In our gospel passage (John 13:31-35) this past Sunday was from John’s depiction of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples. It is a passage about the importance of love and how Jesus intended love to be a defining quality of his followers.
A highlight of this chapter in John is when Jesus washed their feet as an example of humility and service. But our beautiful little passage about love is a rose between two thorns. Judas has just departed to betray Jesus into the hands of the authorities. That is why our passage started with the phrase, “When he had gone out” referring to Judas’ departure. And on its other side, the second thorn, is Jesus telling Peter that he too will deny Christ before the end. So in our passage, when Jesus calls for them to be defined by the love they show each other, the teaching is surrounded by Jesus’ knowledge of their acts of betrayal and denial.
In our passage, it is hard to imagine a more difficult place to assert that love should win out over all things. Jesus acts fully out of love and compassion, his whole ministry has been a demonstration of it. And here surrounded by betrayal and denial by his closest loved ones, he still speaks about love being a Christian’s defining trait.
Jesus in our passage is in essence saying, “You are all going to do things you will regret. You will be silent when you might have spoken up, you might outward deny me, you each might give up all hope and abandon each other. But always turn back to love.”
All on its’ own this passage makes it clear that love is to be the quality that should define who we are in relationship with each other as Christians.
And what gives this passage even more emphasis is that Jesus gives this teaching in the midst of betrayal and denial by his closest friends.
I give thanks for the ways in which God also reminds us, in the midsts of the brokenness of our world, that love is to be our defining trait as Christians.
I am grateful for our gospel reading this past week, for reminding us of the priority of love over all things. Even in the face of death and loss. It is like a baby fussing at a funeral service, or a grand child getting up to speak there, love looks forward and makes new life possible. Or against the grain of a world that says hang on tight to all your money, God holds up for us examples of others who give love even when so much has been taken from them. And their examples inspire us out of love to give our money to give them and others like them hope. Or God can even hold up images that show us the impact of our lack of love, to remind us all of us that our actions matter and that it takes courage to change our ways and act differently.
Through grace, God reminds us whose we are, and what we are about. Through grace, God reminds us to act with love.