What is the sign that we are Jesus’ true disciples? Is it that we keep the Sabbath, the test command? Is it that we just believe and do no good works? Is it that we obey the so-called successor of Peter? Is it that we speak in tongues? Is it that we dress plain and submit to the Gemeinde rules? Is it that we follow the ancient way? Is that that we obey all the church rules made up by mere men? Is it that we follow Wesley’s three rules? Is it that we be immersed for baptism? Is it that we follow the middle way or something else?
Let’s look at what Jesus said distinguishes his disciples and see why this old command is new in Jesus. Let’s see what Jesus said about glory and love in John 13:31-35.
What does it mean that the Son of Man is glorified? Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says that, in this context it means that Jesus will be made renowned, rendered illustrious. The death of Jesus on a cross has caused the dignity and worth of God the Father and Son to be revealed and acknowledged. The Greek root for glory is doxa from which we get the word doxology, meaning a short hymn praising God. When we praise God, we glorify him. Jesus was glorified by doing something remarkable for the whole world, dying on the cross for all our sins. World leaders glorify themselves by taking from their people for themselves. Jesus deserves true glory by giving his life for us.
Jesus addresses the disciples as “little children.” It takes a humble person to see themselves spiritually as we really are, “little children.” Our human vanity fights against such a description. In reality, Jesus is using an unusually fond term realizing that he will be glorified soon, but the disciples face a time without him. Jesus was to face the cross and enter glory alone. He was going to the grave for a time, where they could not now join him. He was also going to ascend to the Father, a place where they could not now go, but would follow him after. In verse 36, Jesus says, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”
The new command that Jesus gives is to be obeyed how? Jesus did not use the familiar division of the Ten Commandments into the last 5 or 6. Though all 613 Old Testament commands are relevant, that is old. How is this new? First, he told them to love one another “AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.” That “as” includes a life of service to others as exemplified earlier in the foot washing and taking up our crosses too. Studying the Gospels teaches us how Jesus put love into action (1 John 3:18). Second, it is new in scope. Those who only love their own race, gender, nationality are still under an old covenant love. New love is for all.
Does keeping the “right” rules show where God’s people are? Love is evidence of who we are. In the context of betrayal and foot washing is a new command. Long-time Christians know that being betrayed is part of the Christian experience. Yet in this is also footwashing, where we serve each other in love. Betrayal and denial also exist outside the church. But, real pure love from heaven can only be found in one place as testimony to where God is. Jesus asks us to consider an alternative to worldly revenge: love? What solution have our unending squabbles and wars provided? None. We Christians are called to love like Jesus in the only practical solution to this world’s problems, love.
No matter what values we accumulate in life, new love as Jesus loved, is the ultimate value.