Summary: Looking at the context of Jesus’ new command to the disciples and His qualifying phrase, we come to understand this crucial need for believers today to love one another.
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.