“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34–35
Jesus and the disciples have celebrated the Passover together, he’s washed their feet and admonished them to be willing to wash one another’s feet as they have seen him wash their feet, and he’s announced that one of them will betray him that night. Now he tells his disciples what they’ve already heard him tell the Pharisees, “Where I am going, you cannot come,”
Two realities are referred to in this one declaration. The first was that Jesus had to face the trials of his sacrifice on our behalf alone. The disciples were unprepared and incapable of following Jesus on the path of self denial that he must walk. In the words of the old spiritual, “He had to walk it by himself.” The second reality was that following his death and resurrection Jesus would be taken from them and while they would see him taken up they wouldn’t be able to go with him. Jesus would need to complete a ministry of intercession and judgment before all would be completed and his disciples needed wait and witness for him in preparation for that day.
Jesus next words are words of admonition describing how Jesus wanted his disciples to treat one another following his departure. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you,“
If Jesus had told us simply to love one another most of us would give the half hearted, divided kind of love we tend to think is the genuine article and believe we’ve fulfilled Christ’s command, but Jesus set the bar high. He made sure we understood that we were to love like he loved us. Nothing less would do.
You see his love, living and working in our lives, is the witness this world needs to know he’s real and that we’re really his. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
It’s easy to be legalistic and pharisaical when it comes to obeying God and his laws. It’s also easy to become judgmental with each other; pointing out the shortcomings of one another and criticizing and condemning when others have failed to meet the mark. It requires much more of us if we’re going to love one another like Jesus loves us. That’s why Jesus says, “By this all will know that you are my disciples…”
Jesus love flowing into the world through us is the best evidence of our identity as his disciples.
Friends, today, instead of looking for ways in which others let us down let’s look for opportunities to love them like Jesus would love them. Jesus has set the example for us to follow and he’s promised his spirit to help us complete the task. Let’s show the world that we’re his disciples.