Final Class • Devotion 1

New Commandment
Ferdinand Sanders

“When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 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.’ 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. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’” John 13:31-35

Amidst all the significant events in the final days leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus, throughout the four Gospels, we get a first-hand look at some of the events and conversations that took place. When we have this sort of “plot” or “storyboard” of the events of Holy Week, mixed with the records of conversations that take place, at times it really feels like we can almost insert ourselves into the story as a fly on the wall.

One of these recorded conversations between Jesus and the disciples is documented near the end of John chapter 13. At this moment we find ourselves within the Passover feast. Jesus had begun by washing the feet of the disciples which they all found to be odd or backward. Jesus informed the group that one of them would betray Him, selling Him out for just a few pieces of silver. I would imagine that the room was dead silent after Judas was called out and then proceeded to storm out. In what seems like the next breath, Jesus wastes little time in continuing to lead, teach, and challenge the disciples. He does this by implementing a new commandment. John 13:34 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.”

When we look at this commandment some 2000 years later, personally, I think the overall concept is relatively easy for us to wrap our minds around. We have had years and years of preaching, teaching, books, and songs from incredibly wise and inspired minds that all, to some extent, communicate the message of this “new commandment.” Not saying that it is always easy for us to live out, but I think Christianity recognizes this as a foundational principle. Although we can easily rally behind this “new commandment,” we should take a moment and recognize just how pivotal this statement really was.

Context is defined as “the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.” At times, I wonder if, because of the context we have, we can at times glance over and miss out on some key or crucial aspects of the text. Sure, we can study and gain a better understanding of the context of the setting and world at that time, but I think there is something to be gleaned by placing ourselves into the shoes (sandals) of the disciples who did not have the full story or picture that we have today. Jesus taught of a “new commandment,” but what the disciples did not fully grasp at that moment was that He would also be implementing a “new covenant” (Luke 22:20). Their relationship with God and the atonement of their sins would be changing forever. Essentially, their context of interaction and relationship to and with God would not be built on what they did, but on what Jesus did.

For many of us, we fall back into an outdated context of God and think we have unqualified ourselves from a relationship with God. We lose sight of the freedom, forgiveness, and life we have under the “new covenant.” Our response should be to love others in that same context that Christ demonstrated His love for us, the “new commandment.”
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