Our
Fellowship

Our
Branch

AHC C A New Commandment - Hebrew Catholics

Association of

Hebrew Catholics

New Zealand Branch

A New Commandment

5th Sunday of Easter       Year C

A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
www.hebrewcatholic.org.nz

Click here for a printable copy of this paper

St. John 13: 31 — 35

 

Introduction

During the time after Easter, until Pentecost, the Church reflects on the profound teaching Jesus imparted to His Apostles just before His arrest and crucifixion. This continues the practice of the disciples who gathered to remember what the Lord had taught and to see it anew in the light of the resurrection. Their gatherings reached a special intensity during the nine days from Jesus’ Ascension to Pentecost. Today we follow this pattern, and keep returning to these treasured moments with the Lord, and find that as we do so, our understanding of them grows appreciably.

On this occasion in our text, our Lord has been having His Last Supper with His chosen Apostles. Towards the end of the meal He washed their feet and then they all settled down for a fairly lengthy time of instruction. Our reading is part of this long discourse. Beyond our reading at the close of His teaching, Jesus prays His final prayer while in their company, before walking over to the Garden of Olives.

The reading opens with the reference to Judas going out to betray Jesus by selling information as to His whereabouts.

Click here for a printable copy of the text

 

 Some Reflections on Our Text

Verses 31 and 32

When he had left, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified,
and God is glorified in him.

(If God is glorified in him,) God will also glorify him in himself,
and he will glorify him at once.

Most of us find these five verses just a little difficult to follow. If it is any consolation, most translators find them more than a little difficult to present in contemporary language spoken by the average person. This is not because of the content, but because our Lord’s rabbinic technique had to be recorded in Greek language. Thus there are unusual changes of tense (past, present and future). This was partly due to the rabbinic method of making the disciples studying under a master, to be confronted with a situation, to encounter it and engage fully with it, rather than just “be informed” about it. They were to see themselves as part of it — not mere spectators!

So we need to be patient and let ourselves be drawn into and engage in this brief moment in which, shortly, our Lord will impart not just a Commandment, but the full-on empowerment to put it into practice, or in His language, to “observe” it.

The departure of Judas to carry out his plan, (to sell information of our Lord’s whereabouts) is to signal “the beginning of the end”. It is as though Jesus had been waiting for the moment when He could share His thoughts, promises, tender warnings, assurances of loving remembrance, and expressions of peace to those He loved, and who also, to a person, loved Him.

Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him,” meaning: through His death the Son of Man reveals His true glory, and at the same time His death becomes the means by which God’s glory is revealed. Our Lord goes on to say. “(If God is glorified in him,) God will also glorify Him in himself, and He will glorify Him at once.” (Note that some early manuscripts do not have the first six words of this sentence).

We recall a passage from Isaiah (49: 3) which is echoed in Jesus’ words:

“You are my servant, he said to me, Israel, through whom
I show my glory.”

Jesus is seen here to speak in prophetic mode, as though what He talks about has already happened.

Now nothing can intervene, nothing can delay:
the Son of Man must suffer, ,must atone by that suffering,
must rise again, must ascend, must return in Spirit and
power at Pentecost, must be Ruler in the midst of His
enemies, must gather the “other sheep” into the one flock,
must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.
Now all is sure and certain. Now is the Son of Man glorified.
[The time in the original is past, and so it is virtually in the English.]

And God is glorified in him.” Notice how this accords
with so many of the sayings of Christ in this Gospel. As the
works of God are seen in the works of Christ, as the words
of God are heard in the words of Christ, as the judgment of
God is revealed in the decisions of Christ, so the glory of
God shines forth in the glory of Christ.                      (Sadler.)

Verse 32 continues: “….. God will also glorify him in himself, and he will glorify him at once.

Our Lord is talking about His Passion and Death just hours away but as though these things had already taken place.

God glorified Christ in His Death in that, through it, He enabled
the Son of Man to show to the universe how God conquers evil,
not by mere force, but by submission, humiliation, patience,
endurance, self-sacrifice; and instantly on His Death there
followed glorification. “The sun was darkened, the rocks rent, the
veil of the temple was parted asunder, many bodies of saints that
slept arose, the tomb had its seals, the guards sat by; and while a
stone lay over the Body, the Body arose, forty days passed by,
and the gift of the Spirit came, and they all straightway
preached Him.”                      (St. John Chrysostom From Sadler)  

Verse 33

My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You will
look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you cannot come,’
so now I say it to you.

