A NEW COMMANDMENT (JOHN 15:10-17)
According to the renowned Rabbi Simlai, the Torah, also known as Mosaic Law or Five Books of Moses, contains 613 commandments, with 365 negative commandments for each day in the year, and 248 positive commandments. Many of the commandments are irrelevant today because they were associated with temple sacrifices. Accordingly, 77 positive and 194 negative commandments can be observed today.
Some of the 613 commandments or laws still raise the eyebrows today:
# 68-69. Men must not shave the hair off the sides of their head or their beards with a razor (Lev. 19:27).
# 71. Women must not wear men's clothing (Deut. 22:5)
# 72. Not to tattoo the skin (Lev. 19:28).
# 79-80. To wear tefillin (phylacteries) on the head and to bind tefillin on the arm (Deut. 6:8)
# 90. Not to walk outside the city boundary on Shabbat (Ex. 16:29)
# 162. Not to marry non-Jews (Deut. 7:3)
The keenest and sharpest speakers, readers and minds usually find the Gospel of John harder to understand, analyze and teach than the first three gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. It is philosophical rather than practical in nature, more sermon and fewer stories, more discourse and didactic rather than drama and dialogue. Central to this passage is the value of God’s commandments (noun twice in verse 10 and once in verse 12, followed by a verb in verse 13). In fact, there is more talk on the commandments in John than other gospels.
Why did God give us His commandments rather than have us make our own rules? What is the purpose of the commandments? To bind, burden and break us? How should we view, feel about and respond to God’s commandment?
Be Delighted to Obey
10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed 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. (John 15:10-11)
I was taking the MTR from Kwai Fong to Lai Chi Kok when a man in his 40s with a little boy behind me stepped into the train, crossed my path and occupied the door space. They were standing beside me when the man opened up a small bag. The movements were so quick I did not realize what was happening but it caught the child’s attention. He said, “Wai, have you forgotten你不記得嗎?” The man had slipped something into his mouth, judging from a small pack of chewing gum in his hand. The man said, “Eating is OK吃無所謂. Swallowing inside the stomach is not吃進肚子就不行.” The boy was just as quick to reply, “No eating is no eating. 不可吃東西就是不可吃東西，Swallowing is not OK不吞都不可以.” I couldn’t help but be amused by the simple and natural way the boy reminded his father, so I asked the man, “How old is he?” He said, “Seven years old.” I answered, “How smart聰明.” The man beamed with pride.
Do you obey rules, regulations and restrictions? Have you said conveniently to yourself, “Rules are made to be broken”?
To “obey my commands” (v 10) is mostly translated in the Bible as “keep my commandments,” and “keep” is also translated elsewhere as guard, observe (Mark 7:9) and practice (Matt 23:3). NIV translates this as “guard” for the guards (Matt 27:36, 28:4) – plural - who watched and guarded Jesus like a hawk. “Obey/keep” is a key word in John’s gospel. It occurs a mere six times in Matthew (Matt 19:17, 23:3, 27:36, 54, 28:4, 20), a lonely once in Mark (Mark 7:9), and an absent figure in Luke, but an impressive 18 times in John, more than any book in the New Testament. The most – four times each – are in John chapters 14, 15 and 17, its last occurrence. The Greek for “obey” (tereo) has the sense of “to persevere, persist, like keep safe, keep watch.” Reasons to obey include reverence for God, restrain in life and to respect for others. Furthermore, the phrase “Obey/keep my commandments” is unique to John’s gospel, not found in the New Testament.
There are three ways to see God’s commandments: the legal trap, the loophole out, and the way of love. Love (v 10) trumps legalism because the “how” and “why” is more important than the “what.” Jesus is the perfect example, the gold standard and the chief interpreter when it comes to obedience: “Just as I have obeyed my Father's commands.” (John 15:10)
Jesus said, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love” (v 10). Alert readers know “love” and “keep my commandments” is central to the Ten Commandments, which tells us the motivation must always be out of love (Ex 20:6, Deut 5:10), which is also endorsed four times in the previous chapter (John 14:15, 21, 23, 24 - read). Love conquers the fear and frustration of obeying God’s commandments. Without love, obedience is a demand. With love, it is a delight. Obedience short of love is a pain. With love, it is a pleasure. Loveless obedience is forced; with love, it is d fulfilling.