"A new command I give you: Love one another ..." John 13:34
When Jesus said he was giving his followers a new command, we might wonder what was new about it. We find a similar command in Leviticus 19:18, and Jesus himself quoted it elsewhere (see Matthew 22:39).
To see the distinction Jesus was making here, we need to understand the background. Jesus and his disciples were eating the Last Supper, and before the meal he had washed his disciples' feet as a symbol of servanthood.
Jesus wanted his followers, his church, to be servants as well. He knew that he would soon be crucified as the sacrifice for sin, so he made use of this time with his disciples to teach them, reminding them of his purpose in coming (see John 13:31-17:26). He wanted to make clear that his church should be a people of love.
The command is new in this way: the Old Testament law said, "Love your neighbor as yourself," but Jesus is saying here, "Love your neighbor as I have loved you!"
Now, some people have psychoanalyzed the older command and said, "When the Bible says, ?Love your neighbor as yourself,' this means you can't love others without first learning to love yourself." Well, there may be a grain of truth to that. But Jesus' new command takes away any excuses we might come up with. Jesus' disciples love others as Jesus has loved them--and that means they love people sacrificially.
Jesus, thank you for this new command. You call us to new possibilities for service. Teach us what this means, and equip us, we pray, with sacrificial love to serve you. Amen.
See God's love, power, presence, and purpose in your life every day!