Jesus addresses His closest and most senior disciples as (literally) “little children”. This is in the tradition of a Rabbi earnestly teaching his disciples. In our various modern cultures his expression would more likely be “my dear ever-faithful companions”. He continues: “I will be with you a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the authorities, so I tell you now, that is where I am going, you cannot come”.

But it will not be long before they understand how this apparent  separation will be rectified magnificently.

We note how the reference to “the Jews” is in St. John’s custom, a polite reference in fact to the corrupt Jewish authorities only.   (See: The Jews in the Gospel of John by Bratcher)

Verse 34

I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.

Then comes the great high point of the discourse. Actually, the Apostles (especially St. Peter) are still lingering on our Lord’s somewhat mystifying statement, “Where I am going you cannot come”. They are therefore preoccupied at this moment with Jesus’ statement of departure, and less concerned with His teaching. Nevertheless, our Lord moves on, and makes a rather startling announcement.

I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another
.”

What struck our Lord’s listeners was His standards by which we are to love others:

•   As I have called you, so you are, on my behalf, to call others
    to the Household of God

•   As I have received you, so you are to receive one another

•   As I have forgiven you so you are to forgive one another.

•   As I have borne with you, so you are to bear with one another.

•   As I have washed your feet, so you are to wash one another’s feet.

•   As I die for you, so you are to lay down your lives for one another.
                                                                                                                     (Sadler)

Modern day disciples of Jesus need to reflect on the powerful significance of these words. To love one another was nothing new! It was part of the Covenant of God with Israel, and reaffirmed by Jesus (Matt. 22: 39) when He was asked to recite the greatest Commandment. Scholars today teach that our Lord, here, is talking about a New Commandment in the same sense as he is talking about a “New Covenant in my Blood”. There is nothing in this about replacement — it is all about fulfilment. This is especially evident in the writing of Jeremiah.

The idea of a new covenant was part of Jeremiah’s prophecy (31: 31 — 34) and cherished by the infant Church, whose members recognised it being pointed to in Deuteronomy and Ezekiel. Jesus picks up this theme and shows that His death the next day is the means by which God renews this Covenant.

•    God so loved the world that he gave His only Son.

•    His only Son so loved the world that he gave his life.

•    His disciples are to show their love for one another by
     loving in the same way as their Lord.

•    In doing so they will experience unity among themselves
     which corresponds to that which exists between the
     members of the Blessed Trinity.

•    This love is to extend outward to include all the world.

This is new, not because it is not the old way, but because it is the old carried forward into fulfilment in Jesus Christ.

Here, according to one great scholar, Jesus re-enacts the giving of the Law — now in a higher sense, and based on the free choice of Jesus to give His life for the world.

If we may be permitted to express the above in the language style of today, Jesus was saying something like this:

“I am commanding you in a way I have not commanded you
before. Your love for one another will mirror the love of
the
Father and the Son for each other. This is the way
God has
chosen to be revealed to the world. You will be left
here on earth for a time, but unlike those who rely on their own
authority, you will seek me and find me. If you love one another
following my model, you will give priority to one another as
members of one Family, the Household of God. I will answer
your prayer and reveal myself to you; and through you, to all
humanity.”

Verse 35

This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you
have love for one another.”

“But remember”, Jesus emphasises, “the only badge which will prove that you are my disciples will be the way you show my love for one another; the way you give priority to one another.”

 

Finale

The disciples of different teachers were known by their habits, or some particular creed or custom, or point of austerity, which they had adopted. The disciples of Christ, however, were known by this love which they bore to each other.

It is said of St John, that in extreme old rage, when too feeble to preach, he used to be carried into the church and would simply say to the people: “Little children, love one another.” So powerfully embedded in his mind were the words of the Lord which he faithfully recorded.

During the first few centuries of the early Church, there are many references in Roman literature to this love the Christians practised.

“Vide, inquiunt, ut se diligunt; et pro alterutro mori parati sunt.”
Quintus Septimus Florens Tertullian   (C.E. 160 — 225)

 “See, said they, how they love one another,
and are ready to lay down their lives for each other”.

              

 

Afterword

Does The “New Commandment” replace the “Old”?

Christians are often confused about:

•   Has Christianity replaced Judaism?

•   Is the Old Law superceded by the Beatitudes and teaching
    of Jesus?

•   Does the New Commandment of Jesus supercede all prior
    Commandments?

We try to present basic reading about these issues as they arise in the Three Year Lectionary of Biblical Readings especially in the Gospels. We will leave these questions for those spots in our pathway through the Sacred Scriptures.

