“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
– John 13:34
Jesus said the above words on the night he instituted the Memorial Supper. But just a few days earlier in the temple, when asked by a scribe ‘what is the greatest command:’
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
– Mark 12:28-31
So how is the commandment he gave on his last night new?
It was new in that it was not concerning our neighbors; it was concerning our brothers. It was greater than loving your neighbor as yourself. It was loving another ‘just as Jesus loves us.’
So what is different about the way Jesus loves us?
Jesus answered that question later in the conversation that night when he said ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.’ (John 14:9) They saw the Father being expressed in the life of Jesus. The actions of Jesus were the actions of the Father to His children; the expressions of Jesus were the expressions of the Father to His children; the looks of compassion and understanding of Jesus were the looks of the Father’s compassion for and understanding of His children; and the love of Jesus was the love of the Father. Yes, it is more than brotherly love, it was with a fatherly love that Jesus loved them!
A loving parent truly knows his children and understands them, and for this reason it is easy to forgive them. It is in a parent’s nature not to withhold from their offspring their goodness, kindness, compassion, mercy, and love. They are forever seeking the welfare of their sons and daughters. And if it came down to it, they would even die for their children!
Accordingly, in order to observe this new commandment, we need to draw close to our brothers, and come to understand them – their motives, their intentions, their sentiments. This will lead to truly knowing them, which will lead to truly loving them with the fatherly love, ‘as Jesus loves us.’