John 13 : 31 - 35 ( NRSV )

When Judas had gone, Jesus said, "Now has the Promised One been glorified, and in this One, God has been glorified.(31) If God has been glorified in this Promised One, God will in turn glorify Him in God's own glory and will do so very soon. My friends, I shall not be with you much longer. You will look for me, and, as I told the Jews, 'Where I am going, you cannot come.'(33) I give you a new commandment:1 love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another.(34) By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples."(35)

COMMENT

     The reading from John's gospel begins the so-called "Book of Glory." The Book of Glory includes: an introduction; Jesus' supper talk; and the passion/glorification story. The reading is the second of two insertions in the introduction. The first follows the washing of the disciples' feet and announces Jesus' passion. This second insertion follows the account of Judas' betrayal and reinforces the message to imitate Jesus' practice of loving.
     The context of Jesus' farewell talk is the last meal He had with His disciples before His passion. The narrative offers Jesus an opportunity to address future generations of disciples about life in His Spirit after His passion/glorification. Jesus announces that His glory begins to be revealed (v.31). The glory will be His death! Jesus has also said earlier that He had come to free people from death. That is why John speaks of the revelation of the glory of God in Jesus death; when He spoke of His death. In the Hebrew scriptures the "glory of God" is the same as the "liberating victory of God." When Jesus speaks about His 'death' He is talking about a "liberation of God."
     Then Jesus gives a new commandment (v.34). His disciples are to model their practice on His practice. Their practice of loving becomes a sign they are living His Spirit. In saying farewell to His disciples, Jesus is telling them that we must look for Him not where He is going but in communal love. "Look for Me where you are going to find me; love one another." Jesus' commandment is in direct continuity with Hebrew commandments like: "love your neighbour as you love yourself." That commandment summed up the covenant responsibilities expressed in the Torah of Moses and the message of the Prophets. With this commandment society hadn't been transformed, slavery hadn't been abolished, injustices and cruelties had continued. Jesus' commandment is different. It is not just a religious precept as the Hebrews saw the commandments. Jesus' commandment is a new social reality! On calling this a 'new' commandment Jesus is saying that His commandment is a new command to love. Love is as old as the creation of the world. The evangelist John says the same thing in his first letter (cf 1 Jn.2:8)
     The commandment of Jesus inspires a new understanding that binds Christian disciples to a new second phase of covenant responsibility. People have always destroyed the community of humanity through greed for money, power, and access to money and power. Jesus is saying that He came to die for the sake of that communal love, and He gives a new commandment for people to really bring about that loving. Jesus (the Word of God) is saying that Good's word is - that God loves us and we must have mutual love of one another! God's love of us is the love that is to exist among disciples! Jesus comes to communicate this mutual love. He incarnates the commandment. The mutual love of one another means putting His word (new commandment) into practise - the very meaning of being Jesus' disciple.
 
footnote:
John 13:1-19 - 19:42 The Book of Glory. There is a major break here; the word 'sign' is used again only in Jn.20:30. In this phase of Jesus' return to the Father, the discourses (Jn.13-17) precede the traditional narrative of the passion (Jn.18-20) to interpret them for the Christian reader. This is the only extended example of esoteric teaching of disciples in John.
1. [ v.34 ] I give you a new commandment: This puts Jesus on a par with YHWH. The commandment itself is not new; cf Lv.19:18.
 

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