However, we need to give a sentence or two focussed on this question regarding the “New Commandment”.

Our Reflection notes for this reading about a “New Commandment I give you,” answer the question. However, we would like to declare quite categorically, that any explanation of our Lord superceding proclamations of the Law of God to be doctrinally, and therefore Biblically incorrect.

Earlier in His ministry, Jesus had already declared that He came not to destroy or terminate the Law — but rather to fulfill it.

Recall the moment:

•   “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or
      the prophets.
I have come not to abolish but to fulfil.”

                                                                               (Matthew 5: 17.)

•   Read our paper   The meaning of: To Fulfil

On the evening of this meeting with His disciples, our Lord gives us a glorious Commandment:

I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you also should love one another.

Later the same evening Jesus will say:

If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain
in his love.                                                               (John 15: 10)

He does not permit His disciples — soon to be commissioned as His Apostles, His personal representatives — to side step the age-old rule that love and obedience always go together.

Thus far from leading His followers away from the treasury of Hebrew spirituality, our Blessed Lord lays down the path whereby all whom we invite to walk with us into the Household of God, will be welcomed as His Family.

Blessed be God.

Shalom!

 

 Further Reading

For those who would like a detailed study resource
on the readings for Sunday, please visit:

Agape Bible Study — 5th  Sunday of Easter ― Year C

If you require only the section on the Gospel reading,
just scroll down the page.

To view all the material on the Agape website please visit:

www.agapebiblestudy.com

This website is highly recommended:


 

“Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature”

(Mark 16: 15)

The real Jesus is the real answer to the real needs of the world.

     Let us remember God’s Teaching, contained in His Word and in doing so,
     remain close to Him. The following are only examples
illustrating how you
     can note the gems the Holy Spirit highlights for
your on-going reflection.

A New Commandment

5th Sunday of Easter    Year C                   St. John 13: 31 — 35

1. Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another”.

What does Jesus mean by, “love”? This is a major theme for meditation. In short Jesus
fulfilled all God’s requirements revealed progressively throughout the Hebrew Scriptures,
some of which include:

  •     Jesus Messiah demonstrated true love and obedience of God;
  •     Jesus Messiah never deviated from His mission, His reason for
        coming in the first place;
  •     Jesus Messiah put His own convenience aside to serve the needs
        of others;
  •     Jesus Messiah accepted the price to be paid for serving God alone.

These are some of the ways He demonstrated His love for us. They are some of the
things He
expects to see reflected in our dealings with other people. This is no
sweet, sentimental, soft
option. This is tough stuff! But with the Command comes
the power from on high to observe all
Jesus commanded.

2. This is the way God has chosen to reveal His love for broader humanity —
i.e. through us
and our words, attitudes and actions, which include our hospitality,
respect and caring for others, and our own personal observance of the Faith.

3. Christians are to be visibly recognisable by the way they give priority to others
and their
needs. In this way we are called to be Christ to one another. Let us pray
for one another that
as members of the one and only Household of God, we will
support one another, even serve
one another, despite our different way of seeing
things or expressing our Faith.

Shalom!

Click here for a printable copy of these Reflections

 

 John 13: 31 — 35

5th Sunday of Easter         Year C

NEW AMERICAN BIBLE

31    10, 11 When he had left, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man
        glorified, and God is glorified in him.

32    (If God is glorified in him,) God will also glorify him in himself,
        and he will glorify him at once.

33    My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. You
        will look for me, and as I told the Jews, ‘Where I go you
        cannot come,’ so now I say it to you.

34    I give you a new commandment: 12 love one another. As I
        have loved you, so you also should love one another.

35    This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you
        have love for one another.”

10 [ 13:31- 17:26] Two farewell discourses and a prayer. These seem to be Johannine
compositions, including sayings of Jesus at the Last Supper and on other occasions, modeled
on similar farewell discourses in Greek literature and the Old Testament (of Moses, Joshua, David).

11 [31-38] Introduction: departure and return. Terms of coming and going predominate.
These verses form an introduction to the last discourse of Jesus, which extends through
John 14-17. In it John has collected Jesus’ words to his own ( John 13:1). There are
indications that several speeches have been fused together, e.g., in John 14:31 and
John 17:1.

12 [34] I give you a new commandment: this puts Jesus on a par with Yahweh. The
commandment itself is not new; cf Lev 19:18 and the note there.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised
edition (c) 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine,
Washington D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner.
All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced
in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

 

[Site Under Construction]