32. The Eleventh Commandment (John 13:31-38)
Since I’m in charge of this computer (and since I’m a grandpa), I’m going to tell you about our very lovely granddaughter, Taylor Nicole Hayden. She is, indeed, the joy of our life. She is now two years old, and she has a new baby sister, Lindsey Grace, a mere two months old. When our daughter Joanna and her husband, Jeff, learned that she was pregnant with this second child, they began to talk to Taylor about her new baby sister. As time passed, Joanna’s tummy got larger and larger (a “first” from Taylor’s perspective). Joanna and Jeff told Taylor that God had made a tiny baby in mommy’s tummy, and that when God thought it was the right time, it would come out. Taylor took all this in stride, pondering these thoughts in her child’s heart.
Then the day came for Lindsey Grace to arrive. Jeannette and I and Taylor (and some of her aunts) arrived at the hospital just a little too late for the delivery. When we walked into the delivery room, Joanna was sitting up in bed, holding Lindsey Grace. Taylor climbed up into the bed with her mother. It was indeed a Kodak moment. (I’ll be glad to provide pictures, if you’re interested!) As they sat together in the bed, Taylor began to reason all this out, and then turned to her parents and asked, “Where’s God?” Taylor really did expect to see God there. After all, He made the baby, and He was there to see that it came out at the right time. And so when Taylor saw Lindsey Grace, she expected to see God as well.
For little Taylor, it was a reasonable expectation. She had not seen God before, but then she had to wait to see her other grandmother and grandfather, who live in California. But now that Lindsey Grace had come, Taylor really did expect God to show up, visibly. It wasn’t that anyone told her He would; she just reasoned it out for herself. In somewhat the same way, perhaps, Peter and his fellow-disciples found it difficult to grasp what Jesus was telling them about what the future held for them. As His disciples, they had known Jesus intimately as their Master:
1 This is what we proclaim to you: what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and our hands have touched (concerning the word of life— 2 and the life was revealed, and we have seen and testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us). 3 What we have seen and heard we announce to you too, so that you may have fellowship with us (and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ) (1 John 1:1-3).
The disciples of our Lord had left everything to follow Him. Even when the Jewish religious leaders purposed to kill Jesus, they determined to stick it out and go with Him to Bethany, just outside Jerusalem: “So Thomas (called Didymus) said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us go too, so that we may die with him’” (John 11:16). They had heard Jesus tell the Jews that He was going somewhere where they would not be able to find Him, nor to come to Him there (John 7:33-34; 8:21-22). But in all this, they must have assumed they were going with Jesus to this place where the Jews could not find Jesus, nor come to Him. After all, they went with Him to the remote places to which He retreated from Jerusalem and Judea (see John 6:1; 7:1; 10:39-40; 11:53-54).
In our text, when Jesus broke the news of His “departure” to His disciples, they were shocked. How could the Master go somewhere and leave His disciples behind? Why could they not follow Him? They were not thinking about Him going to heaven; they were thinking He meant that He was going somewhere else on earth. When Peter made a point of assuring Jesus that he would never desert Him, Jesus indicates that Peter is soon to deny Him.
Like our little granddaughter, the disciples had difficulty grasping what they were told. But unlike Taylor, they were greatly troubled by what they had heard. The disciples, once exhilarated by their jubilant reception at Jerusalem, were now distraught and troubled (as we can see in verse 1 of chapter 14). Jesus has told them that one of them will betray Him. He has spoken of His death, only hours away. He will tell Peter that he is soon going to deny Him. And then, to make matters even worse (from the disciples’ distorted point of view at that moment), Jesus tells them that He is going somewhere where they cannot come. They are deeply troubled. They do not understand most of what Jesus has said to them, but what little they think they understand, they definitely don’t like.
If the disciples are troubled in spirit, I do not believe that Jesus is distressed. I know that elsewhere John has written of our Lord’s distress (see 12:27; 13:21), but I don’t think this is the case here. His frame of mind at this meal is indicated to us in Luke’s Gospel: “Now when the hour came, Jesus took his place at the table and the apostles joined him. And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God’” (Luke 22:14-16).
