Summary: The best expression of our discipleship is our love for one another. Our love for one another is founded upon His love for us.
Read John 13:31-35
It is the night before Jesus is crucified. The twelve apostles are eating with Jesus that most important of all meals – the last supper.
• Jesus had just indicated who would betray Him. Verse 30 ended with Judas leaving, to do what he needed to do (in the words of Jesus, v.27).
• John, the disciple closest to Jesus asked, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus gave an answer. We do not know if John understands it.
Jesus turned His attention to the faithful ones who remained. He said, “My children”, a phrase he hardly used.
• They have been like children following Him, looking up to Him for guidance and help.
• But now He is leaving. And where He is going, they cannot follow.
They had been following Him for three years, but that’s going to end here.
• Everyone knows them as Jesus’ disciples, precisely because of this – they followed Him wherever He went.
• But now it’s going to end. They are not going to follow Him on this last stretch.
Thereafter, Jesus will not be around for them to follow.
• In the past, following Jesus, physically, marks their discipleship. But not anymore, after this last supper.
So Jesus said, “34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35)
• The command to love each other is not really new in and of itself. It has been a teaching of the OT. Lev 19:18 says, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
• So what is new? It will become the MARK of discipleship.
• What is going to set them apart as disciples of Jesus, now in His absence? Their love for one another.
The Lord says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples…”
• How are we going to identify a disciple of Christ? This is the new mark.
• They are no longer following the physical Jesus. They are the ones who love one another the same way Christ loves them!
• This is the defining mark of discipleship – for them, as well as for us.
THE BEST EXPRESSION OF OUR DISCIPLESHIP IS OUR LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER
I believe this moment left an indelible mark in John’s life. He was the only one among the four Gospel writers to pen down these words.
• And repeated it at length in his first epistle 1 John when he wrote it many years later. For the early church, 1 John becomes the earliest and most authoritative commentary on Jesus' new commandment.
• Nowhere else in the NT does the term “new commandment” appears, apart from this story, and 1 John and 2 John. Only John picked up on this term.
I believe John understood Jesus’ words when He pointed out Judas. His world came apart that moment.
• Someone he knew for years was the one who paid lip service to love.
• John was profoundly shaped by this moment at the Last Supper. He became the strong advocate of true love – for God and for one another.
See how John belabours this point in 1 John:
• 1 John 2:9-10 “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. 10Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.”
• 1 John 3:10 “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.”
• 1 John 3:14 “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.”
• 1 John 4:7-8 “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
A true disciple of Jesus Christ is identified by love.
• Paul says in 1 Cor 13 that a Christian is not known for his spiritual gifts. 13:1 “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”
• He is not known for his knowledge, nor even his faith. 13:2 “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”