Sunday

10 May 2015

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (vv. 12-13)

Psalm: Psalm 98


Background

Chapters 13-17 of John's Gospel take place on the evening of the Last Supper, and contain long speeches from Jesus which are rather grandly known as the Farewell Discourses. These speeches are unique to the Gospel of John's account of the life of Jesus.

In today's passage Jesus gives a strong focus to love. Love is of crucial importance in these verses as Jesus shares the uncertainty which faces his followers, though there is no uncertainty on his part. He offers the certainty that comes through love, of continuation at a time of distress and loss. With the experience of love comes joy.

John's Gospel really ought to be called the Gospel of Love, the word 'love' appears 39 times in the Gospel, surprisingly more than all the other Gospels put together. The space that is given over to exploring the source and implications of love allows the logic of love to be developed - "as the Father has loved me, so I have loved you" (v. 9). Jesus tells his followers to abide - or hang on to - his love as something which is transformative, as gospel (ie good news). He then leads into today's focus verse which contains his (new) commandment. This repeats the original mention in John 13:34.

Repetition is one of the features of the Bible which, perhaps, we notice more in the telling of stories where one character repeats another's words. Jesus' repetition of his (slightly different) commandment in this passage mirrors that of Matthew's Gospel, where there are three mentions of loving one's neighbour (Matthew 5:43-46; 19:19; 22:39). The uniqueness of John's Gospel is to link the idea of loving one another with Jesus' own expression of love through his ultimate act of self-giving, though Jesus does not directly speak of himself. However, it also reminds us that at the time when the Gospels were written the early Christians were reflecting on what it meant to follow Jesus to a martyr's death.


To Ponder

  • What does it mean to really love each other and what challenges do you face in your interactions with friends and family?
  • What carries you through life's uncertainties?
  • What are the words that you repeat in describing your own walk of faith?


Bible notes author: Julian Bond

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