This passage is one of the saddest and most gripping scenes in scripture. It begins by saying that Jesus “was very troubled in spirit.” It was during this last supper with his disciples that Jesus tells them, “one of you will betray me.” Then Judas is identified as the traitor. That is how this scene begins and it is brought to an end with Peter’s loud proclamation, “Lord… I will lay down my life for you.” Jesus responded to Peter’s boastful words with his sad prophecy: “Before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.”
With charges of betrayal and denial in the air, with death just a few hours away, Jesus searches for the right words to speak to those who have been closest to him. But those who have been closest to him will turn against him, forsake him, and refuse to admit they ever knew him. What do you say at a time like that? What are the last words you would leave to such a disappointing group of so-called disciples? If ever there were a time for anger and words of harsh judgment, surely this was it.
Calmly and quietly Jesus turns to his disciples and says: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” In the midst of hateful acts, Jesus speaks of love. To disciples guilty of betrayal and denial, Jesus responds in love. On the eve of his death, Jesus speaks of love. The words of the hymn speak the gospel truth: “Love so amazing, so divine, demand my soul, my life, my all.”
In this Lenten season as we focus on our sins of betrayal and denial, hear the response of Jesus: you are God’s beloved.
Prayer: Lord we thank you for your love. Now help us to learn how we can love one another even in the midst of difficult situations.