Creation Care As Justice
Hear what the Lord says: Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice. Hear, you mountains, the controversy of the Lord, and you enduring foundations of the earth; for the Lord has a controversy with his people, and he will contend with Israel. ‘O my people, what have I done to you? In what have I wearied you? Answer me! For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. O my people, remember now what King Balak of Moab devised, what Balaam son of Beor answered him, and what happened from Shittim to Gilgal,that you may know the saving acts of the Lord.’ ‘With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with tens of thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’ He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?
As each of the commentators note, in this familiar passage God sets out a standard for righteousness that exceeds mere thoughts and beliefs. God demands that we live out our faithfulness with our entire lives. We are held to the standard of living justice, kindness, and humility. Consider the relationship between climate change and poverty: The poor are triply burdened by climate change in that they have contributed to it the least, they are the most impacted by its effects, and they are the least able to protect themselves. The poor are 20 times more likely to be impacted by natural disasters (which have quadrupled in the last 20 years due to climate change), than populations above the poverty line. When natural disasters do strike, second and third world countries lack the infrastructure necessary to respond and rebuild. Poorer populations are also the most dependent on subsistence farming and local water supplies that are especially vulnerable to being disrupted by the effects of climate change. What does it mean to do justice in the context of these realities? How can we demonstrate loving-kindness in the face of climate change?
God’s claim is on our whole lives and we are called to examine how every action, large or small, fulfills or neglects this claim. When read it through a green lens, this passage adds moral significance to even the smallest of decisions – whether we choose to use energy saving light bulbs or not, to take re-useable bags to the grocery store or not, to use more energy so that the house is at the “perfect” temperature or not. It also compels us not to be passive or silent while climate change ravages the poorest among us.
Calvin’s Commentary on Micah
Hear, ye mountains, the controversy of Jehovah, how? and ye strong foundations of the earth, he says. He speaks here no more of hills, but summons the whole world; as though he said, “There is not one of the elements which is not to bear witness respecting the obstinacy of this people; for the voice of God will penetrate to the farthest roots of the earth, it will reach the lowest depths: these men will at the same time continue deaf.” And he says not, the Lord threatens you, or denounces judgment on you; but Jehovah has a contention with his people. We now then see that there is no metaphor in these words; but that the Prophet merely shows how monstrous was the stupor of the people, who profited nothing by the celestial doctrine delivered to them, so that the very mountains and the whole machinery of earth and heaven, though destitute of reason, had more understanding than these men. And it is not unusual with the Prophets, we know, to turn their discourse to mute elements, when there remains no hope of success from men. But our Prophet does not abruptly address mountains and hills as Isaiah does, (Isaiah 1:2,) and as also Moses had done, ‘Hear, ye heavens, what I shall say, let the earth hear the words of my mouth,’ (Deuteronomy 32:1,) but he prefaces his discourse by saying, that it had been specially commanded to him to summon the mountains and hills to God’s judgment. By saying then, “Hear ye what Jehovah saith,” he prepares as I have said, the Jews to hear, that they might know that something uncommon and altogether unusual was to be announced, — that the Lord, in order more fully to convict them of extreme impiety, intended to plead his cause before the mountains.
Arise, then, and plead before the mountains, and let the hills hear thy voice. What sort of voice was this? They who think that the judges are here figuratively pointed out may be easily refuted; for Micah in the next verse mentions the substance of this pleading, namely that the Lord expostulated with his people. We hence see that God had no contention with the mountains, but that, on the contrary, the mountains were summoned, that they might understand God’s pleading, not against them, but against the people. Hear then, ye mountains, Jehovah’s controversy, and ye strong foundations of the earth, that is, the very rocks. There is nothing so hard in the world, he says, that shall not be inane to hear; for this pleading shall reach the lowest depths. Jehovah then has a controversy with his people, and he will plead, or contend, with Israel.
As then he says here, With what shall I appear before God? We must bear in mind, that as soon as God condescends to enter into trial with men, the cause is decided; for it is no doubtful contention. When men litigate one with another, there is no cause so good but what an opposite party can darken by sophistries. But the Prophet intimates that men lose all their labor by evasions, when God summons them to a trial. This is one thing. He also shows what deep roots hypocrisy has in the hearts of all, for they ever deceive themselves and try to deceive God. How comes it that men, proved guilty, do not immediately and in the right way retake themselves to God, but that they ever seek windings? How is this? It is not because they have any doubt about what is right except they willfully deceive themselves, but because they dissemble and willfully seek the subterfuges of error. It hence appears that men perversely go astray when ever they repent not as they ought, and bring not to God a real integrity of heart. And hence it also appears that the whole world which continues in its superstitions is without excuse. For if we scrutinize the intentions of men, it will at length come to this, — that men carefully and anxiously seek various superstitions, because they are unwilling to come before God and to devote themselves to him, without some dissembling and hypocrisy. Since it is so, certain it is, that all who desire to pacify God with their own ceremonies and other trifles cannot by any pretext escape.
Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible
The famous reply in 6:8 states that the gulf can be bridged. Justice to others, the cultivation of loyal and unfailing love to God and to others, and a life lived in humble but informed dependence on God (walking with him) are appropriate and acceptable responses to his mercy. There is no mention of sacrifice, but the answer does not rule it out. It sets forth a particular way of life (the idea of walking with God expresses this concretely) that has to be realized in the details of daily living, and for a member of the Jerusalem community of the postexilic period, this would involve the celebration of fasts and festivals and the communal rituals associated with birth and mourning. In the world of the Bible, as opposed to today’s Western world, religion was not merely a matter of intellectual opinions; it was a distinctive way of life, and that fact must be borne in mind when reading v. 8 (p 706).
New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary
Micah is in good company with other prophets when he clearly states that God is more interested in the way people live their everyday lives than in their religious practices. Amos even says that God “hates” such superficial efforts of piety if they are not accompanied by lives dedicated to justice and righteousness (Amos 5:21-24).
The threefold summary of what God expects (v. 8 ) is a general summary, leaving the details to further explication. Several very important biblical words appear here. “Justice” (Hebrew mispat) is something that people do. It is not enough to wish for justice or to complain because it is lacking. This is a dynamic concept that calls on God’s people to work for fairness and equality for all, particularly the weak and the powerless who are exploited by others. “Kindness” translates a Hebrew word (hesed) that is very common in the Bible, but its meaning can hardly be conveyed by any single English word. It has to do with love, loyalty, and faithfulness. It can be used to describe the key element in relationships, whether in marriage or between human friends or between God and humanity. It is not enough to maintain covenant faithfulness (whether on the human level or between humans and God) out of duty or fear of punishment. Israel is to “love (Hebrew ahab) God – to be faithful to its covenant partner – as God loves Israel. There is no resentment, as if manipulated or coerced by another (whether God or human). Israel’s relationship of faithfulness to God is motivated by love. Some scholars have pointed out that the word “humbly” (from sn’) might better be understood as “carefully” or “circumspectly.” The key word in this verse is “walk” (Hebrew halak). We are to walk with God, careful to put God first and to live in conformity with God’s will. Our life pilgrimage is likened to a walk with God as our constant companion.
These key verses from Micah are about lifestyle, one’s total outlook on life, and one’s ethical values. They reject the simplistic notion that there is one thing Israel can do (ritually or otherwise) to make things right between God and the people (Vol. 7, pg 580).
Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’
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Calvin’s Commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke
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The Great Commandment is repeated so often that it can be easy for us to not hear it with its full force. Love God and love neighbor; Jesus says that ALL of the law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. See the sections “Creation Reveals the Glory of God” and “God Cares for and Sustains Creation” for examples of how loving God is tied to caring for God’s creation. God and creation are inextricably bound and true reverence for one appropriately leads to reverence for the other. In addition to loving God, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. One need only look to the story of the Good Samaritan to know that Jesus has a very broad definition for who constitutes our neighbors (Luke 10:25-37). We love ourselves enough to ensure that we have food to eat and water to drink; we protect ourselves against the threat of illness and when natural disasters strike, we rebuild. Climate change is severely contributing to the global food crisis; 40% of the world’s population gets its drinking water from glaciers that are disappearing; diseases such as malaria, typhoid and yellow fever are one the rise due to climate change; the poor are 20 times more likely to be impacted by natural disasters. In light of these realities, what does it mean to love our neighbor as ourselves?
Calvin’s Commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke
39. And the second is like it. He assigns the second place to mutual kindness among men, for the worship of God is first in order. The commandment to love our neighbors, he tells us, is like the first, because it depends upon it. For, since every man is devoted to himself, there will never be true charity towards neighbors, unless where the love of God reigns; for it is a mercenary love which the children of the world entertain for each other, because every one of them has regard to his own advantage. On the other hand, it is impossible for the love of God to reign without producing brotherly kindness among men.
Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible
The double love commandment, coming near the end of Jesus’ life, recalls his teaching on love for enemies in the Sermon on the Mount at the beginning of his public work (5: 43-48). The love commandments give further definition to the notion of just social relations and attitudes promoted by the Gospel. The demand of the law and the prophets can be summarized by the golden rule (7:12; cf. Hillel in b. Shab. 31a) or by the love commandments (22:40; cf. also 19:19, 24:12). Though may Christian interpreters have understood love as a rejection of the Jewish law (understood as legalistic and meaningless), Matthew is more concrete and demanding. Though love, especially faithful love (Heb. hesed), cannot be directly legislated, its framework may be outline with laws. The love commandments serve as the center of the law, giving to the Bible and Jesus’ teachings an order and thrust which characterize Matthew’s community and distinguish it from other Jewish communities and movements (p 1048).
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible
An interpreter of the law asked our Lord a question, to try, not so much his knowledge, as his judgment. The love of God is the first and great commandment, and the sum of all the commands of the first table. Our love of God must be sincere, not in word and tongue only. All our love is too little to bestow upon him, therefore all the powers of the soul must be engaged for him, and carried out toward him. To love our neighbour as ourselves, is the second great commandment. There is a self-love which is corrupt, and the root of the greatest sins, and it must be put off and mortified; but there is a self-love which is the rule of the greatest duty: we must have a due concern for the welfare of our own souls and bodies. And we must love our neighbour as truly and sincerely as we love ourselves; in many cases we must deny ourselves for the good of others. By these two commandments let our hearts be formed as by a mould.
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary
37. you shall love: Jesus cites Deut 6:5. The “love” is not primarily a feeling but covenant fidelity, a matter of willing and doing. With all your heart . . . soul . . . mind: The rabbis stressed this part of the commandment: heart meant will, soul meant life, and strength meant wealth. Here Matthew has not translated “strength” but given another translation of “heart” as mind; cf. on 4:1-11. 38. Jesus sees the law as a unified whole. From the love of God all the other laws can be derived and supported. 39. Love your neighbor as yourself: Jesus now cites Lev 19:18, a less central text in Jewish liturgy, but one that becomes important in the NT (Matt 5:43; 19:19; Rom 13: 8-10; Gal 5: 14; Jas 2:8). The commandment includes a right form of self-love. The combination of these two commands is not clearly attested before Jesus and marks an important moral advance; cf. 1 John 3:17. 40. on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets: The rabbis said that the world hangs on Torah, Temple service, and deeds of loving-kindness – or, on truth, judgment, and peace (m. ’Abot 1:3, 18). Matthew makes the law itself depend upon deeds of love (p 666).
‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
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‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.’
As with Micah 6:1-8, in this passage from Matthew, the requirement set for pleasing God is not right belief or profession of faith, but hinges on action. Jesus says, “I was hungry and you gave me food.” 100 million people could be forced into poverty as a result of the worsening food crisis. “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.” More than one billion people are likely to face inadequate water supplies by 2050. “I was sick and you took care of me.” Diarrhea, malaria, and protein-energy malnutrition caused more than 3 million deaths worldwide in 2002. A rise of 1 degree Celsius in global temperatures will result in a spike of typhoid, malaria, and water borne illnesses. “Just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” What is our responsibility to those vulnerable to and already suffering from the effects of climate change?
Calvin’s Commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke
Christ does not here specify every thing that belongs to a pious and holy life, but only, by way of example, refers to some of the duties of charity, by which we give evidence that we fear God. For though the worship of God is more important than charity towards men, and though, in like manner, faith and supplication are more valuable than alms, yet Christ had good reasons for bringing forward those evidences of true righteousness which are more obvious. Accordingly, Christ does not make the chief part of righteousness to consist in alms, but, by means of what may be called more evident signs, shows what it is to live a holy and righteous life; as unquestionably believers not only profess with the mouth, but prove by actual performances, that they serve God. For to comfort mourners, to relieve those who are unjustly oppressed, to aid simple-minded men by advice, to deliver wretched persons from the jaws of wolves, are deeds of mercy not less worthy of commendation than to clothe the naked or to feed the hungry.
But while Christ, in recommending to us the exercise of charity, does not exclude those duties which belong to the worship of God, he reminds his disciples that it will be an authentic evidence of a holy life, if they practice charity, agreeably to those words of the prophet. Christ is telling us that our senses do not yet comprehend how highly he values deeds of charity, so now he openly declares, that he will reckon as done to himself whatever we have bestowed on his people.
