22–28 July 2018.
In John 14 we find Jesus in the middle of his last speech to his disciples. Jesus knows that he doesn’t have much time left before he is arrested and executed. So here at the end, Jesus gives his disciples his final teachings, and also some hope for the future.
This speech is very long and very complicated. But in v. 15 Jesus summarizes the heart of his teaching into one short statement: “If you love me, obey my commandments.” If the disciples forget everything else, if they are confused and uncertain about other things, this is the one thing they should remember and hold on to. That’s why Jesus repeats this point 3 more times in vv. 21, 23, and 24. In v. 21, Jesus says again: “Those who accept my commandments and obey them, they are the ones who love me” (v. 21). Many of us can say we love Jesus, many of us can say we are his followers, but here at the end Jesus stresses that if we really do love Jesus, then we must follow his commands.
While this sounds clear and straightforward, it may leave us a little confused. After all, did Jesus actually give us any commands to follow? Moses famously gave the Israelites 613 laws to shape their lives, and he was remembered forever as a great lawgiver. But Jesus didn’t write any new legal books, he didn’t work as a legal scholar, or issue hundreds of new commands. So when Jesus talks about obeying his command, what is he talking about?
Jesus doesn’t give us hundreds of laws, he simply gives us one new commandment. A few verses earlier in John 13:34, Jesus told his disciples: “Now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” That’s the command Jesus is talking about here. If we really love Jesus, then we will obey his command and love those around us. If we really belong to Jesus, and if we really want to follow Jesus, we will also love those around us, just in the same way that Jesus loved us. No wonder then that Jesus says in John 13:35 that it’s by doing this, by loving each other, that the whole world will really know that we are Christ’s disciples.
With his time on earth running out, it was this new command to love that Jesus wanted his disciples to remember and obey. That’s because without love, we can’t count as Christ’s followers, and we can’t count as true friends of Christ. So if there’s nothing else about Jesus that we remember today, I hope we too will at least never forget these important words: that if we truly love Jesus, we will truly love those around us.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis