Many translate the passage thusly, these things have I spoken unto you, that my joy in you may remain.
“I have spoken these things, that, by your diligence in obeying them, I shall always have cause to rejoice, on account of your behaving as my apostles and disciples ought to behave; and you cause to rejoice in my friendship, in the honor I have conferred upon you, and in the eternal possession of heaven.”
So that cordially and constantly; even, if it be possible, with as great fervency and constancy, “as I have loved you, love one another.”
It is as though our Lord was saying, “be ready to sacrifice your lives for each other, as I expose and give up my life for you.”
It is remarkable, that no one duty is more frequently pronounced, or more strongly admonished of the disciples, by our Lord, than that of mutual love.
“This is my commandment,” he says, as if it were the most necessary of all the commandments.
The reason might be, first, that as under the law, the prohibition of idolatry was the commandment more insisted on than any other, because God foresaw the people would be prone to that sin; so Christ, foreseeing that the Christian Church would be addicted to uncharitable contentions and divisions, strife and animosity. Thusly, our Lord thought it necessary to lay the greatest stress upon the precept of love.
Secondly, mutual love among Christians is a duty which both includes many other duties and has a good influence upon all: and to this duty, Christ’s love to us all should at once direct, animate and urge us. Even as Christ both showed us our duty in this respect and laid us under the most powerful obligations to perform it. Add to this, that Jesus was earnest in pressing His disciples to the duty of mutual love, not only because it was the great design of His gospel to promote it, but because this virtue exercised by his apostles and first disciples among themselves and toward all mankind, would be one great means of making their preaching successful; just as Christ’s immense love to men will always have a great influence in drawing them to him. (Benson)
All the great truths spoken by Jesus are intended to promote that which is the truest expression of the Divine, that which is the real ground and end of all existence — love. On the other hand, again, the mutual love of believers is the armor of proof with which we will be able to best withstand the hatred of the world. (Schaff)
Church Supply Pastor and Christian columnist, Dr. Wayne M. Williams, presently resides in Athens with his wife of 39 years, Lita. For additional study notes, see the Facebook page International Sunday School Lessons.