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John 13:31-38 Study Guide: Known By Your Love

Community Group Study Guide — Known by Your Loe
John 13:31-38

Study Information:
How do people know that you’re a follower of Jesus? We’re told by Jesus in at least two places that “people will know you’re a disciple by _________” In John 15:9 Jesus told his disciples that they would bear fruit (good works) and prove to be his disciples. One way people know we follow Christ is through our changed lives and transformed actions. Our passage gives us a second picture for how people will know that we follow Jesus, by how we love other believers. In our passage Jesus pointed his disciples to his future departure from this world and how they could not be able to follow him yet; so what should they do in the meantime? They should “love each other AS I have loved you.” This type of love was more than kindness or niceness, but a call to patient, faithful and sacrificial love.

Known By Your Love
John 13:31-35
In our passage the disciples were still in the “upper room” with Jesus and Jesus was in the middle of giving them his final teaching before he would be arrested and sent to the cross. His goal was to prepare them for what would come in his crucifixion and to give them insight into the big picture of what following him in faith would require of them. In John 13:31-32 Jesus announced again that it is the time for him to be glorified. As we saw in John 12:23, this was a reference to the cross. At the cross Jesus would be glorified (lifted up) where he would suffer and die and by doing so draw people to himself through forgiveness and reconciliation to God the Father through faith. How should the disciples respond to the cross? 

Notice in John 13:33 he addresses them as “little children,” which was a term of endearment; he cares deeply for his people. After the cross Jesus would go before them to the Father’s side where he would prepare a place for them (John 14:1-6) and in the meantime they are to be marked by their love for one another. 

We learn four things about this “new commandment” to love:

First, love for other believers is a commandment. Love is not a feeling or an emotion, but a growing desire and obedience to seek the good of other followers of Jesus. This love can be strained or tested by differences, conflict and outside stresses, but those are not excuses to give in to indifference or animosity.  

Second, if it is commanded logically that means we will not always “feel” like loving other disciples. The 12 disciples, soon after this, abandoned Jesus when he was arrested and they had a pattern of bickering and fighting with each other in the past. Love is not something we do just when we feel like it rather it is the “new commandment” for the people of God to walk in. Jesus summarize the Law of God by saying it is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. Instead of bringing the disciples a new list of 600+ commands to follow Jesus gives them one command that encapsulates all of their actions towards each other: love. 

Third, this love is different than other types of love we may give or receive, it is meant to be of the same quality of the love Jesus showed his disciples (John 13:34). Jesus said, "just as I have loved you so you are to love one another…” How did Jesus love his disciples? Throughout his ministry with them he displayed patient, faithful and sacrificial love. Jesus taught them, spent time with them and endured their mistakes and failures with grace and mercy. Also, in light of this conversation about the cross it is important to note that he loved sacrificially and was willing to serve them and would even die for them. Our love is not meant to be indifferent, temperamental or convenient, but rather of the same quality of love Jesus showed his followers.  

Finally, this love gives proof to our faith in Jesus. Out of all the things Jesus could have said prove our faith, like our knowledge, good actions, political opinions, health and wealth or whatever else we can dream up… Jesus said that our love is what proves our discipleship. Following Christ leads to an ever growing love for God and for one another. A good gauge to whether or not you’re following Christ with a genuine faith is if you’re growing in love for one another. 

This kind of witness is compelling for the watching world. The church loving one another models the heart of God and it was something the early church was known for. We read in the book of Acts that the early christians would sell their possessions to give to one another in need, the regularly spent time together around God’s word and prayer and would open up their homes to share meals. Likewise, they extended that love to those outside the church and cared for the poor, abandoned children and even showed love to those who persecuted them. That witness of God’s transforming power is one of the factors that catalyzed the growth of the Christian church. 

As a follower of Jesus, do you find that you’re known for being irritable and selfish or sacrificial and kind? Loving one another is not throwing away boundaries and just being “nice,” but it is a disposition towards one another’s good and will require patience, faithfulness and sacrifice. This is the way of Jesus. 

“I Would Lay Down My Life For You”
John 13:36-38
Peter kind of passes over Jesus’ words on love and expresses his willingness to give up all for Jesus. The disciples had some rivalry and specifically would argue about who was the greatest. Also remember that Jesus had just got through telling them that one of them would betray Jesus. Peter seems to have wanted to make sure Jesus knew it was not him by expressing his willingness to lay down his life for Christ (John 13:37). Following Jesus involves self denial and surrender of all of life but do not miss this — it was easier for Peter to say he’d lay down his life to follow Christ rather than for him to simply lay down his pride and to love the other disciples. Peter would be in for a rude awakening ; his faith would be tested and he will deny even knowing Jesus when he was called out as one of his followers. 

We see Jesus’s faithful love in action though as he stayed faithful to Peter and one of the big story arcs in the gospel of John is Peter’s denial of Jesus and restoration by Jesus. Peter’s boldness and pride are on display with his declaration and that can be a real barrier to loving other disciples. Fortunately for Peter and for us is that God will take him on a path of humility through these denials which will transform and change his life as a key apostle in the early church. 

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read John 13:31-38

Where is Jesus going and why can’t the disciples follow him?

What makes the love disciples are commanded to show one another different from other ways we think about love or how the “world” shows loves?

Why would our love for other believers prove that we are disciples rather than love for outsiders or love for God or other things like knowledge, actions, etc?

What barriers do you face with loving other believers? What are some ways God helps you overcome those barriers?