New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary
Like the NT in general, Matthew has been very restrained, despite his apocalyptic orientation, in picturing what actually transpires when the Son of Man comes. This is the only scene with any details picturing the last judgment in the NT. To the reader’s surprise (ancient and modern), the criterion of judgment is not confession of faith in Christ. Nothing is said of grace, justification, or the forgiveness of sins. What counts is whether one has acted with loving care for the needy people. Such deeds are not a matter of “extra credit,” but constituted the decisive criterion of judgment presupposed in all of vv. 23-25, the “weightier maters of the Law” of 23:23.
Jesus has taught that self-giving care for others is the heart of the revealed will of God in the Torah and its hermeneutical key (5:17-48; 7:12, 22:34-40). The messianic king has lived out his teaching that his kingdom consists of service to others (20:28). The same word translated “minister” (Greek diakoneo) recurs here as the final summary of the deeds performed by the righteous and neglected by the condemned (25:44).
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary
This much-loved text presents a practical religion of deeds of loving-kindness, love of neighbor. It has been overinterpreted to say that neither faith in Christ nor membership in the church is necessary for salvation; but, in fact, it is addressed to Christian disciples, and discipleship is understood in a very bold way as identical with care of the needy. This is not a denial of faith; it is of the essence of faith . . . 40. As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me: This great answer identifies service to the needy with love of Christ. There is currently much debate over whether the “brethren” refers only to Christians or to any people in need. Note that in v 45 the world “brethren” is dropped. A glance at Matthew’s usage of the term in nonsibling contexts shows two senses: in on series (12:48-50; 18: 15, 21, 35; 23:8; 28:10) adelphos refers to a member of the Christian community; in other (5:22, 23, 24, 47; 7:3, 4, 5) it refers to any human being as the object of ethical duty. Verse 40 should be taken in this broader ethical sense. 41-43. This binary thinking may offend some. It stems from the deuteronomistic theology of a covenant conditioned by human obligation (as opposed to the covenant of unconditional divine commitment, represented in the NT by Paul’s theology). It presupposes human moral responsibility and conscience and God taking human actions seriously (p 669).
Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Luke 4 is Jesus’ mission statement; as he prepares to begin his ministry on this earth, these are the words he chooses to define his work. What does it mean to preach good news to the poor? Consider the relationship between climate change and poverty: The poor are triply burdened by climate change in that they have contributed to it the least, they are the most impacted by its effects, and they are the least able to protect themselves. The poor are 20 times more likely to be impacted by natural disasters (which have quadrupled in the last 20 years due to climate change), than populations above the poverty line. When natural disasters do strike, second and third world countries lack the infrastructure necessary to respond and rebuild. Poorer populations are also the most dependent on subsistence farming and local water supplies that are especially vulnerable to being disrupted by the effects of climate change. Jesus’ ministry was to proclaim the kingdom of God. It was not an ethereal, distant kingdom that he proclaimed, however, but one that was at hand, breaking in to our historical context and confronting the injustices in our society.
Pay attention to the final phrase of Jesus’ mission statement, “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” That is a reference to the year of Jubilee (see Leviticus 25: 8-24). Jubilee was a time of rest, regeneration, and renewal. Injustices are bred and become systemic when there are no checks on human nature. Jubilee served as such a check. Every 50 years, property was to be returned to those who had been forced to sell it in times of hardship. Indentured servants, who had been forced to sell themselves to pay off debts, were to be released. The land, that had been sold and resold, used and reused, was to be given “redemption.” Note that while Israel follows these commands, God promised to provide for the people. “The land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live on it securely. Should you ask, “What shall we eat in the seventh year, if we may not sow or gather in our crop” (vv. 19-20)? Our job is to strive for justice in our world, for the people and for the land, and to trust that God will provide for us as we do so.
New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary
Significantly, Jesus’ work will be good news to the poor. The Magnificat praises the Lord for lifting up the lowly and sending the rich away empty (1:52-53). Later, Jesus announces God’s blessing on the poor (6:20) and then refers to the fulfillment of the charge to bring good news to the poor in his response to John (7:22). The poor also figure more prominently in Jesus’ teachings in Luke than in any other Gospel (14:13, 21; 16:20, 22; 18:22, 21:3).
