God’s Love on Display

John 13:34-35

What is this? (put pictures up on the screen)

  • Duck, baseball, trumpet, jack-o-lantern
    • (For each one ask, “How do you know?”)
  • A Christian (puts up the words “A Christian”)

How can someone know you’re a Christian? By seeing you go to church? Not necessarily. A lot of non-Christians go to church. Going to church makes you no more a Christian than being in a garage makes you a car. By hearing what you believe? Not necessarily. You can know all the answers and even believe them and not be saved. I can say I believe that stool will hold me up and even tell you why it will, but unless I demonstrate it, you can never know if I truly believe it or not. By seeing it lived out. How? By the way you LOVE. We are to love God and love our neighbor (sums up all commandments). And by the way you LOVE other Christians. This is the model Jesus gave. He calls it a new commandment.

John 13:34-35 – “34 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. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

We’re going to break down this passage and see what it means and what it means for us.

“A new commandment I give to you…” What is this commandment and how is it new?The commandment is to love one another. This doesn’t seem new, though.Jesus summed up all of the commandments by saying to love God and others[1]How is it new?Nowhere in the Bible is this phrase “new commandment” found except for in the Apostle John’s writings, here and in his first and second letter.[2]  Why of all the New Testament writers and apostles did only John pick up on this term?

1 John 2:7-8 – “Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.”

It’s new because it is demonstrated and embodied in Jesus. 1 John 2:8 – “…is true in him and in you…”

John 13:34 “…just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

Think about John for a second. He was reclining right next to Jesus the night that Jesus said these words. This stuck in John like no other thing. I think it completely changed how John viewed everything – Jesus, his own life, the mission that was before him. He saw Jesus single out Judas, who would betray Him, yet wash that same disciple’s feet, along with Peter who would deny Him. He partook of that last supper where Jesus spent time in community and fellowship before He was to willingly walk to the slaughter. He saw Him mocked and ridiculed and tried and falsely accused. He saw Him beaten to a bloody pulp. He was at His feet while blood was dripping down from His cross…Jesus, bloody and dying, there asked this same John to take care of his mother Mary.

John, unlike the other disciples, saw Jesus die. Saw Him breathe His last. I’m sure John replayed these moments over and over in his mind. And it started that night when John was sitting right next to Jesus and heard those words. Those words that He was about to fully embody. “Love one another as I have loved you.” This moment was so impactful for John that essentially his whole first letter is a guide to this new commandment Jesus gave and he referred to himself as the one whom Jesus loved.

Hear some of what John has to say about what this means…this new command to love one another as Jesus has loved us.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. (1 John 4:7)

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. (1 John 3:14)

By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:10)

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:8)

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:16)

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light.” (1 John 2:9–10).

We love as He loved, because we love with His love.

 (So, loving one another is the new command that Jesus gave us. And it’s new because it is fully demonstrated and embodied in Him. But, how is it lived out?)

How does someone know you love them? You could say, “I love you.” But, have you ever said that and the person not believe you? You could get that person gifts. Nothing says, “I love you” like flowers, a box of chocolates, or a diamond, right? Maybe you could say, “I love you” by serving the person you love. But, that doesn’t always communicate it either. If there are selfish motives to your service, the other person doesn’t recognize what you did as coming from a place of love. So, how is it lived out?

Love is comprehended by other-focused, sacrificial acts. When the parent sacrifices their self to save their child. When a family member gives up a kidney. When a husband does the dishes without ulterior motive. When the God of all the cosmos dies for you.

1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

So, with the same love we have been given, we are to give. To one another, brothers and sisters in Christ, and to a hostile and unbelieving world…even enemies. Since we have been shown this love, we are to show this love. It’s not something that can be faked. It is something that, once it is experienced, then it can only be lived out.

John 13:35“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

This shows us that it is lived out if it’s yours. If you truly possess it. Following Jesus as His disciple comes before the love for one another. You cannot love like this on your own. This is why Jesus says this second part of the sentence. If you are a follower of Jesus, people will know you are by how you love each other.

If you don’t have love, you don’t have Jesus. Many people claim to have Jesus yet their lives are not marked by love. Jesus says that it is not being able to fully articulate everything you believe that shows you are a Christian, though what you believe matters because your faith must be in the right place. It’s not following all the rituals and traditions that shows you are a Christian. It’s a life lived loving others that is the mark of a true Christian.

There are many people who don’t believe in Christ because of how Christians act. I believe Jesus would say, I don’t know those people.[3] Those aren’t following me. Those aren’t my disciples. The word Christian means “little Christ.” They were first called Christians because they were walking around as little Christs, loving and living like Christ.

The early church was full of ALL types of people and it was marked by one thing, love.  Tertullian, an early church father, showed this by contrasting the lives of Christians with the lives of pagans. “He imagined pagans looking at Christians and saying, “Look . . . how they love one another (for they themselves [pagans] hate one another); and how they are ready to die for each other (for they themselves are readier to kill each other).”

I want to ask you…are you a Christian? Has your life been so transformed by the love of God through Jesus that the love of God through Jesus just seeps out of you? Is your life marked by the love you have for everybody? And especially the love you have for other Christians? Is your life lived sacrificially being spent for other people? Can people look at you and say, “That person is a Christian. Look at how he/she loves people.” If that can’t be said about you, there’s a good chance you don’t know…truly know…the love of God through Jesus.

You can’t live out the love of Jesus if you don’t know for yourself the love of Jesus. Well, this morning, you’ve heard of it. Right now is the time you embrace it. Right now is the time you experience it for yourself. The love of God for you.

If you are a Christian, you are God’s love on display.

You are a visible representation of the love of God. You were dead and you are now alive. You were lost in your sin and you have been made new in Christ. You are a walking demonstration of God’s grace and mercy. The Apostle John saw that and new it more clearly than any of the others. He got to dwell on it longer as well. He is the only Apostle to die in old age, though he himself was persecuted for his love for Jesus.

Remember, how do we know that somebody loves us? By other-centered, sacrificial acts.

1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

As John had long dwelled on the love of Christ and its ramifications for how we are to display his love for the world, he got a glimpse of God’s love displayed in another way, for eternity.

Read Revelation 5

All the redeemed will be able to fully comprehend the greatest of loves forever and ever and ever.

For Christians, God’s love will forever be on display.

[1] Luke 10:27; Matthew 22:36–40; Mark 12:28–31

[2] ἐντολὴν καινὴν

[3] Matthew 25:35-40


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