At the last supper, when Judas 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.”
In our Gospel reading, Jesus makes the heart of true discipleship clear: to follow Jesus is to exhibit “love for one another.” It is as simple and as complicated as that.
Jesus claims that this mandate, to love one another, is a commandment. It is elevated and important, as the Ten Commandments handed down at Sinai are also important. The commandment to love indicates a kind of duty, insinuating that we are responsible for and to one another in a web of community.
In treating one another with kindness — in postures of service and listening — we exhibit agape, the fruit of self-giving love. Such a love springs from our awareness of God’s deep love for us and overflows naturally out of our hearts towards others. It a love born in joy and security — the security of knowing that, as Jesus has loved us so completely, we too can love without fear.
Shortly before this passage, Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. This symbolic act represents love in motion — a posture of servanthood and deference that is not a sign of making oneself small. It is, rather, evocative of the enlargement of heart which makes one able to give oneself away and serve without expectation of thanks or return.
Such a love, wherever we see it, is a genuine sign that someone has been transformed by the life of the Gospel.
Greg Burgess meditates on John 13.
Peter Sawtell on Jesus’s washing of the disciples’ feet and the connection to justice.
Malcolm Guite delivers a sonnet for Maundy Thursday and considers the ritual of foot washing.
Antonio Cannova’s plaster relief “Feed the Hungry” show us love in action.
The Tallis Scholars sing “A New Commandment.”