Jesus is about to “go home” to the Father. He has suffered by living in a fallen world (see Romans 8:18-30) and by putting up with the likes of men (see Matthew 17:17). He is about to suffer an eternal separation from God for the sins of men, but here His focus seems to be on “the joy set before Him” (see Hebrews 12:2).
Our Lord’s disposition toward His disciples is one of gentleness and patience. He speaks to them, not as the Master to His disciples (which, of course, He is), but as a father to his little children. “[Little]8 Children, I am still with you for a little while. You will look for me, and just as I said to the Jewish authorities, ‘Where I am going you cannot come,’ now I tell you the same” (verse 33).
There were many things for which the disciples could have been scolded that night. They had argued over who was considered the greatest. They had refused to wash the feet of one another, and Peter had even attempted to prevent Jesus from washing his feet. They completely failed to grasp most of what Jesus was telling them. On top of all this, Judas would betray Him, Peter would deny Him, and all the rest would forsake Him. In spite of all this, Jesus tenderly spoke to His disciples as to little children. This is one of the warmest, most intimate moments our Lord ever shared with His disciples. Let us listen well to the words and to the heart of the Master.
A Change Is Coming
31 When Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now9 the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him right away. 33 Children, I am still with you for a little while. You will look for me, and just as I said to the Jewish authorities, ‘Where I am going you cannot come,’ now I tell you the same.”10
John introduces this new paragraph with the notation that what Jesus says here is spoken after the departure of Judas. Jesus had to guard and to qualify His words when Judas was present. He had to guard His words so that He would not give away any information that would facilitate Judas’ betrayal in a way that would produce His death at a time or in a manner different than what the prophetic Scriptures required. Jesus had to qualify His words to show (later on) that the comfort and assurances He gave to His true disciples were not meant to apply to Judas (e.g., 13:18-20). The departure of Judas sets in motion the events which assure our Lord’s death at the appointed time. Now, alone at last with His true disciples, Jesus speaks more candidly with them than ever before.
The first words which John records for us in verses 31 and 32 should have come as no surprise to the disciples. The time had come for Jesus to be glorified. The disciples had expected this, but the “glory” of which Jesus speaks is not what they would have expected at all. Several things are important to observe regarding the glory of which Jesus speaks.
First, since the glorification of the Son of Man is the ultimate goal of history, Jesus welcomes it willingly, joyfully, triumphantly. Some people live under the false impression that God’s ultimate purpose in history is to make them happy and to make their lives free from pain and trouble. So the disciples seemed to think as well, until after the cross.
Second, the glorification of our Lord is realized both in His suffering and in His resulting exaltation. The glory of God is achieved at a very high price. The Father will sacrifice His own Son. Who can imagine the agony in that? The Son will lay down His life, dying on a Roman cross, and suffering separation from His Father—as the payment for our sins. And afterward the disciples will undergo their own suffering, which we see throughout the Book of Acts.
It would be wrong to speak of our Lord’s glory, apart from His suffering. It would likewise be incorrect to speak of His suffering apart from His glorification. Jesus here informs His disciples that His glorification is imminent—“right away” (verse 32). His glory begins at the cross, but it does not end there. He is glorified by His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of the Father. Our Lord’s suffering and His glorification cannot be separated. This is what the prophets of old struggled with: How can Messiah be both a suffering Servant and a triumphant King? The answer is found in the person and work of our Lord. Paul speaks of it this way:
5 You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, 6 who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. 8 He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. 9 As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess to the glory of God the Father that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:5-11).
In our church, we observe the Lord’s Table every week, without apology or regret. We do so as a celebration, not as a funeral service. I remember years ago when a gentleman stood up at the Lord’s Table and scolded us for being too joyful. He told us that the Lord’s Table was a funeral service. That’s not the way Jesus told it. Jesus spoke joyfully of His coming death and resurrection. And now, as we look back upon our Lord’s death and resurrection and all that was accomplished by it, how can we remember the Lord’s Table in a somber, sad fashion?
