A sermon preached on John 13:31-35 by Pastor Michael Johnson at Good Shepherd Lutheran in Sioux Falls, SD, on May 19, 2019.
31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. 33 “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. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:31-35
What’s love got to do, got to do with it… sorry Tina Turner…but a whole lot if you ask me. More songs, more poems, more books and movies have been written about love than probably any other topic out there. Love has shaped a lot of who I am. Love drives much of what I do. A lack of love might grind me to a halt. Love matters. There is no love that matters more than my God’s love for me. It’s a love that is constant and dependable. And today Jesus directs us to reflect that love to those around us. Today we see: Christ’s Command of Love. 1. Its Motivation 2. Its Demonstration.
If we’re going to talk about love, we want to see our motivation for our love in Jesus. Our reading begins: “When he was gone…” This is taking place on Maundy Thursday and Judas just left to betray Jesus. Jesus knows why Judas had left that night. He knows what is in store for him the next day. Yet, he shows his love by focusing on his disciples: “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. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
Jesus loves us so much he spent his last hours cramming as much teaching in as he could for his disciples and us. He says “A new command I give you: Love one another.” How’s that a new command? God’s people were always supposed to love each other. In the 10 Commandments, Commandments 4-10 really deal with showing love to others. How is this new?
Two ways we could look at this as new. The word Jesus used for new doesn’t have to only mean new as in brand new – right off the assembly line. Rather, this command is new in the sense that it’s not some old, worn out and worthless thing that doesn’t matter anymore. It’s still fresh and meaningful.
Another way this command is new is based on where the love comes from. Jesus says, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” They had always known they should love
each other – but now they knew their love was motivated by Christ’s love for them. It’s like what Pastor Were talked about last week with the different ways you can know something. They always knew what love was and that they should love. But the love of a Christian is a new love because it comes not from head knowledge – it comes from experiencing Jesus’ unconditional love for us.
Jesus says: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” God of course wants us to love all people. But here, Jesus focuses especially on showing love to fellow Christians. The early Christian church had a reputation even among pagans for being united in brotherly and sisterly love. Can the same always be said of us here? Can someone come here, whether on Sunday or during the week and say – those people must be Christians – look at how they treat each other! Sometimes I think so. But there are also times when we’re more interested in the latest gossip than showing love to each other. We probably do a decent job of showing love here at church most of the time though.
But what about at home? Sometimes we’re better at showing love to complete strangers than those in our own family. I’m so annoyed with you that your humming or your loud chewing annoys me. Is that being filled with love? As a spouse, how do I do at showing love? As a husband, am I willing to give up my desire for the night because she actually is tired? Or am I more likely to whine because I didn’t get my way? As a wife, are you willing to push through being tired, because when aren’t we as parents, since this is a way that shows your love in an important way to him? Or are you more likely to get annoyed with his one track mind? Has the warm glow of Mother’s Day already faded and been replaced with frustration during the hectic schedule of May? Or what’s your initial reaction if someone were to ask for your help on Saturday? Joy to serve or at least part of you thinking – come on, because of the weather, we already lost two Saturdays to church clean up days the past month. No, I am often not a walking advertisement for God’s love. In fact, I’m often the opposite.
That’s why I need to see Jesus’ love all the more. Why? Because he’s more than just a good example of love to follow – he’s our Savior from our sin and failures. Jesus has perfect love for you. See how he cares for you. In verse 33, he calls his disciples and you “My children.”
We can see God’s perfect love for us throughout history. God created the world knowing full well that mankind would mess it up – but he did it anyways because he knew he would one day bring you into the world and save you.
Jesus speaks these words as Judas is betraying him and what does he say? “Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him.” How could Jesus be talking about glory when he’s just hours away from being arrested, tortured, and crucified? God’s glory and his love for you and me are shown best in his saving you. Jesus knew his death would mean your forgiveness. He knew he would rise again and that would mean eternal life for you and me. The Bible puts it this way: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16a). Jesus shows his love by saving you from your sins.
That is why I love and that is my motivation. Jesus has won forgiveness and eternal life for you and me. And just like we said with the children a little while ago, just as it was good for us to say thank you to moms for all they do last week; it is good for us to say thank you to God for all he has done for us. That is what my life of faith is – saying thank you to God by living for him and showing my love. Jesus says, love as I have loved you.
It would be easy just to say that and leave it at that, but what does that even look like? The Bible helps direct us in what that looks like. It says: “This is love for God: to obey his commands” (1 John 5:3a). God gives us guidance in ways we can show thanks to him and love to each other in his commandments. When I put my spouse first, even when it causes difficulties for me, I’m loving and thanking God. How else does this love look like? Maybe it’s watching a fellow member’s house while they’re out of town. It’s the get well card when someone is in the hospital. It’s the phone call to someone you haven’t seen in church in a while. It’s that tough conversation when your son is living with his girlfriend. It’s your smiling face and warm hello when you walk into to church. It’s forgiving someone’s sin, even if they haven’t apologized. It’s standing up for a fellow Christian who’s being picked on at high school.
It’s all showing love for people by putting them first. Why? Because Jesus put you first by coming here to live and die for you. What’s love got to do with it? Everything. Jesus’ love for you is more than your motivation and example. It is your life and salvation. Amen