Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on November 13, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 13:31-35. Today we find ourselves in an upper room in a house located in Jerusalem, during the feast of the Passover, the night before Jesus’ death and hours before his arrest.
Last week we looked at the high drama of the night when Jesus outed his betrayer and Satan moved in to strike the heel of Jesus. We closed our study with the actions of Judas described in John 13:30 which said, “So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.” As we discussed last week, Judas enter the longest of all nights for In this moment, Judas abides in Hell, where he will remain for all eternity.
Today, we turn our attention away from the darkness of the night and back to the light of Christ. Let us read our text, pray, and be encouraged by Christ.
As Judas stood up, turned his back on Jesus, walked away from him and into the night, all eyes were on Juddas. With the shutting of the door, Jesus turns the eyes of his 11 remaining disciples away from Judas and upon the glory of God. Verse 31, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” What is Jesus referring to? He is referring to the brilliance of the cross.
For it is at the cross where we see the attributes of God so vividly and beautifully displayed. God who is a God of justice, who is a good judge, cannot and will not allow for the sins of man to go unpunished. However, we also know that God is not only a God of justice, he is also a God of love. Therefore, he sends His Son who lives the life we could not live and had him die the death that we deserve, so that all who believe in Jesus can be forgiven for their sins and receive the gift of eternal life.
The cross is the collision of God’s justice and God’s love, and this is the glory that Jesus is pointing his disciples to in these final hours before he is arrested and taken away from them. As Jesus says in verse 33, “Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ We are not sure if Jesus is referring to his arrest and crucifixion or to his ascension, but either way, the time is short. Jesus is heading home and he is going to be leaving the Church in the hands of these 11 men, and this is the final pep talk and game plan.
What is New About Love?
And with that, let us turn our attention to verse 34 and 35., “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. 35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The first thing that I want to draw our attention to is the word “new.” How is the command to love one another new? In Matthew 22:37 when he was asked what the greatest command was didn't Jesus already say, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” So how is the command to love one another new?
In fact, the second command to love your neighbor as yourself is a quote from Leviticus 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.” This was a law for the nation of Israel, given to Moses by God 1500 years before Christ came. So, once again, how is the command to love on another new?
Likewise, isn't love just a part of life. The first time love is mentioned in the Bible is between Abraham and his son Isaac. Isn't love intertwined in the life of a parent and a child? Love seems instinctual. How is love one another a new command?
Similarly, we can go all the way back to the Garden of Eden. Wasn't it love that was being expressed by Adam the first time he laid eyes upon his wife, Eve. Wasn't it love that bound them together? Isn’t' this what marriage is built upon, love. How is the command to love one another a new command?
What is Love?
To answer this question, I think we need to define love. What is love? My guess is that if you go around and ask people on the street you would find a lot of vague, nebulous, wishy-washy answers. Merrian Webster defines love as “ strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties and attraction based on sexual desire.” Based on this definition you can easily see why the LGBT camp uses the phrase “love is love.” If love is good and love is defined by relative affection then love becomes a license to do whatever you want: adultery, homosexuality, polygamy, pedophilia, and bestiality. In fact, why not extend it beyond people and say you have an strong affection for money, stuff, food, power, you name it...love is love. But is that what love is? A subjective feeling?
Why don't we go the the Creator of love and see what he says about it. What does the Bible say about love? The bible gives a very express definition of love. 1 John 4:8 says simple, “God is love.” Notice that it does not say, God has love, or God is loving. It says, God IS love. So the Biblical definition of love is God. Not a feeling, but a being.
Therefore if you want to know love, you must know God. And if you do not know God, then you do not know love. If you do not know God, the love you think you know is not love, it is merely an imposter.
A New Revelation of Love
So if the way to know love is to know God, how are we to know God? Simple. His Son. In just a few minutes Jesus will say these words in the Upper Room, John 14:9, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” As John wrote in the beginning of this Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ..and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” To know Jesus is to know God, to know God is to know love.
And this is how the command to love one another is new. Jesus is the revelation of God and therefore the revelation of love. You can see this in our text this morning, verse 34, “that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” Until he came and revealed himself, there was only vague, nebulous, wishy washy, subjective feeling that we called love. All we could do was to define love through sinful experiences. But all of this changes when Jesus steps on the scene. Jesus is love on display. He is the radiance of love.
When we look at Jesus what do we see when we look at Jesus? Right after John in 1 John 4:9 says that God is love then goes on to say, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” The way that Jesus displays love is to die, so that we can be forgiven of our sins and be reconciled to God. Jesus makes the ultimate sacrifice, to give us the ultimate treasure.
