In our Gospel reading this weekend, Jesus clearly says: “A new command I give you: Love one another.” (John 13:34) “What’s “new” about love? In Matthew we read that when one of the Pharisees, an expert in the law, tested Jesus with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-36) And from Confirmation class we remember the summary of the 10 Commandments: Love God / Love Neighbor – or simply: “Love.” So since Jesus tells us, “love” is the summary of the “10 commandments” (from the Old Testament Mosaic Law) – what does Jesus mean by “A new command I give you: Love one another.” (John 13:34)
When God gave the 10 Commandments / the Sinai Covenant to Moses and Israel, this old covenant was based on obedience, which everyone has broken again and again. ONLY ONE person has ever kept this covenant – Jesus Christ. These old commands of law and obedience therefore POINT us to OUR NEED of a SAVIOR.
And it is our Savior, Jesus who says: “A new command I give you: Love one another.” This is NOT “new” as if it had never existed before (as if this was the 11th commandment) – not “brand new;” but Jesus uses a special Greek Word which means “new in quality, superior to the old.” And Jesus helps us to understand this when He gives the immediate answer to what’s “new” about love – He says: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34b)
SO THIS is what is “new” – Jesus’ example of love for us – UNCONDITIONAL (“agape”) LOVE – perfectly OBEYING the “love” commanded in the 10 Commandments in our place – and giving to us HIS LOVE and OBEDIENCE in exchange for taking the full punishment for all sins.
In 1 John 4, we can see this “NEWNESS” of “love” – God’s Word further explains: “This is love: not that we loved God (sounds like obedience to the 10 Commandments!), but that He loved us (kainos – SUPERIOR, FAR SURPASSING the self-centered kind of love) and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins… if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is completed through us… We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:10-12, 19)
This “new command” of “Love one another as I have loved you” can only happen in THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN MADE “NEW.”
By God’s grace, we now live
- a) “new” in His forgiveness and a fresh, “new” start / (daily blessings of Baptism)
- b) “new” in His covenant of His true body and true blood in the Lord’s Supper
- c) “new” in the “greater love” of no longer living selfishly, but “Christ living in us. And the life we now live in the body, we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us.” (Galatians 2:20)
Daily, in His Word and Sacraments, this “newness” of Christ’s superior love fills our hearts and lives, we reflect what Jesus says: “By this all mankind will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35).
In Jesus’ who is “making everything new!” Amen.
See you in worship this weekend as Jesus “renews” us through His Word and Sacraments!