31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”
Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”
37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”
38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
(John 13:31-38 NIV)
John has just recorded in detail Judas’ contempt for Jesus and his impending betrayal of Jesus. Judas wandered off into the night to set the wheels of betrayal into motion.
As we begin today’s passage, Jesus’ mood changes from the dark topic of betrayal to the brighter subject of God’s glory (v. 31).
In verse 33, John records Jesus using a term of endearment for His disciples: “My children” (Greek, “teknion” – “little children”). This verse is the only time that Jesus uses this term in John’s Gospel. John must have been impacted deeply by Jesus’ phrase, as John uses this same Greek word seven times in his first letter (1 John).
Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, a bunch of rough, tough grown men, not to insult them, but to care for their hearts and souls. Jesus knew they would soon feel like little children orphaned from their daddy and would miss Him deeply, heartbroken beyond words.
Jesus uses this tender moment to set the tone going forward – “Love one another.” This phrase will be Jesus’ theme and John’s captivating thoughts over the next four chapters. Jesus knew the disciples’ impending feelings of loss and was instructing them to serve and care for one another as He had served and cared for them. Caring for and loving one another was to be their trademark going forward, the distinguishing characteristic that would identify them as Jesus’ disciples.
John records that Peter completely misses the point of loving one another. Peter is still stuck back on the earlier fact that Jesus said He was going someplace where they could not tag along (v. 36).
Peter, with all his passion and heart, feels hurt and vows to go with Jesus, even laying down his life for Jesus (v. 37). Jesus, knowing what was about to take place, questions Peter’s allegiance. In a sobering moment, Jesus uses His “pay attention” phrase (“Very truly I tell you”) and foretells Peter’s denial three times.
What is our takeaway, our faith lesson from this passage? Jesus’ command to love one another is still in effect today, and will be until He returns to earth. His clothes still likely damp from washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus set the example of humble service to one another as our example.
May we love others with such acts of service, bringing glory to God in the process.