Because the gospel today (John 13.31-35) is about love, and is very short, we might not notice something about it that is rather odd.
We hear Jesus speak movingly about love. He places love as central commandment that should characterise the lives of his followers. And yet – here is the strange thing – this commandment comes immediately after a betrayal, for our gospel passage opens with the words: ‘When Judas had gone …’ In fact, only a few verses earlier (v 21) Jesus tells the disciples: ‘One of you will betray me.’
When Judas had gone ….This tells us that Jesus knew that the end was approaching, and that it would not be pleasant. Think of it. A disciple from his own circle has first embezzled the money they pooled in the common purse. This same person has then gone on to betray him for a bribe. Jesus has been tailed by spies, misrepresented and calumnied. An ordinary human response at this point might be to give way to bitterness, recrimination and despair....
Do you remember two of the other major events that took place on the shores of the Sea of Galilee?
One turning-point occurred when Jesus called Peter, James and John. ‘Come with me and I will make you fishers of men.’ Now, three years later, they have been literally fishing, and have found their nets are full to bursting-point, a sign of the great harvest of souls that lies ahead.
Another turning-point by that sea came when Jesus asked the disciples, ‘Who do you say I am?’ It was Simon Peter who said ‘You are the Christ.’ The dawning realisation that this was the Messiah would lead these humble fisherman forward into a life they could never have dreamed of, with their message being brought to the furthest corners of the world.
Now, three years later, they are once more on the shores of Galilee. In each of the first two occasions they had to make a leap of faith and trust a deep, powerful intuition. Once more they have to make that leap of fait...