THE GLORY OF LOVE
31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.
— John 13:31-38, ESV
Nothing is more glorious than love. Of it poems are written, songs are sung, movies are made, relationships are formed, and Scripture speaks. Would it be that the latter could govern all of the former, but modern culture seldom consults God’s word concerning the definition and parameters of love. So what is the true glory of love? How can we pursue it, find it, and share it in a way that glorifies God? Look no further than the Lord Jesus Christ.
John pictures Jesus here at the most pivotal point in His life. He has been betrayed by one of His close disciples. He is about to be denied by another. Then, He will die, in the most cruel, unusual, and punishing way ever known to man. Jesus has less than a day to live, a fleeting moment of time, which the Lord will spend with eleven true believers in an upper room in Jerusalem followed by an uphill walk to the Mount of Olives. This part of the Gospel is often called the “Upper Room Discourse.” It begins (with this text) and ends (ref. John 17:26) with the glory of love.
Love is a relentless pursuit of the glory of God.
God incarnate is the only perfect man who ever lived. His love, His actions, and His motives were absolutely pure. So when the die was cast for His death, Jesus revealed the reason He had lived His life. It was for the glory of God the Father.
Five times in just two verses, Jesus utters a form of the word “doxa,” “glory.” To glorify someone is to put them on the highest pedestal, to celebrate their greatest accomplishments, to ascribe to them the utmost respect, and shower them with totally committed love.
Such glory usually comes at the end. You do no put a player in the Hall of Fame while he is still playing the game. You do not give an artist the Grammy while she is still writing the song. And a Christian has to be justified and sanctified before he or she is glorified. Therefore, you cannot say you have glorified God with your life until your life is over, or at least nearly over, as in the case here with our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus came to reveal God to the world, so that God would be glorified, exalted, believed, and known. Jesus preached the gospel and performed miracles so that God would be glorified, exalted, believed, and known. Jesus went to His death on the cross and awaited His resurrection on the third day so that God would be glorified, exalted, believed, and known. In this relentless pursuit of the glory of God, the man Christ Jesus showed His love for God.
And, it showed His love for God’s people. Jesus calls His true disciples here “little children,” a broader translation of which could read “My personal, dear, beloved children.” Jesus came to us because “God so loved the world.” At the end of the world, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (ref. Philippians 2:10-11). Love leads to glory, and glory reveals love.
If your love for God, for your significant other and others, even for your lot and possessions in life, does not glorify God, then it is not love. It is hypocrisy, lust, or usury. If you believe what you believe and do what you do, like the Lord Jesus Christ, for the glory of God the Father, then you have found the glory of love.
Love is a glad obedience to the commandments of God.
There is an obedience revealed in the Gospels that is ugly, prideful, and practiced by the Pharisees. It is a keeping of rules and regulations in order to curry favor with God and set oneself up as superior to others. This certainly does not honor God nor bless anyone, except for the person plagued by such pride. It is never glad, and it is never love.
There is a reasonably good obedience that is still not very glad. We learn it very early when we are made to get up early and go to school, or clean up our room, or eat our green vegetables. We experience it by working jobs we don’t like or maintaining relationships we don’t enjoy. Such obedience may honor God and bless others in some ways, but it is not glad, and it is not really love.
Then there is the glad obedience of love. It is a keeping of commandments that is not mere duty, but absolute devotion. It is not merely feeling good, but doing good. It does even the hard things because of a soft heart. Such love and such obedience was both demonstrated and commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Where I am going you cannot come,” Jesus said, as He began His final journey to the arrest on the mountain, the trials before the Jewish high priest and Roman governor, and the cross between two thieves. This is why the Lord had come to earth, this was God’s will, this was Jesus’ glad obedience, to solely die for the many sins of God’s people. This is love.
And this love became His final and most important commandment to His disciples. He could have commanded them to go out and get advanced degrees in systematic theology. He could have commanded them to focus all of their energies on those outside the church. But instead, He gave them a commandment that would encapsulate sound doctrine and offer the greatest testimony of all to those still outside of the kingdom of God. He told us to “love one another,” and He made it “new,” by giving us His supreme example to follow, “as I have loved you.”
This is a commandment for Christians, and the Christian church. Such love gathers us together on Sundays, and prevents us from gossip on Mondays. Such love makes us give to the common causes of ministry and mission, and prevents us from the greed and laziness that burdens others. Such love is expressed in words and proven in deeds, so that not a single member of Christ’s church should ever need or feel neglected. It gladly obeys all of the commandments of God, all of the “one another” commandments, beginning with the glory of love.
Love is a humble acquiescence to the atonement of God.
This last part of the text is both a prelude to a sad denial and a summary of a happy and holy thought. Simon Peter’s hubris and huge mouth are once again on display, and Christ’s answer is a sarcastic, rhetorical question that brings serious good news to bear upon our souls.
Jesus had something to do, alone, with the final act of His life. Peter, seeking some glory for his own self, wants in on it. He had tried to be the leader over the Lord before (and was called “Satan” by Jesus in the process) and now he was going it again. Peter’s cross would come, too, after a long and fruitful life, but the ultimate cross was Christ’s alone to bear.
“Will you lay down your life for me?”
This question bites and blesses. It bites Peter on his assumptions by foretelling his forthcoming failure. But it also tells a very beautiful and highly theological truth. You do not have to do anything, even die, for Christ to save you. You simply have to allow Him to die for you. Because He loves you, He died for you. If you love Him, let Him, then love and follow Him with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
There are exceptional illustrations of substitutionary atonement in life and literature. Police officers give their lives to protect citizens, soldiers give their lives in defense of country, and Sydney Carton gives his life for Charles and Lucy Darnay every time you turn to the final pages of “A Tale of Two Cities.”
But there has only been one death that truly gives life. There has been only one substitutionary atonement that can impute to God’s forgiveness and faithful righteousness. This is the loving, sacrificial, and atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Please make sure He has gone there for you.
Like the one He proposed to Simon Peter, let the Lord ask you some penetrating questions. Do the loves in your life glorify God, and is your primary love the glory of God? Do you delightfully obey the gospel and the word of God, and do you truly love the Lord, and the church in which the Lord has placed you? Do you believe in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, and has it produced in you repentance, faith, and love?
If so, then you have found, or rather been found by, the glory of love.