John 13:31-35 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. According to John 13:31 and 34 (printed below), when does Jesus give this commandment to love one another? What is significant about this?

After Judas had gone out, Jesus said, Now the Son of man shall be glorified, and God shall be glorified in him…(34) I give you a new commandment, Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also must love one another. (John 13:31,34)

Note that our Lord Jesus gives this charge to His disciples after Judas has made his exit. The commandment expressed in verse 34 is exclusively given to Christians and is focusing upon that love which is to be exhibited by Christians for fellow-Christians.

2. In what way is Jesus’ commandment “a new commandment” in comparison to the Old Testament commandment found in Leviticus 19:18 (printed below?)

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am Jehovah. (Leviticus 19:18)

Jesus declares that this is “a new commandment”—in contrast to the Old Testament commandment recorded in Leviticus 19:18. The Old Testament commandment to love one’s neighbor is referring to a broad, all-inclusive, neighborly love. It is a commandment that calls upon us to practice love towards all those in the community with whom we come into contact. It is a commandment that is patterned after our natural love for ourselves (note Matthew 22:39). This new commandment to love our brothers and sisters in Christ is referring to a restricted, exclusive, brotherly love. This is a commandment that calls upon us to practice love towards those who are fellow-believers in Christ (brothers for whom Christ died). This is a commandment that is patterned after the divine love of Christ for His church (note John 13:34b).

3. In elaborating on our Lord’s commandment to love one another, what does the apostle Peter tell us? See 1 Peter 1:22-23a (printed below)

Since you have, by obedience to the truth, purified your souls for a sincere love of your brothers, earnestly love one another from the heart, (23) having been born again. (1 Peter 1:22-23a)

Peter teaches us that as believers in Christ we have “purified your souls” for the purpose of practicing “a sincere love of your brothers.” Therefore Peter goes on to exhort us to “earnestly love one another from the heart.” In other words, we are to actually live out the new life to which we have been called, we are to actually put into practice this Christ-like love for our Christian brothers and sisters. Peter informs us that our being “born again” by the Holy Spirit is what enables us as Christians to practice such love for our brothers. The Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts creates within us the capacity and ability to love our brothers and sisters in Christ with a Christ-like love (note Galatians 5:22). Furthermore, the Holy Spirit creates within our hearts a spiritual affinity (identity with and love for) with our brothers in Christ (note 1John 3:10,14).

4. Jesus commands us, “Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another” (John 13:34). What kind of love did Jesus exhibit for His disciples? Hint: What event occurred just prior to the giving of this commandment?

What type of love did Jesus exhibit toward His disciples? It was a humble, serving love (the ministry of foot washing was an act of service). Just prior to issuing this command, and just prior to Jesus’ dramatic act of service (His washing of the disciples’ feet), these very disciples were arguing among themselves as to which of them was the greatest (note Luke 22:24). It was in this context that our Lord provided for His disciples a dramatic example of His teaching by taking upon Himself the humble task of washing the disciples’ feet. Again, what type of love did Jesus demonstrate to His disciples? It was a sacrificial love (the foot washing was symbolic of His great ministry at Calvary). Note, also, John 15:12-13.

5. What happens when Christians carry out Christ’s commandment to love one another? See John 13:35 (printed below)

All men shall know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)

Jesus informs us that the practice of the love He here commands will serve as a witness to the world. This Christian love expressed towards one another is the evidence which proclaims to the world that we are truly Christ’s disciples—because we are seen to be like our Lord: His character and His life are being reproduced in us (note Luke 6:40). This Christian love expressed within the church for one another as brothers in Christ is a demonstration to the world of the life of God and of life within the kingdom of God (note 1 John 3:10,14)