John 13:34-35: How new is Yeshua’s ‘new command’?

JeffIs Yeshua’s “new commandment” in John 13:34-35 really new? An answer is taught through God’s appointed times of Yom haKippurim (Day of Atonement), Shmittah (sabbatical year) and Yobel (Jubilee year).

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35)

Is this “new commandment” different from Yeshua’s “second-greatest commandment” to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Lev. 19:18)? Is it a replacement for the “greatest commandment,” the Shema (Deut. 6:4–5)? To love each other as Yeshua loved us is a combination of the Shema’s injunction of loving God and other people. We are to consider others as more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:1–11). 

How many times did Israel betray God? Here are but a few examples: 

  • Betrayal from a number in Israel from the Exodus through the Exiles.
  • Betrayal from the “shepherds” of Israel in the first century: High priests, many in the Sanhedrin, scribes and experts of the Torah, leaders of local congregations.
  • Betrayal from Yehudah ish Kariot (Judas Iscariot), one of Yeshua’s 12 closest students.
  • Betrayal from Shimon Petros (Simon Peter), to an overt degree when he denied knowing Yeshua three times.

Israel had been treating their God like a doormat for millennia, yet God still loved them. God’s long-suffering is truly suffering for a long time.

When we judge people, we are not long-suffering with them. We are burdening them and ourselves: 

“Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10)

What was the “burden” the leader of the council Ya’akov (James), spoke about? Some commentators say that it was the Torah itself that he was calling a “burden” on the new believers from the nations becoming part of the commonwealth of Israel. I’d submit to you that the real “burden” were the extra-biblical standards placed on top of the Torah that changed the Torah from a simple instruction to a difficult burden. Then people were judged for not living up to these “traditions of men.”

What does God ask us to do? The same thing He has done: let it go! If He can let it go, we can let it go. 

How do we “let it go”? Matt. 6:3-18 records Yeshua’s three disciplines that help us let go of our resentments and burdens: giving charity, praying in the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer and fasting. 

One of the key words we will be examining is the Greek word ἀφίημι afiēmi (Strong’s lexicon G863), which is translated as forgive. The word in Greek literally means “to send from oneself.” It also means “to permit, allow, not hinder.” It’s also a euphemism of divorce, of a man’s sending away his wife, like you see in the book of Hosea

God “sent away” Israel because of her betrayals, but despite them all, God still loved Israel, and by extension the whole world of people made in the likeness of God. Apostle Paul in Romans used the lesson of marriage and obligations to the law, and how marital obligations cease when the spouse dies (Romans 7-8). How can God “divorce” and “remarry” His “wife”? Someone had to die for God to be able to “remarry” Israel.

We also have a hint of what forgiveness really is in the Lord’s Prayer when Yeshua says, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

We see this in more detail in Isa. 61:1-3. Yeshua quoted this text one Shabbat in a synagogue when He publicly declared His mission (Luke 4:18). The “liberty” He was talking about is a reference to the kind of liberty that comes in the Yobel, Shmittah and the Shabbat (Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 15). 

We have a seven-day cycle in the Shabbat, and we have a seven-year cycle in the Shmittah. The Hebrew word שְׁמִטָּה shmittah (H8059) means “release” or “remission.” It comes from the root verb שָׁמַט shamat (H8058), “to throw down,” i.e., “to let it go” or “get over it.” The instructions for the Shmittah were letting go — freedom — from debts and from working the land. Then there are seven cycles of seven years plus one year to get to the 50th year, which is the Yobel. 

Why did God call for the the Shmittah and the Yobel to declared on Yom haKippurim? God hits the reset button on our sins, transgressions and iniquities at Yom haKippurim, and the Shmittah and Yobel hit the reset button on our debts, pointing us to Who is the source of agricultural prosperity and our souls. 

The reason that God sent the children of Israel into exile is not just because they didn’t follow the Shmittah in regards to crop rotations but because they didn’t let go of their debts (Jeremiah 34). They would not “let it go” and God sent them into slavery and exile as a consequence.

The Shmittah and Yobel are about letting things go. There’s a huge lesson in this: God freed us so we should free others. If you don’t forgive and let it go, God will not forgive you and let it go. 

What does fasting — a key discipline tasked to the people for the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29) — have to do with it? Fasting is more than some inconvenience, an empty stomach, a little thirst and a headache, and it’s more than just “clearing your head.” It’s to focus your attention a little more on what others who are less fortunate than you might be experiencing. 

Yeshua wasn’t concerned about “keeping up appearances” of His status. He touched lepers, visited the homes of “sinners” and welcomed a tax collector and women into the inner circle of students. “… knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God” (John 13:3), He took on the task of a servant in washing the feet of the 12, including Yehudah and Petros, His future betrayers.

Yeshua’s “new commandment” is about the New Covenant, which is taking God’s laws and making them apart of our hearts. They are to show up in our daily life. This is something God is going to do within us. The law is not too difficult to do, it will be as near as our heart because God will put it there. 

Speaker: Jeff. Summary: Tammy.

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