Week 10, Day 2

“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 13:34, 35

Over these final four weeks of the Lenten season we will be re-living scenes from John’s gospel of the closing days of Jesus’ life. We will see how deep the darkness is in which we humans sometimes move. Here’s your warning: read closely and honestly, and you will be made uncomfortable. We will find here more to identify with than we like. Be prepared.

However, as you consider these accounts keep this in mind as well: the only reason we have these pre-Easter stories of betrayal, desertion, suffering and death is because we are a post-Easter people. The lens through which we peer into this darkness is not, finally, one of betrayal, but of resurrection. Even now, in these darkest Lenten days—off in the distance perhaps, there shines the light of Easter morning. We wouldn’t have survived without it.

So, we have to read the stories closely and honestly. We have to be willing to face the image of ourselves we will see in these characters. We have to confess our complicity—if not in those crimes of the past, then in similar crimes in the present. The world is broken, remember. We are broken.

But we are also redeemed. For us the darkness is ever tempered by his light. Our failure is to be expected, but it has already been corrected and we are now defined not by our pre-Easter desertion, but by our post-Easter restoration.

So it’s interesting, but not surprising, that in the darkest of times— for the darkest of times, Jesus gave his “new commandment”: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

The tsunami of evil at that moment hurtling toward this little band of disciples would leave them sorely tested. They weren’t going to make it. Jesus knew that. “When everything falls apart,” he is saying, “when nothing any longer seems true or trustworthy or permanent—love one another!

Love Anyway. Someone should write a book with that title.

It’s fascinating, to me at least, that at the moment Jesus is preparing to be torn from his friends he tells them to turn from him and toward each other—“Love one another”, he says, “as I have loved you”. The world would know who they were not by their love for him, but by their love for each other.

We navigate the darkness most successfully, you see, in the company of people who care about us, who cover our backs. We need the company of people who take us as we are—who see the warts and still find us lovable. That’s how Jesus loved his disciples; it’s how he loves us; it’s how we are to love each other—Love Anyway.

This “love as I have loved you” command calls us to turn to each other; to build a community of wanderers wandering together; a community of lovers loving each other. Anyway. Because here’s the way it is: we will get through the darkness of our own times together, or we will not get through at all. Peter denies Jesus and survives because he turns to his friends and they are there to take him in. Judas betrays Jesus and dies alone because he turned away from his friends, and thus was alone.

I need you. You need me. That’s how it works. “Love one another as I have loved you”.

Prayer: Teach us to love, as you love, in light and in darkness. Turn these hearts you have redeemed toward neighbor friend and foe until no one is left alone. Amen.

The texts for this week are below:

John 13. 33-38

33 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.” 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’

36 Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered, ‘Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterwards.’ 37 Peter said to him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ 38 Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.

John 18. 12-27

12 So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. 13 First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

15 Simon Peter and another disciple followed Jesus. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16 but Peter was standing outside at the gate. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out, spoke to the woman who guarded the gate, and brought Peter in. 17The woman said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ 18 Now the slaves and the police had made a charcoal fire because it was cold, and they were standing round it and warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them and warming himself.

19 Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. 20 Jesus answered, ‘I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.’ 22 When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’ 23 Jesus answered, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?’ 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, ‘You are not also one of his disciples, are you?’ He denied it and said, ‘I am not.’ 26One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with him?’ 27Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

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