Jesus’ words and actions with Judas seen in yesterday's reading occurred in a larger context—the context of serving love. Jesus made it clear that he was giving his disciples an example that they were supposed to follow. Simply put, he said, “Love one another.”
Jesus called it a new commandment. But on the surface, that was not true. Loving others was at the heart of the first covenant (see Leviticus 19:18), and Jesus had previously identified loving one another as the second great commandment (see Matthew 22:39). He went on to teach the radical nature of this love in the parable of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:30-37).
So, what made his commandment new? We see it in the words, “as I have loved you.” In the context of the Gospel of John as a whole, here is the pinnacle of the principle, “the Word became flesh" (John 1:14). Love acts. In today's reading, John connected the cosmic and the concrete, making clear that faith is always behavioral. Jesus expected his disciples to wash the feet of others and to offer grace even to those who turn on us (see John 13:18-30).
Walking in Jerusalem with John includes embracing a fact that James later emphasized: Faith is realized in works, and, without action, faith is dead (see James 2:14-26). This truth is also emphasized in 1 John 3:17-18. The world says, “You are what you do,” and there is truth in that. But the deeper truth is this, “You do what you are.” Or, to say it simply: If we say we have faith, we must show it.
In today's reading this is the new commandment, shown to us in the example of Jesus: A profession of faith must result in an expression of faith.
Dear God, work in me so that my faith is enacted, not just affirmed. Amen.
The readings for Holy Week focus our attention on the sacrifice made by the Messiah. The prophecies in Isaiah speak of it. Psalm 22 tells of confidence in God even in the midst of betrayal and suffering like that experienced by Jesus. In First Corinthians Paul describes crucifixion as the center of our teaching as Christians. We follow these events through the eyes of the Gospel writer John. Jesus foreshadows his death in multiple ways, but even his closest followers struggle to understand and accept its meaning. Why would the Son of God experience such alienation and suffering? It is all for us, the ultimate work of love. But then he conquers the grave! Praise be to God!
Read John 13:21-32. When have you noticed darkness planting seeds of betrayal in your heart? How did you follow Jesus’ light?
Read John 13:1-17, 31b-35. What status symbols do you hold on to that keep you from following Jesus’ example of humble service?
Read Isaiah 52:13–53:12. On Good Friday, God enters into human suffering. When have you felt God’s presence in your suffering?
Read John 20:1-18. How has Christ found you?
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