Something new and different is always happening in our lives, just as it was for the people living in Jesus’s time. When Jesus said, I give you a “new” commandment, he doesn’t mean that there was never love before, just that the type of love that he is talking about is new.
If you go back in the Biblical text just prior to the start of this lesson, you will read that Jesus had just washed all the disciples feet and they all shared in the last supper and communion together. What is important here is that it was ALL of them, including Judas, the one who was to betray him. Where this reading picks up the story is with the phrase, “when he had gone out”. The “he” they are referring to is Judas. He left the group to go betray Jesus. It is at this very critical time that Jesus gives the disciples this new commandment. Why is this new command different and why is he telling them this now?
Jesus was worried about Judas. How many disciples do you think went out looking for Judas? The answer to that is probably none as we know that Judas, so consumed with grief, took his own life. There is no Judas Lutheran Church because no one wants to be associated with the man who betrayed Jesus. But that is what is new about this commandment to love. This love that Jesus is talking about is for all people. This commandment gives us a mission to find someone to fill Judas’s empty seat. The person who fills that seat may have many different guises.
We have all been betrayed at some time in our life and that is the person we have to look for. Every time we celebrate communion we are calling to the Judas’ of the world, the ones not here. The ones in need of hearing the Good News. This is how we transform the world. This is how we help to put a stop to the hate and the violence of this world. We are to love our neighbors, not just some of them, but ALL of them. Not just the ones that look like us, act like us or believe the same as we do. That’s our job. That is what this new commandment is all about. We can blame Judas for Jesus’s betrayal as if we have not guilt, but we are all guilty as we all sin and fall short of the glory of God.
God wants us all to be together. You can see that in the first lesson from Acts where the Gentiles accepted the word of God and Peter tells the members of the Jerusalem church that God gives everyone the same gifts. That he loves the Gentiles as well as the Jews. And they rejoiced for they knew it to be true. The lesson from Revelation tell of a new Jerusalem where the home of God is among mortals and they will be his people. This type of love is a way of welcoming all back into the fold.