Third, the glorification of the Son is synonymous with the glorification of the Father. Notice the manner in which our Lord intertwines His glorification with that of the Father. Jesus does not seek to be glorified apart from the Father,11 but with the Father. Both Father and Son are glorified by what takes place shortly. This is consistent with the message of John’s Gospel. Throughout the Gospel, our Lord has emphasized not only His unity with the Father, but also His subordination to the Father. In chapter 1, Jesus was intimately involved (as was the Father) in the creation of the world. In chapter 2, at the cleansing of the temple, Jesus is looking after His Father’s house. In chapter 5, Jesus claims to be working on the Sabbath (by healing the paralytic by the pool of Bethesda) because His Father is also at work. Over and over again, our Lord stresses His union with the Father. It should therefore come as no surprise when we read that the time has come for Father and Son alike to be glorified, through the death and resurrection of the Son.
Fourth, the glorification of the Son necessitates a separation from His disciples. Jesus has a way of introducing future events gradually, especially those to which the disciples are resistant. So it was with His going to Jerusalem, His rejection, crucifixion, and death. So now it is also with His “departure.” Earlier, Jesus had spoken to the Jews about His physical absence from this world:
33 Then Jesus said, ‘I will be with you for only a little while longer, and then I am going to the one who sent me. 34 You will look for me but will not find me, and where I am you cannot come’” (John 7:33-34).
21 Then Jesus said to them again, “I am going away, and you will look for me but will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” 22 So the Jewish leaders began to say, “Perhaps he is going to kill himself, because he says, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’” (John 8:21-22).
Now He says nearly the same thing to His disciples. He is going away, and His absence from them is the backdrop for all that our Lord is about to say to His disciples in the Upper Room Discourse.
The disciples do not appear to have understood our Lord’s earlier words to the Jews about His departure any better than His Jewish opponents did. No doubt the disciples “translated” Jesus words to mean something like this: “My disciples and I are going to be going away from this place, to a place you cannot come, even though you look hard to find us.” A fair bit of their time with Jesus was spent in some remote place, avoiding the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem (e.g., 11:54). They must have assumed Jesus simply meant that He was going to go somewhere else on this earth—with His disciples—where His opponents could not find them.
Any such misunderstanding was now corrected. When Jesus told the Jews that He was going away, He meant that He was returning to heaven, to be with His Father. There, they certainly would not find Him, because they would not be there. Heaven is a place for those who believe in Jesus; hell is the place for those who reject Him (see John 3:16-18; 10:25-29; 1 John 5:10-12). The shock was that Jesus was going away, and yet not taking His disciples with Him.
You should see the look on my granddaughter’s face when she thinks I’m going anywhere and not taking her along (by the way, it doesn’t happen very often.). Think of how these disciples must have felt. Divorce probably produces the emotions closest to what the disciples were feeling at this moment. They had given up their lives, their jobs, and left their families behind, just to follow Jesus. And now, Jesus was going away and leaving them behind. They must have felt abandoned.12 Jesus will amplify His statement in verses 36 and following so that it becomes even more clear that this separation is only for a time, and that His disciples will eventually follow Him. But at this moment in time, such fine points are of little concern or comfort. They were confused and bewildered.
Fifth, the glory of God is achieved through suffering and sacrifice, but it is ultimately for the good of all who believe in Him. I confess that I am getting ahead of myself, or rather ahead of our text. But I need to emphasize here, at this difficult moment for the disciples, that what Jesus was about to do was for their own good, even though it was not what they would have preferred.
“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7, emphasis mine).
God’s glory is ultimately for the good of every Christian:
28 And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 Because those whom God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those God predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).
A New Commandment
34 “I give you a new13 commandment—to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 Everyone will know by this that you are my disciples—if you have love for one another.
We all know that there is a sense in which this “new” commandment of our Lord is not entirely new. The Old Testament law could be summed up in two commands: (1) Love God; and (2) Love your neighbor as yourself (see Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 13:8-10). What, then, is so different about our Lord’s command here that He can call it “new”? First, we should note that it is a command given by our Lord to the church, and not a command given to Israel. In this sense, it is the first of the “new commandments” that our Lord will give to the church through His apostles.14
Second, it should be noted that this command is specifically directed toward the disciples and their relationship with one another (surely this takes us back to the lesson of foot washing). It is therefore the first of the “one another” commands of the New Testament (see, for example, Romans 12:10, 16; 13:8; 14:13, 19; 15:5, 7, 14; 16:16). This command does not address the love that we have for unbelievers, though others do (see Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 12:17-21).
