My guess is it is pretty safe to say that most of you are part of a generation that remembers life before the internet. You do realize that most of those currently in university have not known life before the internet. One of the things that was different before the internet was how we were exposed to music. You heard new songs by turning on the radio not by sampling them from a streaming site. You did not choose what was played you only chose whether the radio was on or off. And when a song became a hit you heard it over and over and over again to the point where you got to know songs really well that you did not even like. Sometimes you would turn on the radio and hear a portion of a song you did not like and then it would be rattling around in your head for hours because you had heard it so many times before. Today’s gospel reading triggered the memory of two radio hit songs from the pre internet days. One that I really did not like and one that is a Steve Wonder song so what is there not to like. The one song is “You light up my life” by Debbie Boone which I think got way too much airplay in its day and the other is “you are the sunshine of my life” by Steve Wonder. They are each love songs and they are each saying that there is nothing more wonderful or glorious then the love they have for the individual. The songs are attempting to communicate the very positive life giving nature of love and how glorious that is. When we think of love that is the road that we go down. It is a positive, glorious, life giving experience of one person to another.
“When he had gone out, Jesus said, now the Son of Man has been glorified.” If something is in its glory we would consider that it had reached its pinnacle. It is elevated. It is exceptional. It is special, like nothing else. It just can’t get better. “You light up my life” – my life has clarity and purpose and energy and life because of the love of the other. “You are the sunshine of my life” – there is nothing more important to my existence, there is nothing that gives me life, warmth, sight, clarity, then you. Those are phrases that say with you I am at a pinnacle in life. “When he had gone out Jesus said now the Son of man has been glorified.” This is a reference to Jesus’ betrayal. Jesus has just washed the disciple’s feet. They have shared a meal together and Judas has just left to go to the political authorities to help them arrest Jesus and bring him up on charges. Jesus responds to this action of betrayal as the action that reveals his glory. Betrayal does not trigger love songs with lines like “you light up my life” or “you are the sunshine of my life”. No one considers betrayal as the pinnacle of their life.
Betrayal is a very human experience. We’ve all tasted it at some point or another. But we do not think of it as glorious. We do not think of it as our finest hour. But Jesus says now the Son of Man was, or is, glorified and God was, or is, glorified in Him, all in the face of betrayal. In the face of betrayal Jesus is glorified and God is glorified. It goes on, If God was, or is, glorified in Jesus then God will glorify Jesus in himself. Not some time in the future but at once, or immediately, in the face of betrayal.
This little section of John’s gospel that we read this morning is the section that contains what we lovingly refer to as the new commandment. It ends with that lovely little verse that lifts our hearts. “I give you a new commandment that you love one another just as I have loved you”. But unless we wrestle with this first bit of Jesus being glorified through betrayal and God being glorified in Jesus we will not hear how radical that call of Jesus to love one another is. We will hear it on a sentimental level, like “you light up my life” or “you are the sunshine of my life” not the life changing turn the world upside down radical history changing call that it is.
It is Jesus himself that proclaimed to his followers his intimate inseparable relationship with God. Jesus is telling them here that what happens to him reveals his glory, reveals his greatness, reveals the depth of his love and consequently reveals God’s glory, reveals God’s greatness, reveals the depth of God’s love. Jesus goes on to tell them that “whoever has seen him has seen God.” This is not one human betraying another human for personal gain. Although at the time that is very likely how Judas and everyone else saw it. This is God in the flesh who has come to give us life being rejected and betrayed. There is no glory in one human betraying another. But if the one who is truly glorious. The one who can truly “light up your life” or the one who outshines the sun in your life, if it is God whose love is so great that it overwhelms betrayal who is revealing to us the depth of God’s love for us, then we are indeed gazing on a glory that transforms everything.
Jesus in the face of betrayal, looks at his disciples, looks at us, and says “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” It is not just that we should love one another. Humans love one another all the time. It is that we should love one another as he has loved us. But in order to taste the depth of that love we must know who it is that is loving us. All the love songs circulating around in our lives are all talking about the love between humans. When Jesus says to us love one another as I have loved you he is referring to a love coming from the source of love itself. If Jesus is just a human in history then what we have here is just one more line of a feel good love song. But Jesus does not claim to just be another human in history. He claims to be God who created us come to reveal the depth of God’s love for us. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father, has seen God”. When Jesus is glorified God is glorified and when God is glorified Jesus is glorified. Jesus is saying I am God. There is nothing more glorious then God, not the sun, not light. God, the source of life says this is how I love you. I let go of all that I am to be with you. Even when you turn your back on me, whether in ignorance or intentionally, to serve yourself I will continue to love you, to be patient with you, to forgive you. My love is patient, my love is kind, my love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. My love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. My love does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. My love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. My love never ends.
How is love a new commandment? “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” It is a new commandment because it is calling us to change the source of our love. We all need to be loved. We need it as much as we need food and water and air. The commandment is new because it is inviting us to love not from a place of our need but from the source of life and love itself. The invitation of Jesus, the invitation of the gospel is to love God more. We are invited to see the depth of God’s love for us that he took on flesh and lived among us. That he was despised and rejected and put to death. That he rose from the dead to continue to love us and call us into a relationship with him. Don’t love anything less instead learn to love God more because of what God has done for us in Christ. When we have embraced the love of God in Christ, when we have tasted the love that Christ has for us then we will love other things, other people, with far more satisfaction. You won’t over protect them; you won’t over expect things from them. You won’t be furious with them for not being what you hoped. Don’t stifle passionate love for anything redirect your greatest love toward God by loving God with your whole heart and loving God for God’s self not just what God can give you. Only then does contentment come. Your attachment to God will amplify and deepen your enjoyment of the world. Nothing will be lost.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…… and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying “see the home of God is among mortals. God will dwell with them…… they will belong to God and God will be with them”. Lovers belong to one another and long to be with one another. “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.” This is the love we are invited to have as the source nurturing our lives. This is why it is a new commandment. God has given us a taste of this Hope in Christ who in love revealed the depth of his love, his glory, by laying his life down for us and rising from the dead conquering death for us that where he is we may be also.