It is quite difficult to find an occasion in the Gospels that Jesus used the word “command” to his disciples.
Command and Love
But he used the Greek noun entoly (order, command) six times in his last discourse (13:34, 14:15, 21, 31, 15:10, 12). And each time they are in the context of loving him, his Father and one another: “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him,” (John 14:21).
At the end of Jesus’ life, he defined all the words of his words as commands. And it is clear that all Jesus’ words belong to the center of the Christian faith and cannot be missed in any way. In his last discourse before he died, Jesus referred to these words as his command for the future.
Mizwoth of Jesus
In the Jewish context in which Jesus lived the commandments cannot be seen apart from the Law of Moses, with all the (written) mizwoth for Israel. Also Jesus’ commandments were written during his ministry. Jesus said that “no iota, not one dot, will pass from the law,” (Matthew 5:18). And about his words he said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
It seems difficult to deny this; and yet, I believe that many Christians deny it in several ways, (1) with the naïve statement: “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life,” (2 Corinthians 3:6). And (2) the scholarly denial: the Gospels are results of the preaching of the apostles, the oral tradition, and not results of the preaching of Jesus. And self-satisfied one turns to the order of the daily Christian program, or the Christian meeting culture.
What Did the Apostle Peter Say?
“This is now the second letter that I have written to you, beloved, and in both of them I have aroused your sincere mind by way of reminder; 2 that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles.”
2 Peter 3:1–2
He says: remember the written words of the prophets! How? By listening to the books of the prophets! And how would that be with the commandment of the Lord? Commandments of the Lord were to be read (Gospels), just as the books of the prophets.
What Did the Apostle John Say?
“3 And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments.”
1 John 2:3
In Chapter 14 of John’s Gospel there is much more about this to be learned. John was certainly one of Jesus’s stenographers.
Closer to Jesus
Closer to his commandments is closer to his words, is closer to him, is closer to his grace, is closer to yourself, is closer to one another, and is closer to the world.
Where churches have put a “Christian program” in the place of Jesus’s commandments, we will see churches in distress, with tired officials who have entirely forgotten where to begin (and it must be said, in accord with the eroding theology of oral tradition).