When he 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.’ (NRSV).
There is something appropriate about revisiting the words of Jesus – spoken before his death and resurrection – with the hindsight of Easter. In the post-Easter period we, like the disciples, are invited to re-think Jesus’ words in light of the risen Messiah.
As far as the church calendar is concerned we sit between the resurrection and the Ascension. For those first students of Jesus it must have been a time of processing, re-imagining, re-assessing all they had ‘seen and heard’.
Many of Jesus teachings must have initially seemed strange in the extreme. I can imagine the disciples, like us, revisiting his claims as they processed the previously unthinkable events and appearances surrounding that unforgettable Passover in Jerusalem.
Indeed, they needed to re-think everything in light of the resurrected Christ.
We do well to echo this process. Our reading is one of the classic passages that needs the light of the resurrection to make it shine in all its brilliance.
Significantly, Jesus words occur immediately after Judas, now knowing that Jesus knows his intentions, has left the Passover meal to trade his Rabbi for silver. Judas’ actions are a beginning. Although none of the disciples are in the know, the reality of Jesus coming suffering, death, and resurrection is closer than ever.
And so, Jesus addresses his eleven faithful followers. Although it may not have been immediately obvious, Jesus’ words offer an alternative to the standard interpretation of the events about to take place. He does not talk in terms of defeat. He does not speak of failure. He does not even directly address the reality of death. Jesus does not ponder cross and curse.
Strangely, even as Judas approaches the authorities, Jesus’ words ponder a present and coming ‘glory’. This act will bring honor and praise.
Somehow, Jesus’ suffering and death will bring glory to God – and God will respond with a glorification of God’s own. There will be an absence they will not be able to bridge. The only instruction is that through all the uncertainty they love as they have been loved.
It must have seemed so cryptic at the time. Indeed it was cryptic.
But now ‘Christ is Risen’. Everything – even the very words of Jesus – need to be re-visited in this new, heavenly, light.
The suffering and death of Jesus did reveal – mysteriously – the extravagant glory of God. God’s resurrection of Jesus was nothing short of the creator’s tick of approval for the life and sacrifice of Christ. It was a journey taken for us, not with us. It offered a new understanding of love worthy of our imitation.
Indeed, even before the disciples could possibly begin to see Easter in terms of God’s glory and God’s love, Jesus was urging them to allow these realities to define them.
It was a sacrificial love that Jesus hoped would come to characterise those willing to build their lives around the simplest of creeds: ‘Christ is Risen: He is Risen Indeed’.