Holy God, We are caught in the tension of light and shadow, death and resurrection.You spoke the world into being, you illuminated the universe by your very speech, then filled the void with life. Indeed, you have filled the void of darkness and death, the empty promises of the abyss, with new life and new creation.We look to you in the space between the world and the Kingdom, longing for the fulfillment of your word in the work of the Holy Spirit and the reign of Christ, our Creator and King. Amen
31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him,[a] God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The moving words that summarize the whole: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” As this particular passage commences, Jesus has already washed the feet of his disciples, Judas has just departed to betray him, and the rest of the disciples are in a state of confusion. At just this moment of drama and tension, Jesus’ offers these words, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Which tells us, I think, a great deal about the kind of love Jesus is talking about. This surely isn’t romantic love, nor is it simply being nice, nor is it only loving those who love you back. Think about it: when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, Judas was there. Further, he will now demonstrate just how much God loves the world by dying for those who manifestly do not love him. Love is hard because it is self-sacrificing. It means putting the good of the other first, even when it hurts.
David Lose reflects about these pivotal verses: “I find it striking that these are the words Jesus’ leaves with his disciples. I mean, he could have said, “Go out and die with me.” Or, “keep the faith.” Or, “when I am gone go out and teach and preach to all the world.” Or, well, any number of things. But instead he offered this simple and challenging word, “love another.””
Why? Because this kind of love is the hallmark not just of God and Jesus but also of the Christian church. As in the old camp song, Jesus agrees that the whole world will know we are Christians not by our sermons or our sacraments or our festivals or our buildings or our crucifixes or our family values … but by our love. It’s just that important.
Closing Prayer: The Pivot of Hope by Walter Brueggemann
This day of dread and betrayal and denial causes a pause in our busyness. Who would have thought that you would take this eighth son of Jesse to become the pivot of hope in our ancient memory? Who would have thought that you would take this uncredentialled Galilean rabbi to become the pivot of newness in the world? Who would have thought that you – God of gods and Lord of lords – would fasten on such small, innocuous agents whom the world scorns to turn creation toward your newness? As we are dazzled, give us the freedom to resituate our lives in modest, uncredentialled, vulnerable places. We ask for freedom and courage to move out from our nicely arranged patterns of security into dangerous places of newness where we fear to go. Cross us by the cross, that we may be Easter marked. Amen.