The most important “new” dimension to our Lord’s command here is the standard which He sets for the love He requires: “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” It is one thing to love one another as we love and care for ourselves. It is a vastly greater love that gives up one’s own life for another, that sacrifices self-interest to promote the interests of another (John 15:13; Philippians 2:1ff.). The sacrificial work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary is the “new” standard for the Christian’s love for fellow-believers.
In His Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 5–7, Jesus used this pattern: “You have heard it said … But I say to you.” For example: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).
The scribes and Pharisees prided themselves as those who kept the law. They thought (and taught) that if they did not commit the physical act of adultery, they had kept this law. If they did not murder anyone, this was another law they had kept. But Jesus took the law a great deal further, all the way to its origins in the heart. Adultery begins with lust; murder begins with hate in one’s heart. And so Jesus taught that lust was as much a sin as adultery, and that hate was sin, as was murder. Jesus brings the Old Testament law up to a new standard, His standard. All this was introduced by the statement:
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place. 19 So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do this, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20).
No wonder when people heard Jesus speak they said, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He even commands the unclean spirits and they obey him” (Mark 1:27). The “newness” our Lord’s “new commandment,” then, was not in its originality or novelty, but in its extent. It was the practice of this kind of love that would cause the world to recognize these men (and us) as the disciples of Jesus (verse 35):
Tertullian, who lived towards the end of the second century, said that the heathen said of believers, ‘Behold, how these Christians love one another!’ Minucius Felix reports the comment of a heathen called Caecilius: ‘They love one another almost before they know one another.’…The heathen, of course, were prejudiced against the Christians. They did not like them at all and were ready to spread any slander about them. They ridiculed and opposed them. They put them in jail and executed them. But they were compelled to pay their grudging tribute to Christian love. It was undeniable.15
Such references ought to make modern Christians think hard. There are not many places in our busy, materialistic world where we believers so live as to compel the heathen to bear their testimony to the love we have for one another. On the contrary, they often accuse us of bickering among ourselves, of hardness, of indulging in petty criticisms of one another, of backbiting, of intolerance … Modern Christians should give serious thought to the importance of love for one another.16
“I Don’t Need Commands; I’ve Got Commitment!”
36 Simon Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow later.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now?17 I will lay down my life for you!” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? I tell you the solemn truth, the rooster will not crow until you have denied me three times!18
I laugh to myself as I read verse 36. It is just as though Peter has not even heard what Jesus said about love in verses 34 and 35. I don’t think this is because Peter thought he was too much of a he-man to talk about such things (though I wouldn’t rule it out altogether). I think Peter was so shocked by our Lord’s words in verse 33 that he just couldn’t get past them. Peter “locked in” on what Jesus had said about going away. He wanted to know where Jesus was going and why he could not go with Him. He had followed Him all this way, all the way to Jerusalem. There was no turning back for him. He was committed to follow Jesus. And now Jesus is talking about going somewhere where he cannot follow? No way! Not for Peter.
Jesus answers Peter’s question indirectly, but even this oblique reply should have given Peter some comfort. Jesus was going somewhere where Peter could not follow Him now, but he will, Jesus said, “follow later.” That is not good enough for Peter. The word “now” is foremost in Peter’s mind. He does not want to wait. He wants to follow Jesus now, wherever that might be.
Peter does not seem to have a clue that Jesus is talking about going to the Father in heaven. He seems fixed on the idea that Jesus is going to change His place of residence on earth. Peter seems to be reasoning something like this: “Jesus says He’s going somewhere, and I can’t follow. He won’t say where, and He won’t say why. It must be the danger. He doesn’t want me coming along because it’s too dangerous. He doesn’t think I can take it. Well, I’ll let Him know that I can handle anything anyone dishes out …”
John simply writes what Peter said (which, at times, can be a lot more than he’s thought): “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you!” If commitment is the determining factor in who goes with Jesus and who does not, then Peter wants Jesus to know that his commitment is unmatched. He is willing to pay any price, including that of his own life, to follow Jesus.
