Today’s passage: John 13:18–38
Focus verse: “A new command I give you: Love one another.” (John 13:34)
Though love is a common theme throughout Scripture, Jesus places an even greater emphasis on it. So does John.
John often writes about love. Except for Psalms, John’s biography of Jesus mentions love more than any other book of the Bible. The book of 1 John continues this emphasis on love, which also recurs in 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation.
In John, we read that God loves us, that God loves Jesus, that Jesus loves us, and that we are to love one another. We also read in John that Jesus loves Lazarus, and that John is the disciple Jesus loves.
When asked which command is the greatest, it shouldn’t surprise us that Jesus’s answer focuses on love.
He says the most essential command is for us to love God. The second most important one is to love others. Though John doesn’t include this teaching in his book, the other three biographers of Jesus do (Matthew 22:36–40, Mark 12:28–31, and Luke 10:25–28).
The basis for loving God stems from the Old Testament. Many times, Deuteronomy says we are to serve and love God with all our heart and our soul (such as Deuteronomy 10:12). Another verse instructs us to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5).
Now, in this passage, Jesus tells his disciples he’s giving them a new command. Jesus’s new command is to love one another.
But don’t stop. Continue reading. By loving one another we prove we’re his disciples. Love is our witness. To make sure we don’t miss it, Jesus repeats his command to love each other (John 15:17).
It’s clear that to love God is most important. Jesus confirms this Old Testament command and then extends that instruction of loving God by adding that we should love one another too. By loving God first, he enables us to love others.
But love is a confusing word in today’s modern society, covering the full gamut of emotions from preference to passion. For us to understand the love Jesus is talking about, we should apply the words of Paul from his letter to the Corinthian church.
He writes, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, does not boast, and is not proud. Love honors others, isn’t selfish, doesn’t get upset, and doesn’t keep track of other’s offenses.
Love celebrates truth and disapproves of evil. Love always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres” (see 1 Corinthians 13:4–8).
We can follow Paul’s explanation of love when we obey Jesus’s new command—his instruction—to love each other.
- How can you better love God?
- How can you better love others?
- What does it mean to serve and love God with all your heart, soul, and strength?
- Does your love for others serve as a witness that you’re Jesus’s disciple?
- Which one of Paul’s love attributes do you need to work on the most?
Tips: Check out our tips to use this online Bible study for your church, small group, Sunday school class, or family discussion. It’s also ideal for personal study. Come back each Monday for a new lesson.
Read more in Peter’s new book, Living Water: 40 Reflections on Jesus’s Life and Love from the Gospel of John, available everywhere in e-book, paperback, and hardcover.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.