The New Command
31After Judas had gone, Jesus said:
Now the Son of Man will be given glory, and he will bring glory to God. 32Then, after God is given glory because of him, God will bring glory to him, and God will do it very soon.
33 My children, I will be with you for only a little while longer. Then you will look for me, but you won't find me. I tell you just as I told the people, “You cannot go where I am going.” 34 But I am giving you a new command. You must love each other, just as I have loved you. 35If you love each other, everyone will know that you are my disciples.
(Matthew 26.31-35; Mark 14.27-31; Luke 22.31-34)
36Simon Peter asked, “Lord, where are you going?”
Jesus answered, “You can't go with me now, but later on you will.”
37Peter asked, “Lord, why can't I go with you now? I would die for you!”
38“Would you really die for me?” Jesus asked. “I tell you for certain before a rooster crows, you will say three times that you don't even know me.”
On the night before his crucifixion, Jesus told the apostles he had something to tell them – “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (v 34).
This must have surprised them at first. Not because it was something new but because it wasn’t. All along Jesus had stressed the importance of love, not only by his words but by his actions as well. So it was nothing unusual to find him talking about it again.
But Jesus went on – “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (v 35).
If you love another. IF you love one another. THEN people will know you are the followers of Jesus.
Not before. And, Jesus emphasizes here, not for any number of other reasons. Only if you love one another.
This was new.
Wouldn’t the world around them know they were disciples of Jesus because they had the power to cast out demons?
Wouldn’t the world know they were disciples of Jesus because they ate with him, and traveled with him, and were always at his side, and were always being taught by him?
Wouldn’t the world know for all kinds of reasons how important they were to Jesus and how connected they were just by looking at all the time they spent with him?
Won’t people realize we’re Christians by all the worship we do in our churches on Sunday mornings?
Won’t they know we’re followers of Jesus by our testimonies, and how well we can articulate our Christian beliefs, and by all the good deeds our churches do in the community?
Surely that can cover the gossip and quarreling and jealousy that occurs in our church communities. Surely it can cover unforgiveness and church fights and slander. Surely loving one another is less important than evangelism or precise doctrine or any number of good deeds we do in the community.
But Jesus said the new word he gave them was that loving each other as he loved them was how people would know they were Christians. It was the most important thing. And it wasn’t just a good idea or a plan or something to think over or a request.
It was a command.
We are commanded to love.
It is the chief hallmark of our faith and our major witness to the world around us of the reality of God in our lives.
Lord, we have so many ideas about how to show those around us how real our faith is and how important it is for them to embrace it as well. And many of those ideas can be good. But the greatest is love. You told us that through Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 and you tell us that through Jesus only hours before his death. Help us to love one another in our churches every day the same way you love us every day. So that the whole world will know we belong to you and that our faith in you is real.
In your name we ask for your help. Amen.