In his excellent commentary on the Gospel of John, William Hendriksen points out some very informative facts about Peter’s words here and in the Synoptic Gospels. Let me cite them:
In connection with this boast a few additional facts must be noted:
a. Peter spoke these words both before and after Christ’s prediction which is recorded in 13:38, as is clear from Matt. 26:33-35; Mark 14:29-31. Evidently, at the time, the words of Jesus, telling Peter that in spite of his boasting he would do the very thing which he promised so emphatically not to do, failed to register. Peter was too sure of himself.
b. He used very emphatic language. Note the double negative in Matt. 26:35, so that the boast may be rendered: ‘I will certainly not deny thee.’ And compare: ‘I will never be ensnared.’
c. He spoke with great vehemence (Mark 14:31), evidently not at all pleased with the fact that Jesus had a different opinion.
d. The passage here in John indicates that Peter’s boast was not only negative ‘I will not be ensnared,’ ‘I will not deny’) but also positive: ‘My life for thee I will lay down.’ Luke 22:33 supplies the commentary.
e. His self-reliant exclamation was copied by the others: ‘Likewise also said all the disciples.’ Not a single one among these disciples knew his own heart. Notice the three ‘all’s’: ‘You will all be ensnared (Mark 14:27), said Jesus. They all said, ‘Impossible’ (for exact words see Matt. 26:35). ‘Then all the disciples left him and fled’ (Matt. 26:56).
Though not one of the disciples knew his own heart, yet while all were ensnared, Peter went much farther: he denied that he even knew the Master at all; see on 18:15-17; 18:25-27; cf. Matt. 26:69-75.19
Elmer Towns points out one more observation worth noting: “According to Mark, Peter later argued, ‘Although all shall be offended, yet will not I’ (Mark 14:29).”20 I am probably pushing my limits on this, but the thought did occur to me that our Lord’s prophecy of the cock crowing after Peter’s denial may be significant in terms of the feathered creature God chose to perform this prophetic announcement. If you have ever observed a rooster at work in the breaking of the dawn, you will understand this proverb:
29 There are three things which are stately in their march, Even four which are stately when they walk: 30 The lion which is mighty among beasts And does not retreat before any, 31 The strutting rooster,21 the male goat also, And a king when his army is with him (Proverbs 30:29-31, NASB).
Is Peter getting just a little bit too “cocky”? It would certainly seem so, and if this is the case, what better way to “send a message” to Peter than by means of a feathered creature who personifies “cocky” all too well? It’s a stretch, I agree, but sometimes such details may make a point that needs to be made. At any rate, I think we can all agree that Peter is not suffering from “low self-esteem” here, but from over-confidence. He provides us with a powerful illustration of this warning from the pen of the Apostle Paul: “So let the one who thinks he is standing be careful that he does not fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Here, then, is our first lesson, is it not? The one who is most confident that he will not fall is the most likely to fall. How can this be? It is because his confidence is in himself. Far better to be wary of falling, than to be confident of standing. Far better to have no trust in oneself, and thus to trust only in God. Far better to know you do not have the strength to stand and to lean on Jesus, than to stand alone and fall on your face. Here is one of the great dangers of the “message” proclaimed by many of the motivational books and seminars today. If they make us confident in ourselves, rather than in God, they are pointing us in the wrong direction; they are setting us up for a fall.
The second thing that I find emphasized in this text is that Jesus is in complete control. In chapter 13, Jesus knows it is His time to be glorified (13:3, 31-32). He knows also of the betrayal of Judas, and even dismisses him early to carry out his deed (13:27). And in addition, Jesus knows of Peter’s denial. Jesus is not taken in by all of Peter’s assurances of his loyalty and faithfulness, though I believe he felt he meant them when he said them. Jesus knows all of this about Peter, and yet He chooses him to be the one who will become such a powerful instrument of the gospel in the Book of Acts. God really does choose the weak and foolish things of this world to confound the wisdom of the wise. And in all this He is glorified (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-31).
I believe the most important lesson in our text is about true love. This chapter virtually oozes with the love of our Lord for His disciples (e.g. 13:1). Placed neatly between our Lord’s words on His imminent glorification and departure and His prophecy of Peter’s denial are verses 34 and 35, which contain our Lord’s instruction to His disciples to “love one another.” Was Peter’s problem not a lack of love? I would simply remind you that after Peter’s denial, our Lord’s death, and His resurrection, Jesus addressed Peter directly about his love and his service (John 21). Love seems to be a major issue for Peter. The thing he passed over so abruptly in our text, he must deal with much more seriously at the end of this Gospel.
