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Love One Another

January 2, 2022 Speaker: Kit Johnson Series: Love One Another

Topic: Expository Passage: John 13:31-35


As I’ve done the last few years, I’d like to use the first Sunday of the year to introduce our new annual theme. As you can see on the screen, our theme for 2022 will be “Love One Another.” It comes from Jesus’ instruction in John 13:34–35.

I recognize that you may see this theme and think, “Those are some great verses, but why do we need to emphasize love? Doesn’t Life Point already have a strong reputation for loving community?” That’s a fair question because guests to Life Point consistently notice how friendly we are. And for the most part we do a good job of caring for each other. Life Point feels like family. So, why dedicate 2022 to love?

For one, it’s good to remember that biblical love is much more than friendliness. Afterall, we’ve all known people who will smile to your face but say nasty things behind your back. So, we could be the friendliest place on earth but not love one another.

And I would even add that we could even have many deep relationships in the church and still fall short of this text. We saw this summer in Matthew 5 that there is no glory in loving the loveable because even pagans do that.

We must shoot higher. Jesus says that we must pursue a love that bears the unique stamp of Jesus’ divine power. People will see it and say, “They must be disciples of Jesus because that’s not normal.” If we are going to love like that, we better not rest on our laurels. We will always have a long way to go in loving one another.

Furthermore, we’ll see throughout the year that just because we think we know what it means to love one another doesn’t mean that we do. Verse 34 says that Jesus is giving a “new commandment.” We’re going to see this year that many of our assumptions about love and how we truly love in the church need real development.

So, yes, love is a strength of our church, but we want to keep it that way. And we want to go deeper in our understanding and practice. I’m excited to see what God will do.

With this in mind, I’d like to kick off our theme by considering Jesus’ foundational words about Christian love in John 13. To really appreciate vv. 34–35, we need to back up and see them in the context of vv. 31–33 (read vv. 31–35). Notice first in vv. 31–32…

I.  God’s Glory in the Cross (vv. 31–32)

As always, context is essential to appreciating the meaning of a text, and that is certainly true here. This is because Jesus speaks these words in the upper room only hours before his crucifixion. He has just instituted the Lord’s Supper to remind his disciples of the incredible sacrifice he will make, and he has just illustrated the love of the cross by washing his disciples’ feet.

Then in a stunning twist, Jesus predicts Judas’ betrayal. Then he simply commands Judas in v. 27, “What you do, do quickly.” And Judas obeys. He leaves to visit the authorities and to set in motion the brutal events of the crucifixion. And v. 31 says that Judas’ departure to betray Jesus is the occasion for vv. 31–35. This all happens, “When he had gone out.” I’d like to emphasize 3 truths from what follows in vv. 31–32.

The subject is the cross. On their own, vv. 31–32 sound confusing and odd. What does Jesus mean by all this talk about glory? But the context clearly indicates that he’s talking about the cross, and by extension the resurrection and ascension. As well, Jesus refers to himself as the “Son of Man,” which he does regularly in the Gospels when talking about his suffering.

So, imagine what is going through Jesus’ mind. He fully understands what Judas was doing at that moment, and he fully understands what he is about to suffer. It had to be so excruciatingly heavy to anticipate that load.

If I were in Jesus’ shoes, I would be filled with self-pity, and I would probably groan and complain for all to see. But not Jesus. Instead, he begins in v. 31, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him.” He sees past the shame and anticipates glory in the cross.

Of course, that would have been a shocking expectation in Jesus’ day because crucifixion was anything but glorious. In fact, the Romans designed it to be as humiliating and degrading as possible, and they were usually successful. So, how could the cross bring glory to God? Fundamentally…

The cross displayed God’s love. Later in this same speech Jesus will say in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” And then Jesus set the definitive example of this sacrificial love in the cross. We just celebrated the fact that he broke his body and shed his blood for us. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us.

Therefore, the NT repeatedly teaches that the cross sets the standard of God’s love. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

So, if you want to know what love is, don’t look to the latest movie or bestseller. Look to the cross. The cross teaches us that love is more than a feeling, Jesus moved toward us with loving sacrifice. We’ll say a lot more about that later today and throughout the year.

But even more important in vv. 31–32 is the fact that the cross doesn’t just illustrate love; it glorifies God by displaying God’s love for us. Jesus says, “The Son of Man (is) glorified.” So, Jesus is saying that he will be glorified by displaying his love. As well, “God is glorified in Him.” We also know the Father’s love through the cross because he sent his Son to die for our sins.

That’s so important because there are few things more precious than to know the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. And God gloriously manifested this love in the cross. By studying the Passion, we know that God loves us. We never will have cause to doubt his love. And we also know the incredible extent of that love. God made the ultimate sacrifice for us.

