When he 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.’
John’s Gospel delights in drawing contrasts. Judas has left to betray Jesus just before today’s text. He goes out into the darkness of night; departing the room with its lamps lit and the warmth of friendship and trust. We are, seemingly, watching the beginning of the tragedy of Jesus of Nazareth.
And yet we are not watching a tragedy unfold. Quite the opposite. We are watching a beginning rather than an end; a possibility being born rather than a dream dying. The events of Holy Week that culminate in the Cross are an enthronement, an inauguration. This is what it is for Christ to be glorified. What has been hidden is becoming plain. Upon the Cross and from the empty tomb all that Jesus has claimed will be vindicated. Incredibly, this is how God is most fully revealed to us, in the utter desolation and the letting go of power that Christ reveals. This is how much we mean to God, how deep the Father’s love for us, how wondrous the Cross that we survey.
But none of this stops with Jesus. It becomes contagious, this inexhaustible love of God. We know plenty about the world cowed by contagion these past years. Jesus, here, highlights something altogether more glorious and wonderful: love. It is his love for all creation that now turns him towards the Cross. His time with his friends in the way they have known it draws to an end. But something is passing on. This is the power of the love of God known and shared. It changes the world around us as it changes us from the inside.
Judas goes out into the night and shuts the door behind himself. But Jesus sees it differently. He sees an end, and knows what it will begin. We become the continuation of the revelation of the love of God in Jesus Christ through the quality of our love for God and for the world. That can be our today.
Your commandment is no small demand, Lord. You invite us to love; love met in you being shared freely. Is it not too much to ask of us? Are we not too few, too frail, too fickle to be entrusted with this? Don’t you know us? You do know us! That’s why you speak these words, invite us in, call us onwards. You believe in us even more than we believe in you. Amen.
The Rev’d Neil Thorogood, Minister, Thornbury URC and Trinity-Henleaze URC (Bristol)