Reflection on the Gospel of John 13: 31-35: Fifth Sunday of Easter May 15, 2022

The Gospel of John 13:31-35

At the last supper, when Judas had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 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.’ 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.”

Let Us Pray:  Let us grow so strong in our love for you and one another that your Name will be glorified in all the world.  Break down the barriers of discrimination and bigotry among us.  Through your Spirit, unite us to be one in Christ.  May the love among your children increase so much that it cannot but spill over into the ministry to those who dwell in darkness and despair.  This we pray in your name, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

In the lectionary we have traveled through Easter Sunday and now back to the final night of Jesus with His disciples. So why the flashback? By going back over events that led up to the crucifixion it provides us the opportunity to rethink the resurrection. The disciples surely did the same thing by rethinking and reliving the events by remembering the stories, what Jesus said, how the events played out just as he had predicted. It was  hard for the disciples to say goodbye because of all they had shared. They had difficulty in acknowledging the end of their relationship, especially when deep connections and meaningful relationships have been formed. It’s not easy to imagine the newness that can come from ending a relationship. We as they did focus on the void we anticipate will enter our lives. We realize that the faces we’ve grown accustomed to seeing and the voices we recognize in only a few syllables or phrases will no longer be a regular part of our days. Through all the turmoil of remembering they were strengthening in their memory the gospel that would be read and discussed throughout the world and read and discussed to this day.

Jesus, message to His disciples that final night in that upper room was that love for one another was the truest mark of being one of His disciples. Did the disciples understand those words on that particular Passover night?  But now they and we know and have been to the cross. Now when we hear Jesus tell us to love one another as he has loved us, they are very important words. Those words need to echo in our minds when we hear them echoing from the cross. And in this moment, Jesus wants to prepare his disciples for that reality and to command them to love one another. When we love one another, no matter who they are, justice and peace become part of our reality. In this farewell address by Jesus, He instructs us to love one another. We are asked to transmit this love to others, because we have been gifted with a relationship with him. By showing love we are revealing God to the world.

We see that life with love is the center of the Christian narrative. In his words of farewell, Jesus does not focus on death, his or anyone else’s. Rather, he paints a picture of life in the kingdom, participation in the realm of God, and restoration of holy creation. Jesus’ promise of abundant life is rooted in this vision, saturated with love, and vested with eternity. That is how the Holy One is glorified through lives lived in the kingdom, facilitated by the cross, but not defined and limited by it. The glory of the cross comes not from a gruesome and horrific death, but the lessening of its power and the transformation of its reality. Jesus claims victory in the face of obvious defeat. Overcoming the grave and the bounds of death to claim new life, Jesus forges a new path to be followed. So, is it odd to return to the upper room a month after Easter?  No.  If anything, it may actually turn out to be oddly appropriate! It allows us to rethink God’s gift to us, His promise if we believe. And Jesus’ words should continue to echo: “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.”

Let us Pray: Put love above all else; let Christ’s peace rule your hearts. Always be forgiving, as Christ has forgiven you. In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit Amen.

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