The New Commandment
1. At the beginning of the Bible there is the creation account. It says this there about the creation of humankind, "God created man modeling him after himself. He created humanity modeling it after God. He created [humans] man and woman," (Genesis 1:27). Men and women are different from each other. Multiple kinds of humans with natures different from each other were created. There we have an understanding of humanity that this thing called human being does not exist as a solitary being, but was made to live together differently from each other. God intended that different kinds of people live together. That is clear even in the depiction of human creation in Genesis chapter two.
2. We should be glad that we are not to be alone but are to live with other people. But, at the same time, we know too well in our not being alone but living with others, that there will also be difficulties and strife in our lives. Where people are plural in number, the subject of mutually loving one another will come up. While that brings joy, it also brings great struggles.
3. Take a young couple in love, they would never think even in their dreams that it is a major subject, that loving the other one is a burden they must bear. They see it as something they just would do, as part of who they are naturally. But, then after living together married a year, they would notice that it was a major subject which required will power. Obviously, loving is different from merely "liking."
4. This is clear even in the words of the Bible which are often read at weddings. What is love? The Bible says this about it, "Love is patient. Love is tenderhearted. It does not envy. Love does not boast, nor is it high-minded. It does not lose its gratitude, nor does it seeks it own benefit, nor is it irritated, nor does it harbor resentment. It does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth. It endures all things, it believes all things, it hopes for all things, it puts up with all things," (First Corinthians 13:4-7)*. The Bible says that that is "love." What is hard about being patient? What is hard about being compassionate? What is hard about not being irritated? In relationships with others whenever we are not living and seeking only to be loved but attempting to live as a loving person, we cannot avoid the struggle that will require will power in that situation.
5. That is fundamentally the battle of our sin and of the sin of the world. Sin's power is real. In the concrete reality of our every day lives, it is a power that coercively pulls us into the opposite direction from the direction of "loving." It is a dreadful power that puts us at a distance from love and that breaks down relationships. This power is truly at work in this world and is at work in us, too.
As I Have Loved You
6. Today, the following message from God is given to us just as we are as described above. "I give a new commandment to you. Love one another. As I have loved you, you too, love one another," (verse thirty-four). These were the words that were spoken to the disciples before the Lord was crucified. This is what you might call a call to war against sin. Jesus has called first his disciples, the church, and us to war against sin while in this world. After the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus, the disciples of the Lord did not go in their separate directions and live as individual believers by themselves, instead the specific shape and form that this battle took was one that took the form of a fellowship of living and worshipping together. We're the same way, we too are here and are together.
7. When I read this passage of scripture, which I read much earlier, I think of the words that Father Takeo Okada of the Kashiwa Roman Catholic Church had written.
"Sin pulls people apart from each other, it makes them go in different directions, and makes them hostile and antagonistic towards one another. It is something that is under the power of darkness lying outside of human control. Even though someone might want to be at one with another, by compulsion, they always end up fighting with them and feeling bad over it. That is the work that sin does. In order for us to become one, we must wage war on sin."
9. In addition, Father Okada introduced the people who had assembled for mass in spite of the foul weather on the day of a certain blizzard and continued with his speech like this:
"With what kinds of feelings did these people come to the mass? Participating in the mass, actually, is one 'battle.' We wage war on our own sin and the sin of the world while in the common worship together that we call mass. How can we be one without ever waging war together, without paying a sacrifice, without shedding tears and blood? This battle is one where you have to put your all into it. ... The mass is a remembrance of the battle that Jesus of Nazareth put his all into. Doesn't taking part in the mass also mean to take part in this battle? Wars originate in the egoism of a group. Battles between nations do not cease without each respective people making sacrifices. Isn't peace something we build and fight for? In the same way, isn't the union of one person with another something which we build and set up with cooperation, painful feelings, and being prepared in our minds to lose everything that's ours?," (Takeo Okada, author of Traveling To The Banquet, page twenty-six).
