christians. Just as Italians are known for spaghetti and Americans for freedom; Christian are to be known for our ability and willingness to love others more than ourselves.
A Powerful Command
For us to truly grasp the gravity of the new command we must understand the context of the verse. The best way to fully grasp a verse in the Bible is to take a step back and see what you've missed in the story. In the same way you wouldn't start a movie at the halfway mark, it is also important to realize that their is usually more to the story when it comes to the Bible.
This particular part of the Bible is the crescendo of sorts as we, the reader, are all to familiar with what is about to happen. This is the equivalent to the William Wallace speech to his men right before the battle of their lives in Brave Heart. In this intense section of text Judas has just left to commit the largest betrayal of all man kind by turning in Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver. The disciples, who don't understand the severity of the situation with the exception of John, are all intently listening to Jesus. The twelve disciples are partaking in perhaps the most famous and probably the most important meal of all time. Jesus and John, whom Jesus had told, were the only two at the table that knew of Judas' wicked betrayal plan.
In my favorite scene of the Bible Jesus boldly, and with a bravado that would make John Wayne look like the equivalent of a school girl, tells Judas “What you are going to do, do quickly” I can imagine Jesus' tone and whole demeanor changed when Judas closed the door and was gone from the room. It has the feel of relief yet an inexplicable eerie feeling as we know the terrible crime Judas is now in the process of committing. Once Judas is gone, Jesus knows that he can really get down to business with His disciples and truly begin to show us the reason for the cross and the importance of love. With His impending torture ahead Jesus speaks about the glorification that is to come through the following events.
"When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once." John 13:31-32
This glorification will be made possible by the painful death He is about to experience and the wondrous resurrection to follow. The events Jesus is referencing will lead to God being glorified through Christ so that we would no longer be judged by our own sinful way but rather have the choice to choose Jesus and be cleansed by His merciful blood just as John 3:16 so clearly articulates.
"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Jesus sets the mood for his new command by informing the disciples of their impending separation in John 13:33.
"Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ -John 13:33
Jesus is telling his most loyal followers, best friends, and those who have studied his every move and instruction for the past few years that they are about to be all on their own. They can not go to Heaven with Jesus because their work on earth is not yet finished. His command comes as one of His final instructions to His disciples. Like a father on his death bed would give what he felt was the most important advise to his child. Jesus gives His disciples a command like none other before in John 13:34.
During this amazing moment, in such a critical time for all of humanity, and with the weight of the world firmly on His shoulders Jesus gives us an absolute command to Love Others.
If you don't feel the urgency and the sheer weight of the command Jesus has given us after hearing the context, you need to check your pulse.
John 13:34 could also be looked at as a magnified or renewed command. The command to love others was made more challenging by Jesus not necessarily completely brand new. Under the old law set in Leviticus people were the standard for our love. We were taught to love others as they loved us. In the thirteenth chapter of John Jesus ask that we not love others based upon the love they show us but instead by the way He loves us.
Throughout the New Testament Jesus continually raises the standards for His followers. His commands often ratified the tried and true old testament commands. He did this six times alone (Matthew 5:22, 28, 32, 34, 39, and 44) at "The Sermon On The Mount" in Mathew five. For instance, in Matthew 5:21, Jesus says, "You have heard that it was said to the ancient ones, 'You shall not murder;' and 'Whoever shall murder shall be in danger of the judgment.'"In this verse, Jesus stated the law: "You shall not murder" ,which originally came from Exodus.
"You shall not murder." Exodus 20:13
Jesus raised the standard however, "But I tell you, that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council; and whoever shall say, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of the fire of Gehenna" (Matthew 5:22). Jesus was saying that even having an angry thought was a sin.
Five more times Jesus made declarations raising the standard of old laws.
- He tells us adultery is not just the physical act forbidden in the Ten Commandments. It is merely lusting after someone you are not married to. (Matthew 5:27-28).
- In verses 28-32, He says not to follow old testament laws on divorce because even they cause adultery.
