The disciples had heard Jesus provide the Pharisees with a summary of 613 commandments in answer to the question, “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Two commandments are easier to remember than 613, but not easier to obey. Two commandments drive home the core standards of God’s requirements for obedience rather than 10, but again they do not provide us with the resources to obey.
In John’s gospel, after Judas has left the Upper Room for his dastardly betrayal, Jesus provides pointed instruction for those who were still with him.
“Now is the Son of Man 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.” The impending death of Jesus Christ was about to happen in less than 24 hours. The Father would allow His Son, yes, He would give His One and only Son, to die upon the cross as the debt of sin was about to be settled. What love is this! What grace shown through such agony! As a visiting international student once asked me, “Why do we call Good Friday ‘good?’ It wasn’t good for Jesus.” True, this day of separation from the Father was the cup assigned to the Son to drink that day. It wasn’t good for Jesus, but it is good for those, who by grace, recognize His death as a satisfactory payment for their sins.
As Jesus continues his conversation in the Upper Room, he presses home his impending separation from them.
“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.” Time was short, separation was imminent, soon this band of loyal followers would be tested as to the genuineness of their commitment to Him.
But before He would leave them, He introduces a third commandment, actually a NEW commandment with a new standard for measuring love.
“A new command I give you. Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
This band of followers would wear a new garment, the garment of love. They would be set apart from a hostile world by their unique love for Jesus Christ and for each other. The standard of sacrificial love would soon be exemplified, not with words by self-less action, namely death on their behalf. This new ‘apologetic’ of love would enable outsiders to clearly see their loyalty to Christ. By this—your love for each other—will all men know… Christ’s challenge to them is not to gain further knowledge, not to fill their heads with more information, but demonstrate through proof that only God could produce, by His Spirit–that of unconditional love.
As Tertullian, an early church leader, would later say in some of his writings,
“Look,” they say, “how they love one another” (for they themselves hate one another); “and how they are ready to die for each other” (for they themselves are readier to kill).
May this love, this fruit of the Spirit, be manifest in the hearts of all those who genuinely claim to follow this author of this new commandment!