Jesus says this himself, once again in the upper room, just a few minutes from when he commands his disciples to love one another. John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” The greatest display of love is death for another. The greatest means to display this love is God, but how can God die? He must become a man, so that he can die, and so the world can see love in its purest and greatest manifestation possible.
A New Power to Love
The second way that this command to love one another is new is that for the first time, the power of love is unleashed upon the world through the hearts of his disciples. As I stated earlier, the command to love another had existed is some form since the beginning of time, but the capacity to love as God intended did not exist until Christ unleashed rivers of love through the hearts of his followers through his death upon the cross.
Once again, if we turn our attention to 1 John we see the explanation of this. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.” The catalyst to our love is God's love towards us. Without first being loved, we have no hope to love. The love of God poured out on us through Christ is the power that enables us to love. Until God loves us, our hearts are stone. Hardened to the things of God, including the love of God.
Practically speaking, how does this unleashing happen? It is the Holy Spirit. After Jesus ascended to heaven he sent the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes into our lives and births us into spiritual existence. Once again 1 John 4:7, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.” Love is the evidence of being born by the Spirit into a relationship with God. Love is the fruit of the Spirit.
For those who have not be born of God, whatever they are doing, it is not love, for it is not of God. It is of their flesh, it is of their sin. It is for the sake of the glory of another, not the glory of God, therefore it is not an act of love, it is an act of rebellion.
And we if look we can see this truth of the new power of this command in the life of the 11 disciples. Before Jesus sent the Holy Spirit they were extremely self-centered and afraid. After the Spirit came they were empowered to love in a way that the world had never seen before. Their love compelled them to leave their homes, their family, there dreams, their jobs, and even their lives. It was a love that this world didn't know how to handle, for they had never seen true love before.
I always enjoy how the Jews in Thessalonica expressed it in Acts 17:6, “These men who have turned
the world upside down have come here also.” How were they turning the world upside down? As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:14, “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died.”
Therefore the second way that this love is new is that the disciples now have the ability, through Christ, to truly love, as Christ loved.
Commanded to Love
Now that we understand the newness of this command to love one another, let us not forget what Jesus is doing in this moment. He is commanding his disciples to love. If you notice, Jesus in this section of teaching calls the disciples “little children.“ Why does he do this? He does this to express his authority over them and over the Church. This new commandment is just that...a commandment. It is not a suggestion, it is a requirement. To love one another is not optional, it is expected. If you follow Christ, you are to love one another.
And if you notice, there is no qualifiers to this commandment. Jesus does not say love them, but only if you like them. Or love them, as long as they are nice to you. Or love them until you find something better. No, the command to love is without exception. If you are a Christian this is a directive, no matter what the circumstance, we are commanded by our Lord to love each other, not matter how undeserving they are. For this is exactly how Christ loved us, not based on merit, but based on grace.
And who is Jesus referring to when he says, “one another?” He is referring to Christians. The 11 were commanded to love the ones sitting across the table in that Upper Room. We likewise are commanded to love those who are sitting in this room.
Now let me just state the obvious, it is hard to love the people in this room if you are never in this room. So many people claim to be followers of Jesus, yet they fail at one of the first commands that Jesus gives, love one another. You can't love who you never see. Christians are called to community. To love one another we must worship together, we must pray together, we must study the Bible together, we must break bread together, we must live our lives together. This starts with Sunday mornings and flows into the rest of the week. Claiming to be a follower of Christ and not going to Church every single week is hypocrisy.
But it is more than just attendance, it is sacrificial living. How did Christ love us, not by just living among us, but by dieing for us. We are commanded to love this same way. When we come together we should be tripping over each other in sacrificial serving. Giving up our time, our money, our comforts, our lives for our brothers and sisters in Christ. And once again, this is not a suggestion, it is a command, and this should be the environment of Cornerstone.
People will Know
And what will be the result of this obedience to love in a way that the world has never seen before? Verse 35, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” This is such a convicting statement. Ask yourself, do people know you are a Christians because of how you love fellow Christians? Do people out there see how well we love each other in here that they see Christ in us. Is our behavior towards our brothers and sister in Christ so radically different than what they see on the news, on facebook, at work and even in their own homes? We are called to be Holy, set apart. We are called to be set apart by our love, the aroma of Christ.
Or instead is our relationship with each other so superficial that it looks no different that our relationship with the world. Unfortunately for many of us, we fall way short of loving one another with the love of Christ. Why? We are too busy loving ourselves.
It shouldn't be this way in the Church that Christ built. Let us commit ourselves here at Cornerstone to hear the words of our Lord and joyfully embrace them. Doesn't it sound wonderful to be a part of a community that loves with supernatural unconditional love? We can, and it starts with each one of us obeying the command of Christ and being empowered by the Spirit of Christ.