The Old Made New
In John 13, on the night before he was killed, Jesus said to his disciples, “a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.”
A question that should come up when we read that statement is this: How is the commandment to love one another a new commandment? That commandment is as old as the Old Testament. God had already commanded his people through Moses, about 1,500 years before Jesus, to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).
It’s an old command, and God’s people had known it and were trying to do it all this time. And they probably thought they were doing an okay job. But then something big happens: Jesus comes along.
Jesus comes along, and Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” And with those words, “just as I have loved you,” Jesus makes the old commandment new.
By his life, he gives us a clear vision of what love really is, and it changes everything.
It’s like when you re-watch a movie with a plot twist. The second time you watch a movie like The Sixth Sense, you’re seeing the old in a new way. You have new information that changes how you understand everything.
Jesus takes what is old, the commandment to love one another, and he gives us new information. He gives us a clear vision of what it really means by the way that he loved us, and that changes everything.
How did Jesus love us? He told the disciples later that same night,
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.”John 15:12–14
How did Jesus love us? Jesus loved us by laying down his life.
I don’t know about you, but its easy for me to do easy things for people, but it’s not so easy, and it’s not so fun, to do hard things for other people, especially when those people don’t always reciprocate that love for me.
But Jesus gave up his life for us. And now we know what love is like. Now we see it.
It’s an old commandment: Love one another. But now when we see it in Jesus, it’s all new. So that’s what he means when he says, “a new commandment.” He’s now shown us what love is like. He’s displayed what love does. Love gives itself for the good of others. Love gives up its own rights so that it can do good for someone else. Love seeks the best for others, even when it’s not convenient for me.
Now we see it. Now the old is new.
It’s a commandment that we’ve had from the beginning: Love your neighbor as yourself. And it’s a commandment that’s brand new in Christ; it’s been filled full of meaning: Love one another just like Jesus loved us.
It’s the old commandment made new. We’re to love other believers just like Jesus loved us.
So here’s an important question: How do we know if we love someone?
We look at Jesus, and see if we’re doing the same thing:
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.1 John 3:16
How does that apply to us?
Let’s start with our own church. Think about others in our church, and ask yourself –
- Are you giving up your own comfort to do good for others?
- Are you treating others the way that you would want to be treated?
- Are you welcoming others in?
- Are you finding ways to serve others, even when it is an inconvenience to yourself?
- Who is someone that is hard for you to love, and how are you doing at loving that person?
Would you take a few minutes to pray through those questions?
If you need to confess to God that you haven’t been loving others, would you confess that sin?
And then, would you ask God to help you love others like Jesus loves you?
Bert Watts has served since December 2016 as the Senior Pastor at Mountain Creek Baptist Church, where he has been on staff since 2012.