34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
We can have many treasures in life – maybe your wedding ring, a diamond necklace, your house… But you’d realized that the most precious things in life are usually the non-tangibles – happiness, love, peace… Sometimes, the greatest gift you can give someone is not something that can be wrapped up in a box.
From the words of Jesus, probably one of the greatest gifts you can give someone, or receive from someone, is LOVE. It is nice to be loved. It is the most precious thing you can have. Without it, nothing in life matters anymore.
Why is love such an awesome thing? Because it is rooted in the very nature of God. “God is love” the Bible says twice in 1 John. Not “God is loving” but “God is love”.
And love is a subject that Jesus taught and demonstrated, every day he walked upon this earth.
Verses 34-35 are important words. Before Jesus spoke these lines, He said in v.33, “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.”
So these were parting words, the last words of a man who will soon die. Jesus said love for God and love for fellow man are our most important duties. We want to take a good look at His words again this morning.
First, look with me at....
1. THE COMMAND: “A NEW COMMAND I GIVE YOU: LOVE ONE ANOTHER.”
So far in His teachings, up to this point, Jesus has taught His disciples:
• to love their enemies.
• to love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.
• to love their neighbours as themselves.
This is the first time, however that Jesus has given them this very specific command to love one another.
But why is this new command needed when God’s people already had the commands to love their neighbours as themselves? If we take a look at Jewish life in the first century, we realise that they wasn’t much love shown among their own people. They were greatly divided at that time when Jesus gave this command. They did not love the aliens in their land. Many hated the Romans. They did not love their neighbours as themselves; they despised the Samaritans.
And even among themselves, they were greatly divided over doctrinal matters - there were many sects - Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots - each having their own teachings. Loving one another was something they knew. In fact, we got a glimpse of the situation in Corinth, when Paul wrote (1 Cor 1:12), "One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."
You can see why Jesus needs to give this command clearly and give it special emphasis. In fact, at the end of his ministry in John 17, Jesus prayed again for this cause.
John 17:11 "11I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name - the name you gave me-so that they may be one as we are one."
See John 17:20-23 "20"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent Me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent Me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
Noticed, our love is a testimony to the world...
Jesus was praying for the same thing He said to His disciples here (in our passage this morning):
John 13:35 "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
Jesus was calling His disciples back to the basics - if we cannot love one another (within the household of faith, then we certainly cannot love God, our neighbours, foreigners, and our enemies as we should. How would the world know of a God who is love? How would they come to understand Jesus’ love? Unless they see that in us.
The prayer Jesus made in John 17 must be our constant prayer today. Our love for one another will allow the world to experience the reality of God’s love in our midst.
Jesus gave us the command: Love one another. But Jesus did not stop there. He added a qualifying phrase to this new command:
2. THE QUALIFICATION: “AS I HAVE LOVED YOU...”
Jesus did not teach us some doctrines, some theory. He has never called us to do something that was impossible or cannot be done. When He said, love your enemies, He knew it could be done. He showed it himself.
The disciples saw Him every day, for 3 years, and experienced it first hand, what it means to be loved by Jesus. And now they were now told to love the way He loved – they knew it was real. It was love not in words but in deed.
Whey they look at Jesus’ love for the people, it was undeniable. When we look at the Gospels, the authors often describe how Jesus loves the people. There was a debate about whether Jesus worked miracles by the power of God or the power of Beelzebub. There was a debate whether or not he broke the Sabbath. There was a debate whether or not he was John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the prophets. But no one would debate whether Jesus loves the people. No one accuse Him of that.
At the tomb of Lazarus the people said, “Look how much He loved him!” (John 11:36) Mark wrote in Mark 10:21 that when Jesus saw the rich younger ruler who came looking for Him, He looked at him and loved him. Matthew wrote when Jesus saw the crowds, "He had compassion on them..." (Matt 9:36). John describes himself as the disciple whom Jesus loved. In his last message to His disciples in John 15, Jesus declares that He loves them as much as His Father loved Him.
His love was undeniable. The disciples and the people were able to SEE love, not just hear about it. Jesus provided concrete examples of love, day after day.
It’s like teaching our children - something things cannot be taught simply by saying, we need to SHOW. We have to show them how to tie their shoes, how to hold a pair of chopsticks, how to use the scissors... You show them and then you say, “Now, you do it just like me.”
And now He said it plainly to His disciples – giving them a command - do the same. By His actions, Jesus left no room for doubting His love; and neither can we.
When others look at us, what do they see? Will they find love? Can we love the way Jesus loves?
Rom 5:5 “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.”
God has given us a ‘deposit’ in our hearts. Can we love the way He loves? Can we love our enemies? YES! If not, Jesus would not have said it.
1 John 4:7-8, 11-12 “ 7 Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.... 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
Only when you know Him, when you come back to God, can you love the way Jesus love. He is the source of that love. Apart from Him, what we have is just human love.
We live in a world where the words “till death do us part” have little meaning. Many may have recited it with all the sincerity they can muster, but they could not keep it. Human love is fragile, self-centred and conditional.
But Jesus says in John 15:9, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” The unceasing capacity to love can only come from God our Father. The disciples have seen Jesus living a life of compassion and love. He lived what He taught. He is the object lesson in real life.
When others look at you, what do they see? What stands out most for you?
Will they say you’re a generous person, a loving, caring person, helpful, forgiving?
Have you made a commitment to love people no matter what? Jesus expects that from us.
A young, orphaned boy lived with his grandmother. One night their house caught fire. The grandmother, trying to rescue the little boy asleep upstairs, perished in the fire. A crowd gathered around the burning house. The boy’s cries for help were heard. No one seemed to know what to do, for the front of the house was a mass of flames.
Suddenly a stranger rushed from the crowd and circled to the back where he spotted an iron pipe that reached an upstairs window. He disappeared for a minute, and then reappeared with the boy in his arms. Amid the cheers of the crowd, he climbed down the hot pipe as the boy hung around his neck.
Weeks later a public hearing was held in the town hall to determine in whose custody the boy would be placed. Each person wanting to adopt the boy was allowed to speak briefly.
The first man said, "I have a big farm. The boy will have a big place to play."
The second man told of the advantages he could provide. "I’m a teacher. I have a large library. He would get a good education."
Others spoke. Finally a rich man in the community said, "I’m wealthy. I could give the boy everything mentioned tonight: farm, education, and more, including money and travel. I’d like him in my home."
The chairman asked, "Anyone else like to say a word?"
From the backseat rose a stranger who had slipped in unnoticed. As he walked toward the front, deep suffering showed on his face. Reaching the front of the room, he stood directly in front of the little boy. The boy, whose eyes had been focused on the floor until now, looked up and saw that this man’s hands were terribly scarred. Suddenly the boy cried out. He recognised this man! Here was the man who had saved his life. His hands were scarred from climbing up and down the hot pipe.
With a leap the boy threw himself around the stranger’s neck and held on for life. It was obvious whom the boy wanted to stay with. The farmer won the boy’s heart without a word. He won him with his love. ... James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 119-120.
Love speaks more effectively than any words. Our lives have been changed because of His love. So will your family members, colleagues, classmates, and friends. Their lives can be blessed because of your love. Let others see the love of Jesus in your life.