Who is better qualified to speak on love than He who has loved us to the uttermost? The disciples refused to serve one another, and it seems to me that it is because of their lack of true love for one another. Their “love” at this moment was just like the “love” we see and read about in our culture—a self-serving “love” which continues to love so long as our interests are being served. The love which our Lord displayed was a self-sacrificing love, which prompted Him to serve the disciples by washing their feet, and most of all by dying on the cross of Calvary to save sinners from the guilt and penalty of their sins. The Christian standard and source of love is the Person of Jesus Christ, as demonstrated on cross of Calvary.
Let me further observe that “loving” one another is not a recommendation by our Lord—a good piece of advice. Love is a command, one which John most certainly would not forget (see, for example, 1 John 3:23). If loving one another is a command, then our only choice is to obey or disobey our Lord in this matter. Love is a duty we must perform in deed. Some people think of love as a feeling; Jesus describes love here in terms of our actions. We want to wait till we feel love, and then express it. I find it most interesting that it is Peter who describes love as the capstone of Christian virtues and disciplines, not as the basis of them (though there is truth to this, too—see 2 Peter 1:5-7). If we would know true love, let us not look to our culture to define it, let us look to the Word of God, let us look to the cross, and let us look to Him who is love, the Lord Jesus Christ.
As I close, let me do so with the words of the late Dr. John G. Mitchell:
There are three measurements of a disciple. We had the first in chapter 8: ‘If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free’ (8:31-32). The second measurement is here. ‘By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.’ Remember, ‘love suffereth long, and is kind’ (1 Corinthians 13:4). The third measurement of discipleship is in chapter 15. ‘Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples’ (15:8).
God grant that we Christians, we who love Him, we who have been redeemed by His precious blood, may wear the badge of discipleship. It is genuine love one for another and especially with frail, stumbling believers.
My friend, this rules out all divisions. It rules out all bitterness and jealousy and envy among God’s people. It rules out all pettiness and smallness and shallowness. How much are we to love each other? As Christ loves us. This is the measure of it.22
7 “Archbishop Ussher on a memorable occasion called it the eleventh commandment. It is recorded that having heard of the simplicity and beauty of the ordering of Rutherford’s home, he resolved to visit it for himself. One Saturday night he arrived alone at the manse, and asked for entertainment over the next day. A simple but hearty welcome was accorded him; and after partaking of the frugal fare, he was invited to join the household in religious exercises that ushered in the Lord’s Day. ‘How many commandments are there?’ the master asked his guest, wholly unaware who he was. ‘Eleven,’ was the astonishing reply; at which the very servants were scandalized, regarding the newcomer as a prodigy of ignorance. But the man of God perceived the rare light of character and insight that gleamed beneath the answer, and asked for a private interview. This issued in the invitation to preach on the following day. To the amazement of the household, so scandalized on the previous night, the stranger appeared in the master’s pulpit, and announced as his text the words on which we are meditating, adding, ‘This may be described as the eleventh commandment.’” F. B. Meyer, Great Thoughts From the Upper Room (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1983), pp. 10-11.
8 The NET Bible renders this “children” as opposed to “little children” as found in many of the translations. I prefer to retain the word “little.” Morris writes, “teknion is found here only in the Gospels. It appears in a variant reading in Gal. 4:19, and elsewhere in the New Testament only in I John where it is found 7 times. It is thus a Johannine word, and one not used excessively. Since John has teknon on three occasions the diminutive should be regarded as significant. Jesus is speaking with tenderness, like a father to his little children. The word incidentally is always in the plural in the New Testament.” Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), p. 632., fn. 67.
9 “The moment when Judas left the upper room and Jesus made no attempt to bring him back, but expedited his departure, is the moment which brings supreme honour to Jesus Himself, for He is now irrevocably committed to the death which Judas has gone out to make certain. Hence He can say Now is the Son of man glorified (31).” R. V. G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. John: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980 [tenth printing]), p. 160.
