“. . .If you have love for one another.”
John 13:31-35 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, 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.”
This Sunday’s gospel reading is commonly known as the “love commandment.” Interestingly, Jesus declares that he has a “new” commandment for the disciples. However, the commandment “love one another” is not new. It is a solid Old Testament theme that has been a foundation of the faith for many generations. Leviticus 19:18 states, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Also, Leviticus 19:34 “The foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the foreigner as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God”
So, in what sense is this new commandment to love one another new? Identifying the context of John 13 is helpful. John 13:1-21 is the depiction of Jesus portraying servant leadership by washing the feet of the disciples. Jesus is modeling love by humbling himself and serving rather than being served. Therefore, serving others is what love is. Then in John 13: 21-31, Jesus foretells his betrayal by Judas. This betrayal sets in motion the arrest, sentence, humiliation, crucifixion, and ultimately the death of Jesus. Wow. Judas has done immense evil and caused terrible pain. Jesus knew all along what Judas would do, but he still included him in the foot washing. So, Jesus models the act of love to include forgiveness and mercy. As if that is not enough John 13:36-38 is Jesus’ prediction that Peter will deny Jesus three times. So, Jesus’ love is even abundantly given to those who cowardly deny knowing him.
Loving others who are kind, gentle and loyal is easy. Jesus commands his followers to move above and beyond the easy and convenient life. Loving others who have betrayed us, caused pain, abandoned us, and live a life of greed and self-service what we are called to do. No, simple task, and we can’t do it alone. In order to lead a loving life we need to support of each other. We need to worship and be part of a community. We need to hear over and over again that we are loved, blessed and forgiven by God. We need to know that every day, through the gift of baptism, we are born-again and can start fresh.
God’s Love~ Pastor Erik