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What makes the New Commandment “New”?

John 13:34-35


Yeshua gave his disciples – including all of us – a “new” commandment.  Many of you know it.  But what made it “new”? 

The answer has everything to do with the Passover season.

John 13:34-35

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

OK, so what’s so new about that?  A very similar commandment is given in Leviticus, and in fact part of that verse is what Yeshua summarized as the “second greatest commandment.”  (The first and greatest came from Deuteronomy 6:4 – to love Yahweh with all our heart, soul and strength”.  And here is where Yeshua got the 2nd greatest commandment, and on these 2 commands hang the entire Law and Prophets! See Mark 12:28-31

Here is the 2nd greatest command, worded similarly to John 13:34.

Leviticus 19:18

“You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am YHVH”.

Later on, Yah tells Israel they are not to have any difference in justice and service between Gentiles and Israelites; all are to be treated the same.  Imagine if we would really practice this.

Leviticus 19:34

The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am YHVH your God”.

Then throughout the book of John’s gospel, and even in John’s epistle, the command to love one another is repeated over and over – sometimes with other points added to it. 

Back to my question:  since Lev 19:18 says we are to love one another as ourselves – what made Yeshua’s statement “a new commandment”? 

Click on “Continue reading” to find out what made our Savior’s statement new. 

The answer is quite simple, and I’m sure many of you knew this already. But it’s a good reminder in this Passover season.

John 13:34-35

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

First of all, the word for “love” here is not phileo – but the very special Greek word “agape” or “agapeo”.   Phileo is really an affection, liking someone,  being kindly disposed to someone.  It even includes the kind of love that makes you want to kiss someone.  There certainly is nothing wrong with phileo love.  But Agape love is far more: It is to esteem and finding one’s joy in someone else.  This is a love that really is more akin to the love we have from God. It’s an unconditional love.  Normal but unconverted people won’t demonstrate agape love as much as they would phileo love.   Agape love allows us to even love our enemies and those who persecute and hate us (Matthew 5:43). Phileo love would normally love only those who love us, who bless us or are kind to us.

But there’s more. 

It’s the phrase that we are to agape love one another in the same was “as I have loved you”.  That’s truly what makes the new commandment new.  

It goes beyond saying we are to just love one another as ourselves, as Leviticus 19 has it. This now says the bar has been raised even higher, to “as I have loved you.”  

HOW did and how does Christ love you and me? Because “AS I have loved you” is the gold standard here!

  • He died for us while we were sinners and enemies of the way of God (see John 15:12-14 and Romans 5:8-12).
  • He reconciled us to himself and then to God the father – even though we were enemies before ((Romans 5:9-10).
  • He loves his enemies.  God so loved the (sinful) world that the Son of God came and died for us all (John 3:16). That’s the kind of love we are to have for one another – even when someone hurts and sins against us, because that is what Yeshua’s love was like for us!
  • He prays for us even when he knows we are about to deny him, as he did for Peter (“I have prayed for you…”—Luke 22:31-32)
  • He is our Advocate against those who accuse us, like Satan and those working for him (1 John 2:1-2)
  • He’s the good shepherd who died for the sheep (John 10:10-11).  We must be willing to give up what’s valuable to us and not demand justice or vengeance on a brother or sister who has hurt us badly.
  • He forgives us over and over and over and over again (Luke 17:1-6) – even in the same day, and taught us to do the same.  We are to forgive one another AS Christ has forgiven us.

Now it’s application:

  • WHO out there – in or out of “the church” – do you despise, can’t stand, hate, or strongly dislike?  Start
  • Who out there have you never truly forgiven?  Be real honest with yourself, as your eternity is on the line.  Beware, lest you also not be forgiven. We all know so many scriptures that tell us if we don’t forgive those who trespass against us, neither will our heavenly father forgive us of OUR sins.  Think of those who have truly dragged your name in the mud, have gossiped about you, and told falsehoods or awful forgiven truths about you.  How about those folks?  Against whom do you hold a powerful grudge for the “unforgivable” thing(s) they did against you or your family?

We are to “love one another AS I have loved you”, Jesus said.

So the best way to apply this scripture is to really understand how deep the love of Yeshua has been for each of us – and then share that same level of agape love with all others.  The thought of revenge, or getting even, is not to be in our minds at all, for “vengeance is mine, says the Lord.” 

John elaborates on some of this in his epistle:

1 John 2:8-11

Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.

9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

John focuses on getting rid of the dark feelings we have for some of the brothers and sisters in Christ.  Paul urges us to look to our Messiah and apply that same love to the Bride of Christ as HE does and to forgive one another in the same way (“even as”) Christ forgave you – and he adds: “so you ALSO must do”.  

Colossians 3:12-14

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection

Then in Ephesians 5 Paul urges us to learn to present each other to Christ as cleansed and washed by the Word. 

Ephesians 5:25-28

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”

Imagine the love we’d have in our congregations if we could and would all do this!  Imagine the union we would have – instead of the splintering of the body of Christ that we see. Splinters hurt a Body.

At Passover, we washed one another’s feet. We always think of that mostly in terms of humble service, and so it is.  But don’t forget the other lesson:  that we are to see one another as washed by the Master (HE washed their feet, remember; even Judas’ feet).  So as we wash one another’s feet, we are to also say to ourselves and to the brother or sister in front of us:  “I also see you as washed of all your sins and faults by the Master; and I acknowledge that and I see you that way also” – rather than spreading the slimy gossip we’ve heard about one another around the world! 

Now let’s go and practice the new commandment.

This much I know, the world will NOT know us as God’s children if we don't practice this kind of love with one another and all people (John 13:35). Yeshua prayed that we would all come together as one – as one as HE is with our Father. That is true oneness. That’s the standard for us all. That we’d die for one another. That we forgive one another. That we forget one another’s trespasses as far as the east is from the west.  That we pray for one another, especially for those who have hurt us. (And I mean pray FOR them, not that they die or something!). 

There’s the new commandment:  to love one another AS Christ has loved us.

Those last 5 words are what make it a new commandment.  And with the spirit of Christ IN us, yes – this is totally possible for us to love one another like that.  Live in us, Master. Live your life all over again in us.

Can God’s will for us change?
Would you wash Judas Iscariot’s feet?


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