Jesus uses the word glorified (or some form) five times and the word love four times in these five short verses. Jesus also says farewell, explains who he is in terms of his relationship to God, and presents an ethical demand to his disciples: “Love one another.” Judas’s imminent betrayal and Peter’s upcoming denial of Jesus bracket these dual themes of glorification and love, creating a perplexing situation. How can Jesus proclaim his death and then calmly ask the disciples to love one another in such a setting?
Glorification, understood as Jesus’ death on the cross and subsequent resurrection, is closely tied to his relationship with God. Jesus the human being is at the same time God’s son and will share in that glory. God’s glory is also understood in texts such as Exodus 16 where God’s actual presence resides in the midst of God’s people. Thus we can see that Jesus’ physical presence on earth and his future presence with God make him a constant presence and a reference point to God.
Even though Jesus will soon physically depart from the disciples, he calls upon them to act as he has with them: “Love one another. . . . as I have loved you.” This will not be easy in his absence as they may also face betrayal and death, but he enjoins them to practice unconditional love. This love will sustain them in the challenging days ahead, while exhorting them to be an example to others. And this love of one another will be the distinctive way the church will be recognized in the world.
God, may your love dwell in us, so that we demonstrate your love to the world. Amen.