24 April 2016

John 13:31-35

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (v. 35)

Psalm: Psalm 146



Today we understand this passage and the glory of God through Jesus' death, resurrection and being placed on the right hand of God in heaven, through what we read in the New Testament. The disciples here are being told without the understanding we have through his death and resurrection. The passage is placed between Jesus foretelling that Judas will betray him (verses 21-29) and Peter will deny him (verses 36-38).

This piece of Scripture is hugely different from the themes of denial or betrayal: instead of a negative it points towards a vision of the disciples and their behaviour after Christ's death in a positive manner. It appears that Jesus is trying to help the disciples come to terms with the events that will unfold, and how the events leading up to Jesus' death will glorify God, but it's a journey only Jesus will take. The disciples will have to stand in the gap without Jesus there, continuing his radical teaching of love. This is what will distinguish them from other disciples of other religious leaders at the time; this is particularly evident in verse 35.

Jesus refers to his disciples as "little children" (v. 33). Matthew 19:14 says "for it is to such as these [little children] that the kingdom of heaven belongs". The phrase in John's Gospel in which Jesus refers to his followers as little children could be seen as the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of God's glory shall also belong to his disciples.

Ultimately this passage is about Jesus' new commandment of love, one which the followers of Jesus will be known by, a commandment passed on from Jesus to the disciples and from them to all followers.

To Ponder

  • "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." How can others see that you are a follower of Jesus?
  • How do you think this new commandment made the disciples feel? How does it make you feel?

Bible notes author

Bx Belshaw

Bx Belshaw is currently serving as a families and youth worker for St John's Methodist Church Conwy. This is her first role having completed her degree in theology at Cliff College last year.