The term used here for “captives” (Greek aichmalotoi) does not appear elsewhere in the Nt, and elsewhere Luke uses the term “release” (Greek aphesis) only for forgiveness of sins, but various events later in Jesus’ ministry can be understood as illustrating the fulfillment of this aspect of his commission. The word for “release” recurs in the line from Isa 58:6, inserted here by Luke: release for the oppressed. Jesus released persons from various forms of bondage and oppression: economic (the poor), physical (the lame, the crippled), political (the condemned), and demonic. Forgiveness of sin, therefore, can also be seen as a form of relase from bondage to iniquity (Acts 8:22-23).
. . .
The proclamation of the “year of the Lord’s favor” in Isaiah 61 is connected with the Jubilee year legislation in Leviticus 25. Following a series of seven sevens, the fiftieth year was to be a time when “you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants” (Lev 25:10). It has occasionally been suggested that Jesus was actually proclaiming the observance of the Jubilee year through his reading of Isaiah 61, but this is far from certain. More likely is the interpretation that Jesus related the figure of “the year of the Lord’s favor” to the kingdom of God (cf. Luke 4:43). Jesus’ ministry singled that the time for the liberation of the impoverished and oppressed had come, and in that respect at least his work would fulfill the ideal and the social concern of the Jubilee year.
The importance of the reading of Isaiah in this scene can scarcely be exaggerated. For Luke it proclaimed the fulfillment of Scripture and the hopes of Israel through Jesus’ ministry as the Son of God. It stated the social concern that guided Jesus’ work and allowed the reader to understand all that Jesus did as the fulfillment of his anointing by the Spirit (Vol. 8, pg 105-106).
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary
This text consists of Isa 61:1a,b,d; 58:6d; 61:2a. In quoting from Isa 61, which was also used by Qumranites about themselves in 11QMelch, Luke omits those elements which would spiritualize the text or narrow its focus on “true” Israel. Thus, he omits Isa 61:1c: “to heal the broken-hearted” and Isa 61: 2b-3a: “(to announce) a day of vindication, to console those who mourn, to give those of Zion who mourn glory instead of ashes.” He adds Isa 58:6, which occurs in a passage describing the true fast Yahweh desires and which refers to releasing those who are burdened by indebtedness. See R. Albertz, ZNW 74 (1983) 182-206. Spirit of the Lord: From 1:35 and 3:22 the reader knows that Jesus has the Spirit. Now the goal of that gift of the Spirit is underlined: it is for the benefit of those who are economically, physically, and socially unfortunate. Good news to the poor: By his modifications of Isaiah 61, esp. through the introduction of Isa 58:6, Luke shows that “the poor” is not to be interpreted metaphorically as “Israel in need,” the object of God’s favor as the “new restoration” occurs. Luke will reinforce this message of universalism in vv 25-27. As analyses of 6:20-26; 7:22; and 14:13, 21 will make manifest, “the poor” is to be interpreted by context. Release to those in prison: At times this aspect of Jesus’ ministry is seen fulfilled in 13:10-17 and 23: 39-43, but it may be better to see this as a reference to those who may be imprisoned because of debts. Jesus will address words to those who may be responsible for such imprisonment in 6:35, 37. The image of the biblical jubilee also rises to the surface in this phrase. The jubilee year was held every 50 years. During it fields lay fallow, persons returned to their homes, debts were canceled, and slaves were set free. The image derived from it underscored restoration, beginning, faith in the sovereignty of God, and conviction that the structures of social and economic life must reflect God’s reign. See S. H. Ringe, Jesus, Liberation, and the Biblical Jubilee (OBT; Phl, 1985); R. B. Sloan, The Favorable Year of the Lord (Austin, 1977). The [Greek] word for “release” is aphesis. The LXX of Lev 25:10 uses aphesis to translate the Hebrew for jubilee; in Deut 15:1-11 the Sabbath year is described by aphesis in the LXX (see also Exod 23:10-11). That such jubilee reflections were contemporary to Luke is evident at Qumran. In their reflections upon the end-time, the Qumranites associated Isa 61:1 with Lev 25:10-13 and Deut 15:2 (see 11QMelch) and identified the “release” as that of debtors during jubilee year. Although this socioeconomic background of jubilee is very much present in this passage, one should also recall that aphesis is the word used by Luke for “forgiveness” (of sins), e.g., 24:47. Release for those downtrodden: This phrase from Isa 58:6 also contains the word aphesis. The [Greek] thrauo, behind “downtrodden,” literally means “to break in pieces” (as a rock). In a figurative sense it means “to break,” “oppress in spirit.” See BAGD 363. It is plausible from Neh 5:1-10 that the “downtrodden,” are those oppressed by debts and imprisonment. to proclaim the Lord’s acceptable year: Luke has changed the LXX’s [verb] in Isa 61:2a from kalesai, “call,” to keryxai, “proclaim.” For Luke the proclamation is that, in Jesus, God has fulfilled ancient promises. Again jubilee imagery seems present. The [Greed] word for “acceptable” is dektos, and it will recur in v 24, concerning the “acceptable” prophet. Jesus’ ministry is only acceptable to God provided he does not limit his words and deeds to his own people, who because of his limitless mission will not find him or his words acceptable (p 689-690).