And you can know that love personally and be adopted into God’s family if you will simply believe on Christ and be born again. Again, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). You don’t have to face the penalty for sin. Instead, you can know the love of God and be secure in him if you will repent of your sin and put your trust in Christ’s finished work. If you have never done that, I pray that you will do so today.

And if you are saved, you should rejoice every day in the love that you have received. We know love fundamentally in the cross, and it is a precious anchor through all the ups and downs of life. One other truth in v. 32 is that…

The cross vindicated Christ (v. 32). Again, the primary focus of v. 32 is the display of God’s love in the cross. However, the language of v. 32 also points beyond the cross to Christ’s resurrection, his ascension to heaven, and the restoration of the full glory he enjoyed before the incarnation.

That’s because the Father did not simply allow Jesus to die. He demonstrated his acceptance of Christ’s work by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand with all glory and authority.

That’s significant for our purposes today, because it means that he has the right to give the command that is coming in v. 34. The command to love one another is not just a good suggestion if it fits my agenda. No, it is the authoritative command of God’s glorified Son, and we must listen and obey.

In sum, vv. 31–32 describe God’s glory in the cross. Jesus lays some important groundwork for the command that follows. On the cross Jesus set the standard of love. And in his resurrection, he gained the authority to demand that love from us. Then v. 33 follows by describing…

II.  The Absence of God’s Glory (v. 33)

Notice the contrast between vv. 31–32 and v. 33. Jesus just said that he is about to glorify the Father, and the Father is going to glorify him. God was about to glorify himself in a marvelous way! But then Jesus follows with what had to be a head-scratching downer for the disciples (read).

Of course, Jesus is talking about his ascension to heaven. For 3 years, he had lived among the disciples, and they beheld God’s glory in the life and words of Jesus. It was an incredible opportunity like nothing mankind had experienced since Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden of Eden.

John would later say about this privilege, “What wasfrom the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us” (1 John 1:1–2).

What an experience! But it was all about to end. In just 40 days, Jesus will ascend to heaven, and people will no longer be able to see and touch the “Word of Life.”

But if that’s the case, then how will people be able to continue to see God’s glory until Christ’s 2nd coming? Yes, we ultimately know God through his Word, but how can people in our day experience a living manifestation of God’s glory that they can see and touch? Jesus answers in vv. 34–35, where Jesus describes…

III.  God’s Glory in the Church (vv. 34–35)

The center of these verses is the command to “love one another.” And we’ll see throughout the year that this command lays an important foundation for a large swath of the NT ethic—what we often call the “one another commands.” Therefore, it’s important that we understand exactly what Jesus means. Notice first, that Jesus calls this a “new commandment.”

The New Commandment: Frankly, it’s probably a bit surprising that Jesus would call this a “new commandment.” Afterall, the command to love your neighbor as yourself was some 1400 years old at this time, and Jesus had just said a couple days earlier that loving your neighbor is the 2nd great commandment. So, in what sense is this a new commandment? First…

Jesus is thinking of a new context—the church. We know this because Jesus is specifically speaking to his disciples who will found the church. And he doesn’t command the disciples, and by extension future Christians, to simply love their neighbor. Instead, he tells disciples to love one another. So, he is clearly looking forward to the new community of the church. Therefore, Jesus is specifically commanding the church to share a unique, special love for each other.

Throughout the year, we will learn more about what makes this love unique. In particular, Christian love is unique because it unites social, economic, ethnic, and political groups that normally separate and certainly don’t love each other.

Colossians 3:11 states that we share, “A renewalin which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”

So, when people look at the church, they should notice the diversity of our love. We don’t love each other because we are all the same age, have the same hobbies, or come from the same cultures. Rather, we display the power of God by crossing social barriers and replacing them with a unified, safe community for all who are in Christ and strive to obey his will.

So, Jesus is saying that one of the most outstanding qualities of the church should be our sense of community or family. We need this emphasis because many Christians think of the church as little more than a theoretical, worldwide community that doesn’t demand significant relationships. And they think of the local church as an event I observe once a week. Membership in a church is little more than a status symbol.

But that’s not how Jesus imagines the church. He created Life Point to be a family that is deeply invested in each other because we share a powerful bond in Christ. We “love one another.” 2nd, it’s a new command b/c…

Jesus is thinking of a new example—himself. Notice that an important aspect of this new command is that we love one another “even as I have loved you.” So, love in the church is new in the sense that it is patterned after our Master, Jesus. So, let’s talk about…

The Pattern of Love: When Jesus says, “as I have loved you,” we should first remember the example that Jesus set earlier in the chapter (read vv. 3–17). What’s particularly significant about these verses is vv. 14–16. The Master became our servant, and he commands us follow his example. Then v. 34 commands us to love as he loved us. Therefore, we must imitate Jesus’…

Humility: I remember being told in college that the way you know if you are a servant is how you act when you are treated like one. How do you respond when you are expected to do the dirty work without any recognition or honor? What’s your attitude when you are scrubbing dishes, changing diapers, or pulling weeds while others play? Do you bristle, or are you happy to serve?