10 “It is significant that the words ‘and shall not find me’ are here omitted. Unlike the Jews, the little children, the new-born members of Christ’s family learning from Him the graces of Christian living, would in no unreal sense ‘find’ Him even though they could not follow Him at once into the heavenly sphere.” Tasker, p. 163.
11 Is this not what the temptation of our Lord was all about—Satan seeking to tempt our Lord to gain His messianic glory independently of the Father?
12 Could this have played any part in Peter’s denial of Jesus? If some of the last words Jesus had spoken to you were to inform you that He was away and leaving you behind, might you not feel abandoned? Peter’s denial came from somewhere, and I don’t think that it was simply fear. Why would a man afraid of dying pull a sword on such a large armed force at our Lord’s arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane?
13 “This is the one place in this Gospel where Jesus uses this word for ‘new’ (it is used also in 19:41 of the ‘new’ tomb in which he was laid). There is another Greek word for ‘new’ that means ‘recent,’ whereas this word has about it the notion of ‘fresh.’ It is not so much that the commandment has not been given before as that it has a different quality about it, a quality of freshness that differentiates it from any other. The commandment to love was not, of course, in itself a novelty. There was a very old commandment that we should love our neighbor as ourselves (Lev. 19:18). But this commandment is that we should love each other as Jesus loved us.” Morris, Reflections on the Gospel of John, vol. 3, p. 484.
“‘Just as I have loved you’ is what makes this commandment ‘new.’ There had never been a situation in which the sinless Son of God had laid down his life for sinners … Yet Jesus loved them, loved them so deeply that he was about to go to the cross for them. And it is love like this that he looks for from them. They are to love as he loved.” Morris, Reflections, vol. 3, p. 484.
Calvin has a kind of novel twist to this: “I consider what Christ said to be more simple; for we know that laws are more carefully observed at the commencement, but they gradually slip out of the remembrance of men, till at length they become obsolete. In order to impress more deeply, therefore, on the minds of his disciples the doctrine of brotherly love, Christ recommends it on the ground of novelty; as if he had said, ‘I wish you continually to remember this commandment, as if had been a law but lately made.” John Calvin, Calvin’s Commentaries, Volume 7: The Gospels (Grand Rapids: Associated Publishers and Authors Inc., n.d.), p. 831. Isn’t this what Madison Avenue does with marketing? It isn’t Tide, it’s “new, improved, Tide.” (For those from outside the United States, Tide is a detergent used to wash clothes.)
14 It is my understanding that many—perhaps most—of the Old Testament commands are renewed in the New Testament. As Dr. Bruce Waltke used to put it, “When we look at the Old Testament commandments, we must ask whether the New Testament ratifies, modifies, or abrogates (negates) them.” The command to “love” is “ratified” or “renewed” by our Lord here, and upgraded.
15 Morris, Reflections, p. 485.
16 Morris, Reflections, p. 486.
17 Is it not amazing how we bristle at what God says we cannot do? God told Adam and Eve they could not eat of the forbidden fruit, yet it may have been the first fruit they tasted. Jesus says here to Peter, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now …” And so what does Peter do but resist this prohibition? And what of us? I saw an interesting segment on the evening news the other night. Someone has been putting up billboards which have God as the speaker. One billboard went something like this: “Just what is there about ‘Thou Shalt Not’ that you don’t understand?” We don’t like to be told no.
18 “The prediction evidently shocked Peter, for he took no further part in the discussions in the Upper Room (we next hear of him in 18:10). It was incredible to him that he would fail Jesus in this way. But he did.” Morris, Reflections, p. 487.
19 William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to John, 2 vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953-1954), vol. 2, pp. 255-256.
20 Elmer Towns, The Gospel of John: Believe and Live (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1990), p. 257.
21 I should point out here what might already be obvious to the reader. Some translations don’t render this term “rooster,” as does the NASB, NIV, and NRS versions. The KJV, NKJV, and ASV render this word “greyhound.” The mere fact that some translators view the “strutting rooster” as fitting into the context of “regal” lions and pompous kings, backed up by their armies, makes my point, if indeed there is one to be made.
22 John G. Mitchell, with Dick Bohrer, An Everlasting Love: A Devotional Study of the Gospel of John (Portland: Multnomah Press, 1982), pp. 261-262.
Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Love