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
In the Great Commandment, Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (see Take-Aways for Matt. 22:37-40). Here Jesus demands even more. We are to love others as Jesus loves us. Jesus’ love was shown through giving completely of himself. In Philippians, the Apostle Paul writes, “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:4-7). How do we show this form of love to the victims of climate change? The millions of people forced from their homes by natural disasters? The victims of genocides that have erupted when natural resources have become scarce, such as with the drying of Lake Chad in Darfur? For children dying from illnesses such as malaria, typhoid, and yellow fever? Do we have a responsibility to respond to climate change?
Calvin’s Commentary on John
Love one another. In short, we see that it was the design of Christ, in this passage, to exhort his disciples to brotherly love, that they might never permit themselves to be withdrawn from the pursuit of it, or the doctrine of it to slip out of their minds. And how necessary this admonition was, we learn by daily experience; for, since it is difficult to maintain brotherly love, men lay it aside, and contrive, for themselves, new methods of worshipping God, and Satan suggests many things for the purpose of occupying their attention. Thus, by idle employments, they in vain attempt to mock God, but they deceive themselves.
That you love one another. Brotherly love is, indeed, extended to strangers, for we are all of the same flesh, and are all created after the image of God; but because the image of God shines more brightly in those who have been regenerated, it is proper that the bond of love, among the disciples of Christ, should be far more close. In God brotherly love seeks its cause, from him it has its root, and to him it is directed. Thus, in proportion as it perceives any man to be a child of God, it embraces him with the greater warmth and affection. Besides, the mutual exercise of love cannot exist but in those who are guided by the same Spirit. It is the highest degree of brotherly love, therefore, that is here described by Christ; but we ought to believe, on the other hand, that, as the goodness of God extends to the whole world, so we ought to love all, even those who hate us.
Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible
Jesus leaves a legacy with the disciples – a “new” commandment (13:34). It is not entirely “new,” the substance already being firmly present in Lev. 19:18! It is, however, framed very much in Johannine language, where, above all, such “love” (agape) is demonstrated by Jesus (11:3, 5, 36). The prior footwashing also points to the interpretation of “love” as an active engagement rather than a mere emotional response.
Although the [Fourth Gospel] is addressed primarily to encourage continuing belief in the disciples, they are reminded that their mutual love will also function as an important witness (13:35) to the world around. The disciples are the continuing presence of Jesus in the world (20:22), and as such they must fully reflect his way of being (p 1196).
New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary
The commandment of v. 34 builds on Jesus’ words to his disciples after the foot washing (13:15); his love for them has provided them with the model of how they are to relate to one another. In order to understand why this is a new commandment, it is important to look at how “commandment” (Green entole) is used elsewhere in the Gospel. At 10:18, Jesus’ decision to lay down his life is described as his enactment of God’s commandment; at 14:31 and 15:12, Jesus’ obedience to God’s commandment is the mark of Jesus’ love for God. For Jesus to keep God’s commandment is for Jesus to enact his love of God in words and works (cf. 12:49-50).
What is new, therefore, is not the commandment to love, because that commandment lies at the heart of the Torah (Lev 19:18, Deut 6:4; cf. Mark 12:28 and par.). Rather, what is new is that the commandment to love derives from the incarnation (see 3:16). The “new” turn in the commandment of 13:34 is that Jesus’ “own” are asked to enter into the love that marks the relationship of God and Jesus. Their participation in this relationship will be evidenced the same way that Jesus’ is: by acts of love that join the believer to God (cf. 14:15, 21, 23; 15:12). Keeping this commandment is the identifying mark of discipleship (v. 35), because it is the tangible sign of the disciples’ abiding in Jesus (15:10) (Vol. 9, pg 732-733).
Psalm 72:1, 12-14, Proverbs 14:31, Proverbs 31:8-9, Luke 6:31, 2 Corinthians 5:14-21, Philippians 2:4-8, Colossians 1:20, I John 4:7-8