The Lord Jesus declares that he is giving his disciples a new commandment, that they should love one another: I give you a new commandment: love one another.
But wasn’t this commandment already part of the ancient law of God, where it is written You shall love your neighbour as yourself? Why, then, is it called a new one by the Lord, when it is really so old?….
This is the love that renews us, making us new men, heirs of the New Testament, singers of the new song. It was this love, my beloved brethren, that renewed the patriarchs and prophets of old, and later renewed the blessed apostles. This is the love that is now renewing the nations, and from among the universal race of man, which overspreads the whole world, is making and gathering together a new people….
Since the disciples cannot follow Jesus as he leaves this life, they receive a command that, if obeyed, will keep the spirit of Jesus alive among them as they continue their life in this world….
The very idea that love is a commandment is interesting. In the Old Testament the Ten Commandments have a setting in the covenant between God and Israel at Sinai…. In speaking of love as the new commandment … the evangelist shows implicitly that he is thinking of the Last Supper in covenant terms….
Yet love is more than a commandment; it is a gift and … it comes from the Father through Jesus to those who believe in him…. The love that Jesus has for his followers is not only affective but also effective; it brings about their salvation. It is expressed in his laying down his life, an act of love that gives life to men….
In what sense is the commandment to love one another a “new commandment”? Christian scholars have often sought to explain the newness by contrast with the Old Testament attitude toward love of neighbor … but such a contrast with the Old Testament casts little light on the newness of the commandment to love in John…
The newness of the commandment to love is really related to the them of covenant at the Last Supper – the “new commandment” of John 13:34 is the basic stipulation of the “new covenant” of Luke 22:20….
The mark that distinguishes God’s love expressed in the covenant from even the noblest forms of human love is that it is spontaneous and unmotivated, directed to men who are sinners and unworthy of love…. Because the generosity of God’s love could not be fully known until He had given His own Son, in another way the Christian concept of love stemming from Jesus is new….
Thus, as long as Christian love is in the world, the world is still encountering Jesus.