11. Thus we are gathered around the Lord's table and partake in the body and blood of the Lord. In this we are participating in the Lord's battles along with the Lord himself, and more specifically, we are receiving this new commandment. The disciples received this message from Jesus. We also receive it from Jesus. That which we are receiving from Jesus has decisively major meaning. Because Jesus loved us first. We shouldn't think that the Lord's love for us didn't including any pain or suffering on his part. The Lord's love for us meant that he would bore our sin upon himself and that he would die upon the cross. That is, in his loving us, the Lord has already fought a battle in which he put his all into it, even his life. Therefore, the Lord didn't just say, "Love one another." He said, "As I have loved you, you too, please love one another."
As People Abiding In The Lord's Love
12. But, there was one who couldn't listen to this message. He was Judas Iscariot. The text says in verse thirty-one, "So then, when Judas went out, Jesus said..." Judas did not hear the words of Jesus of "As I have loved you..." Didn't Jesus love Judas? Of course, he loved him too. At the top of chapter thirteen it says this, "So, it was before the Passover. Jesus sensed that the hour of his passing from this world to his father had come and loving his disciples who were in the world he loved them completely there being no higher love," (13:1). Judas was also there among those disciples, I'm sure. Judas also had his feet washed by Jesus and was eating bread with the Lord.
13. In verses twenty-one and so, there is a paragraph where the Lord forewarns of the betrayal of one of the disciples. In this passage we shouldn't regard it as if the Lord was exposing the sin of Judas openly before the disciples. This is a very tense scene. It is a scene where the disciples had a presentiment based on Jesus' words that the Lord's death was near and they were shaking with worry. In this such a scene, what might have happened had Jesus openly charged Judas with betrayal? Judas might have been killed off by the other disciples. The Lord was certainly positioned to have a traitor removed in such a way. But, that's not what he did. Even after Judas went out, the other disciples didn't know for sure who the traitor was.
14. Here is something interesting. The Bible says, "Jesus answered, 'I am dipping a piece of bread and the one I give it to is that man.' Then, he dipped the piece of bread, and gave it to Judas Iscariot, son of Simon," (verse twenty-six). Wasn't it clear, no matter how dull a person's vision, who the traitor was? But still, even though [Jesus did what he did], no one saw that Judas was the betrayer.
15. Many people think that this only proves that Judas was sitting right next to Jesus, that is, that he was in the seat which the very closest of friends was to sit in. They think this because, generally, while seated at a meal, the master was required by etiquette to dip bread into [some type of] soup and give it to the person in the guest seat or seat for friends. In short, here we have the Lord making plain the betrayal by Judas in a way which only Judas understood. For that matter, it would seem that [he said the same thing at] the time he washed the disciples' feet. The Lord said, "Not everyone is clean, you know...," (verse ten). This too was a message that only Judas understood, who was the subject himself [of Jesus' statement].
16. The Lord made clear the hidden sin Judas had in a way that only Judas understood and was speaking directly to his heart. The Lord was hoping to the very end that Judas would come back and abide in the Lord's love, and stay within the fold of the disciples. "What you are about to do, do it quickly." These words, Will you stay? or Will you leave Jesus' words? were the last divide in the road. This too was also a message that only Judas and Jesus understood. And Judas left. The words, "It was night," sound so sad. Jesus did not drive Judas from his love. [Judas] shut himself out of Jesus' love and drove himself out into the darkness.
17. We should not close ourselves to Jesus' love. We should not drive ourselves into the darkness. We must abide in the love of the Lord.
18. "As I have loved you, you too, love one another." Judas did not heed these words. We are hearing them today. This is the message of the new commandment, which we can receive precisely because we are abiding in the love of the Lord. Therefore, these words themselves that we are given are truly the greatest of joys. Of course, [there is] this war on sin. War includes pain and suffering. It involves sacrifice. In order to love one another, we will surely have to be patient. We will probably not avoid a few tears [along the way]. But, even with all that, we will be happy living in response to the words, "Love one another." Because at that moment we are surely in the love of Jesus.
*http://www.j-e-s-u-s.org/e990606.htm deals with this verse, too.