“Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me: and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” – John 13:33-35
This was among the last words Jesus spoke to His disciples, the night before His crucifixion. He knew full well, as stated earlier in the chapter that He would leave this world the next day. Therefor, we would have to assume the these final lessons and instructions given to His beloved in His last hours would probably be among those that He considered most vital.
Jesus makes an interesting statement in this passage. He says, “I give you a new commandment“. At first glance this doesn’t seem like a knew commandment, as man had been instructed since the days of Levitical law to love one and other.
“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 19:18
But the key to what Jesus said being a “new commandment” lay in Jesus’s knack for raising the bar on the law. You see Jesus knew that He was going to be Crucified so that those who believed on Him might be saved and imparted with Grace, which is power from on high to abstain from sin and walk in righteousness. So he was always intensifying the law knowing that it would be possible for you to bare it, for once grace came into the world to empower us we would have no excuse not to obey even an intensified law. For example, Jesus said “the law says do not kill, but I say if you hate you’re brother you have committed murder in your heart and He will have no part with you“. He also said that “the law says not to commit adultery, but I say if you even look on someone in lust then you have committed adultery in your heart.” In this same manner did He intensify the requirement of the law of love. You see in the Levitical law it says to love others as yourself, but Jesus said “I give you a new commandment, love others as I have loved you.”
In His final hours He gave this most prudent of commands knowing that He was about to demonstrate the depths of true love. Selfless, sacrificial love. You see we love ourselves with a selfish Eros kind of love, but Jesus said “you now are required to love others with Agape love, My love, a selfless love, and this makes all the difference“.
In this passage Jesus clearly tells His disciples that He will not be with them much longer and where He is going they cannot come. Therefor, having walked with God in the flesh (who is the embodiment of true love), in His absence these disciples were commanded to carry His love for them, within them for each other. In this manner God who is love would dwell with them from within them and through them to others. Through this, though the physical Christ would no longer be with them, the true Christ (His Spirit), through the love of Christ, would remain with them and be spread by them and all that obey this commandment in faith and obedience.
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” – Ephesians 3:17-19
“In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” – Ephesians 2:22
“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us.” – 2 Timothy 1:13-14
“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” – 1 John 4:7-21