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.From the Greek New Testament:
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13:34-35 [ESV])
John 13:34 ἐντολὴν καινὴν δίδωμι ὑμῖν ἵνα ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους, καθὼς ἡγάπησα ὑμᾶς ἵνα καὶ ὑμεῖς ἀγαπᾶτε ἀλλήλους.Ok, first off, I do not know Greek, and if anyone is reading that that is proficient in New Testament Greek, I'm sure you can see that. However, I am extremely interested in learning it and I try to read the Greek N.T. along with the English when ever I can. I try to understand what the wording is in the Greek, and learn what those words mean in that context, also in other instances where that word was used. (I would really like to get a hard copy of the G.N.T. someday, but for right now my software study tools and the Internet will suffice.)
John 13:35 ἐν τούτῳ γνώσονται πάντες ὅτι ἐμοὶ μαθηταί ἐστε, ἐὰν ἀγάπην ἔχητε ἐν ἀλλήλοις.
- Entolen kainen didomi humin hina agapate allelous, kathos egapesa humas hina kai humeis agapate allelous.
- Commandment new I give to you, that you love each other: even as I love you that also you love each other
- En touto gnosotai pantes hoti emoi mathetai este ean agapen exhte en allelous.
- By this know all that my disciples you are, if love you have for each other
Perhaps you're wondering why I've posted about this passage. Well, I find it to be quite an interesting piece of dialog from our Lord and Savior. There's quite a lot here if you study it thoroughly. My software tools really make the studying quicker. If you've ever used a good set of Bible study tools, you understand what I'm saying. The software doesn't do the work for you, but it just makes all kinds of resources available at the click of a mouse.
Anyway, in studying this passage, we really need to draw on context and related passages where Jesus may have said something similar. Did He say something similar to this in any other part of the New Testament? Sure He did! How about in John 15, during His discourse on the True Vine and the branches?
This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:12)That's pretty close to the same exact wording, right? So, let's look at these circumstances in which Jesus gave us this commandment.
In John 13, Jesus has just finished washing the feet of the disciples. (I think it's interesting to note that He washed Judas Iscariot's feet too.) He has just confirmed for them that they are correct in calling Him "Teacher" and "Lord", but He also points out that while He is these things, He serves them. And in the same manner they are to serve each other.
By looking at this particular "manner" in which He has just served them, by washing their feet, we can learn something. Just imagine the following scenario: You go home this evening, after working all day, and your spouse has also had a hard day of work. Both of you are taking a moment to sit down and just relax a bit. Then you, with a bowl of warm water and a towel, get on the floor at the feet of your spouse, take off her shoes and socks, and begin washing her feet. Imagine the bewilderment in her mind! "What is he doing?", she must be thinking.
But this would have been just a little different in Jesus' day. There were no "shoes and socks" to take off. They wore sandals (maybe) and their feet were exposed to the dirt (not paved) roads (there were no concrete sidewalks either) all day. The mud/dirt might be caked on, or at least between the toes; and the smell of whatever they'd walked in recently would be quite evident. This daily practicality of washing your feet upon entering a house was just another normal part of life. And as a matter of hospitality for guests, this gesture was extended to show appreciation and respect. However, even then it wasn't often done by the owner or master of the house, but by a servant or slave. We can see that the foot washing itself wouldn't have been the point of shock to the disciples (they did this everyday), but Who was doing the washing was the point of which they would have taken notice.
So, there is no evidence in Jesus' words that He intends His followers to institute some sort of religious ritual from this "foot washing" - this was already a menial, daily chore. Instead, He is modeling for them how they ought to condescend to, or humble themselves, doing the smallest, most menial things for each other. It is in the showing of love in this way that others will recognize that we abide in Him.
Jesus knew that He needed to communicate this to His disciples because they were going to be the founders of the Church and would be in positions of honor and authority. It would be easy for them to garner an "air of entitlement" around their position. There would be ample opportunity for them to take charge over others to guide them and teach them, but they needed to be reminded that they were no better, as students, than the Master. Read Philippians 2:4-8.
And so, we can see the first point being made in this passage: we are to love others in the same manner that Christ loved us. I believe this is why He prefaced this commandment as a "new" one - the old "love others as yourself" had been around forever. In this new commandment, Jesus raises the bar. He raises this beyond just loving them as yourself, but to the point of laying down your life for others. This is the ultimate show of love - putting aside your own interests (and life), and looking to the interest of others.
In my next posting, we'll look at the 2nd mention of this commandment in John 15, and study the context in that instance.