- In verses 33-34, Jesus says that, in contrast to the Old Testament allowance for vows as long as they are kept, Christians are not to swear at all.
- In verses 38-42, Jesus says to ignore the Old Testament law, "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth," And instead to turn the other cheek, give to those who sue them, go the extra mile, and lend without expecting repayment.
- And, instead of settling for the Old Testament standard to love your neighbor but hate your enemy Jesus ask that we, "..love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven" (verses 43-45a).
Why does Jesus constantly raise old testament standards with new, magnified laws?
1. He's a good dad.
Jesus is the perfect example of a wonderful father. When I was younger my father would always give me tips and advice when it came to playing football among many other subjects. An example of this is when I was struggling to catch the balls thrown to me during games due to poor technique. All week he told me to catch the ball with my hands instead of using my body to brace the ball when it was thrown my direction. That week we spent countless hours playing catch in the backyard and all the while my dad would pound the proper way to do things in my head. In the next game I caught the only ball that was thrown my way and was able to gain a few yards for the team before being drug to the ground almost immediately.
It probably wasn't a big deal for anyone else; but to me it was a huge accomplishment, and one that I was very proud of. After the game my dad told me that I had done a good job but that we needed to work on being able to get more yards after I had made the catch. I couldn't believe it! We had worked all week on catching the ball and even after I had done that right he still wasn't pleased. Looking back now I see that he wasn't trying to be discouraging or impossible to please rather he raised the standards for my play because he wanted me to be better. He believed in my capabilities more than I believed in them and he wanted me to see my own potential. In the same way Jesus gives us a higher standard of living because He loves us and wants each of us to reach the God given potential in our lives.
2. He knows you'll fail.
Only Jesus was able to fully accomplish these laws He has set for us in the new testament. The rest of us have failed miserably and because of this we deserve the punishment the Bible clearly lays out for those who sin. But don't get discouraged because Jesus knew this and died for our sins so that through Him we are able to live eternally in Heaven if we accept Him as our savior. Any attempt to attain our own righteousness by works is self-righteousness which is a sin itself! Jesus Christ made us pure and righteous on the cross. By His blood and only by His blood, the penalty for our sins has been paid in full which means their is no more condemnation.
"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" Romans 8:1
We should be extremely grateful for this truth! Don't get this message twisted or mistake my words, just because God doesn't save through our works doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to live by the standards Jesus set for us in the New Testament. We are saved by His death therefore we are now free to try to live by these standards without the fear of failure and condemnation. As a Christian it should be your honor to lay down your own selfish desires for the ones God has set for us to strive for. After all He gave His only son just so you could live your life without fear of perishing in Hell.
3. Jesus raised the standards for us so that we would know how to live in a way that shows God's love to the world.
Remember how earlier I said Jesus wants love to be our badge and brand name as Christians? Well Jesus gave us these standards so that we would clearly know how to show everyone around us the love of Jesus. As sinful humans He knew we would not be able to properly show the love He created in us if it wasn't explicitly taught to us. So just like my own father spent time teaching me a better? way to catch the football; Jesus showed us a new standard for following him. Think about it for a minute; when we are patient in the way Jesus ask us to be we are showing God's amazing patient love to the world. Lusting after someone in our minds does not show them love instead it objectifies them for our own selfish purposes and eventually leads to real life sinful action, which is why Jesus ask that we refrain from even having lustful thoughts! Following the high standard principles Jesus outlines will show the world a wondrous and extraordinary style of love. It all comes back to the command Jesus gives us in John 13:34. We are to love others the way He loves us.
Written By: Blake Farley
Born in rural Oklahoma and raised in the big city of Fort Worth Blake, now 20 years old, is the founding writer and leader of Love Other Ministries. The mission was started after a call from God in the summer of 2015 to show others how to love like Jesus so that Christians would be known for the love they show to others. Beyond writing Blake is also a successful race car driver, enjoys competition, and could be best described as an extraordinarily normal kid with an out of this world purpose thanks to an astonishing God.