Gospel: John 13:31-35
31When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little 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.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
It's an interesting choice of words Jesus leaves with his disciples on the night he is to be betrayed. 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 at the core of who God is, why Jesus came to the earth, and why we exist as a church.
But wait. Another commandment? Don't we already have enough commandments to deal with as it is, why do we need another one? The laws were hard enough to follow, why do we need another one.
In Jesus' day, the Pharisees were very adamant that the law was the most important aspect of our relationship with God. There were some 613 laws to be followed by the children of God. These came down from written and oral traditions over the centuries, and were well documented.
The problem that had arisen over the generations was that the people lost sight of the PURPOSE of the LAW, and focused primarily on the LETTER of the law. The people were so wrapped up in keeping the commandments and the other laws, that they lost sight of God and of one another.
Jesus asked what the greatest commandment is – He gives two - Love God, love neighbor – on these two hang all the law and all the prophets. What Jesus is saying in this commandment is the basis for all other commandments. Loving one another takes relationships. And the basis for all the law is relationships - how we get along with God and with one another.
Look at the ten commandments. The first three, You shall have no other gods, do not take the name of the Lord in vain, and keeping the Sabbath holy, all have to do with our relationship with God. All the rest have to do with our relationships with one another. What Jesus is saying is that the foundation of the law is LOVE!
One might ask, "How can Jesus COMMAND us to love someone else? Isn't it impossible to command an emotion?" The love that Jesus commands in the Greek is Agape. Agape love is different from sexual or emotional or even brotherly love. Agape love is not of the emotions, but of the will.
It is unselfish, sacrificial, unconditional. It is the love Jesus shows in healing the sick, in eating with outcasts and sinners, in washing the feet of his disciples. It is the love Jesus shows on the cross as he suffers, and at the same time asks for the forgiveness of others. It is the love that Jesus shares as he is glorified, in the center of suffering and death.
Jesus gives a new commandment - love one another.
Dear God, you love us. We love, because you first loved us. May our love reflect your love. We pray this in the name of Jesus, our Savior. Amen