Jesus didn’t bristle. Instead, eternal God grabbed a towel, bowed at the stinky feet of his disciples, and washed them. And Jesus knew that vital, loving church community requires this same kind of love. So, don’t be so consumed with yourself that you never even notice needs. Embrace the humility of Jesus and find your joy in washing the feet of your Christian family. 2nd, we must imitate Jesus’…

Sacrifice: Considering the fact that Jesus just instituted the Lord’s Supper, and he will die the next day, we ought to assume that Jesus is also calling us to imitate the sacrificial love he demonstrated on the cross.

Jesus showed us that true love is more than strong feelings of attraction. It’s much more than doing a convenient good deed that strokes my ego and costs me little. Rather it is the drive to give myself sacrificially for the good of those I love with no regard for my rights or my glory.

Therefore, among other things, the church should be different from the world in the sense that we eagerly and sacrificially care for each other. We get up early, we stay up late, we give our time and money, we open ourselves to pain and heartache, and we do it all without regard for self but only with regard for how Christ gave to us.

Consider your involvement at Life Point. Do you love the body like that? Do you invest in people, recognize needs, and joyfully serving your fellow Christians? How are you making yourself uncomfortable for the good of others? Jesus commands you to love your brothers with the sacrificial love Jesus displayed when he died for your sins. 3rd, we must imitate Jesus’…

Grace: What I mean by this is that Jesus never demanded that we earn his love; instead, he loved us “while we were still sinners.” That’s so important to what makes the church unique. We don’t love each other because we are so loveable, because we all have our act perfectly together, or because we’ve done so much to deserve it.

No, mature Christians live every day with the humble awareness of their own sin, and they are overwhelmed that God would love sinners like us. Therefore, we look at others through a lens of grace, and we give freely and generously just as God gave to us. May God fill us with an ever-increasing amazement at this grace to a sinner like me and an ever-increasing drive to reflect that love in the church. It makes all the difference. Finally, notice what the end result will be.

The Goal of Love (v. 35): This really is an amazing verse when you look at the paragraph as a whole. Remember that Jesus began by saying that God’s love was about to be glorified through the sacrifice of Christ. But then he said that this glory, and in particular this display of love would depart when Jesus ascended to heaven.

That’s a problem. Humanity needs an example because the humble, sacrificial, and gracious love of Christ is not normal. Most people only know a shadow of Christ’s love. So, the looming question is how will the love of God continue to be glorified even after Jesus has gone away?

And the incredible answer is that the world will continue to see the love of God as the church obeys the command of v. 34. When an unbeliever observes the life of the church, whether it’s in our services, a fellowship event, helping each other with a project, or whatever it is, they should see a love that stands out as different. They should see God’s love being glorified through us.

And when they do, they will say, “These people have something special. They have been transformed by divine power. These people have been with Jesus. They are Jesus’ disciples.”

When you really ponder what Jesus is saying, you can’t help but think, “Wow, we have been given an incredible privilege and responsibility.” In a world that is plagued by darkness and sorrow, the church gets to be city of light set on a hill where all the world can see the love of God displayed. What a glorious opportunity! And all it takes is that we simply reflect to each other the love that we have received.

Of course, it’s often easier said than done. Selfishness is deeply imbedded in all of us. And even the most loving saints sometimes struggle to love the way Jesus did. I know that people don’t always look at me and think, “Wow, he must be a disciple of Jesus based on how he loves.” And I’m sure the same is true of you.

So, even in a church like Life Point where I think it’s fair to say that that we do better than most churches at living v. 34, we still should be sobered by Jesus’ vision. Everyone of us should ask, “Would an unbeliever know what we are disciples of Christ by looking at me?” Do I glorify the love of Christ in how I invest in the people of God? Examine yourself, confess your sins, and cry out to Christ for grace to live his will.


What a fitting challenge for us to consider after observing the Lord’s Supper. We remembered what Jesus did for us, and now we are challenged to follow in his steps. But let’s also not forget what came after Jesus death. He rose from the dead, which means he gives us the strength to actually do this. We can love one another. And then he ascended to the right hand of the Father; therefore, he has the authority to demand our obedience. Loving one another in the church is not a suggestion that only applies to extroverts and really spiritual people. It is for all of us. So by God’s grace let’s see what God will do among us this year to make us disciples who truly display the love of God to one another.

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