Through the Bible in One Year

Day 158

John 13:31-38

Yesterday we saw the first of two predictions that Jesus made in John chapter 13, which was Judas’s betrayal of him to the authorities.  Today we will see the second of Jesus’ predictions in John chapter 13, which is his prediction that Peter will deny him in his greatest time of need.  But sandwiched in-between Jesus explaining what his disciples have just seen and Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial we see Jesus give a new command to his disciples and to us.

When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

“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.—13:31-33

Judas’s departure advances the plot.  Jesus turned his attention to the disciples and began to instruct them.  He spoke of his death as if it had already taken place since it was part of God’s plan; nothing could stop it from happening.  Jesus lovingly referred to his disciples as his children.  He would be separated from his children during the time between his death and resurrection.  The disciples would not be able to accompany him where he was going.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!”—13:34-38

Jesus instructed his disciples to love one another.  The reason for this will soon become evident when he describes the world’s hatred of him and them.  The command to love is new because it is based on a new standard of love—Jesus’ selfless love for his disciples.  Jesus was not asking them to do anything he had not already done.  Love is to be the distinguishing mark of Jesus’ followers.  Peter passed over Jesus’ comment concerning love and returned to the issue of Jesus’ departure.  Peter must have understood that danger would be involved since he confessed his willingness to die for Jesus.  The irony is that Jesus would be the one laying down his life.  Peter and the other disciples must have been shocked when Jesus prophesied Peter’s denials.  This prediction must have been especially difficult for Peter to hear, for he had just professed his willingness to die for Jesus.

Now let’s turn our attention back to verses 34 and 35, because with these two verses we find the key point of this entire section John chapter 13.  And we are going to start with verse 34, which says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

As Christ’s followers we are commanded to love each other in special way, though we may not belong to the same local church or denomination or may not even agree on certain issues.  And there are four big things that should take away from verse 34.

  1. As believers we must distinguish true Christians from those who only pretend to follow Jesus by examining their love and obedience to Christ and their loyalty to God’s Word.
  2. Any person who has a true and active faith in Jesus Christ and remains loyal to the authority of God’s Word, as it is revealed by the Holy Spirit through prayer and earnest study of the Bible, is a brother and sister in God’s family.  Those who are willing to stand for Christ and resist the popular but ungodly beliefs and behaviors of our day deserve special love and support from one another.
  3. Loving all true Christians, including those outside of our local church or fellowship, does not mean that we must compromise our specific Biblical beliefs or agree totally with their doctrine.  While these things should not divide us and prevent us from accomplishing our highest mission of leading others to accept the truth of Christ, we do not necessarily have to agree or come together on all issues of faith and organization.
  4. As followers of Christ we must never compromise God’s holiness for the sake of a false unity.  Loving God and his purposes as revealed in his Word will enable us to show God’s love to others—especially to those who believe differently than we do.  Love for God must always be the top priority.

And now let’s finish up by looking at verse 35, which says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  True, Godly love (Greek “agape”) must be the mark of distinction for Christ’s followers.  This “agape” love is basically a self-giving and sacrificial love that seeks and promotes the good of others.  Relationships among followers of Christ must be characterized by this kind of love and devotion.  If this type of love is missing, people outside the church will not get an accurate picture of Christ’s love and may see no reason to consider being part of his church.  As followers of Christ we must befriend each other through difficulties, be careful of each other’s feelings and reputations and put aside our own interests in order to promote each other’s welfare.  And when we do this the world will see a huge difference between what they have and what we have, which will ultimately lead them to wanting what we as followers of Christ have to offer.  And we will pick from here tomorrow as we see Jesus offering comfort to his disciples as we start John chapter 14.

Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:

1 Kings 5-6, Acts 7:1-29, Psalm 127:1-5 and Proverbs 16:28-30

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