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Sermon | Love is a witness

Black and white image of 2 children walking down a path, one with their arm around the other

Sermon for St Edward’s 6th Nov 22 / Readings: John 13:31-28 & Deut 6:1-9

Ok so we are back in John’s Gospel today – we took a break last week for All Saints. This passage we just heard describes a scene at the Last Supper, the meal Jesus had with his disciples before he was arrested and crucified. At the start of this chapter we hear in v1:

Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

John 13:1

So just before what we heard in our reading, he had shared this, then washed his disciples feet, and then Judas had left the meal to betray him.

In washing their feet he says:

Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

And then we see Peter  ‘not quite getting it’. Again. 

And then at the end of the passage we see Judas leave and our section today starts with: When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him

The ‘he’ here, being Judas of course –  a key event in Jesus’ crucifixion that had to happen, it is now the catalyst to start the crucifixion and the event that would glorify God, as Jesus said.

So today I want to focus on 2 points:

Jesus words of love; and Peter as an example to us.

Jesus knows he is going to die. He knows the end of course too. But he shows all the signs of someone knowing they are approaching death – in other chapters we read of him asking his Father – take this cup from me – but your will be done… Perhaps exhibiting fear? He’s weary. Uncertain.

And here we see him continuing to prepare the disciples for his departure: My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

 And sharing some final thoughts with them, which continue in the coming chapters.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:34-35

I love these verses, the eagle eyed among you may note they are currently in my email sign off.

Jesus, although he says this is a new command, really is echoing the greatest commandment – love God, and love your neighbour. As we heard in Deut 6. In the teaching of the Torah. He takes it further saying: I am your example of how to love – as I have loved you – do that to others.

Again I am reminded of the statement we have used here, honour the past, navigate the present, build for the future.

Here Jesus brings an ancient commandment and builds on it, navigating the present. 

But I think perhaps the most interesting line here is v35:

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Can we say this of ourselves, now? Do people see us acting in love towards one another? And then know we are followers of Jesus? Does our action of loving others draw people to him?  Do those around us even know we are Christians? 

You know the disciples and followers of Jesus were known for their compassion and kindness and generosity, often going to those society wouldn’t – feeding the widows and the poor for example.

Love one another – It is a challenge and one that we often fail at I am sure.

And yet immediately after this we see this interaction with Peter

Poor Peter, so enthusiastic and yet always the one who hasn’t quite got it right! The one who got out of the boat took a few steps on water then didn’t have the faith to carry on. Who here has asked Jesus to wash all of him not just his feet and then was corrected by Jesus.

And now here he is again, bless him, v 37: Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.

But Jesus knows what is going to happen and says: Will you though? I think you are going to have an epic fail on that front. Because before it’s even light tomorrow morning, you will have denied you even know me. 

Yet again Peter is fearful, unsure, anxious, forgetting all that has just happened, all he has seen Jesus do. And not just once but 3 times!

And the thing about Peter is he is such a good example for us. God knows we are going to mess up. God knows we won’t always love one another actually. God knows we won’t feel blessed when people hate us – to touch on what Stephen said last week.

And so we are given this example of someone like Peter – someone like us to remind us it’s ok.

We later see Peter reinstated if you like. While he has denied Jesus 3 times, if we skip ahead to John 21 we see Jesus asking him; do you love me? and 3 times Peter saying yes and Jesus saying feed my sheep. This is symbolic of the 3 times Peter denied Jesus before the cock crowed.

But imagine how he must have felt in that moment. The memory flooding back to him of what Jesus had said and now he had done it. He had denied him as Jesus said he would. He must have been filled with shame, remorse. Overwhelming him. How long did he carry that feeling with him? Days certainly until he saw Jesus again.

How did he feel later when he did meet with Jesus by the Sea of Galilee, eating with him, probably feeling so much pain and shame. And yet Jesus turns to him and gives him hope, forgiveness and a purpose.

Just as he does for all of us.

That’s why every week we have our confession prayer – we take that opportunity once more to wash our feet if you like, we have been baptised (if not talk to me), we know Jesus, we don’t need a full cleansing, but we need to wash off the little things, or the big things, we have done and be forgiven again. And again. And again.

That is grace. We are naturally sinners. We have been given the route to follow, told how to live and yet we go our own way. But just as Peter is forgiven and reinstated, so are we.

So let us continue to seek the way Jesus taught. To be people in whom others see that there is something about us, something different that they are drawn to. People who love widely and generously. And people who stay close to God, remembering we are not perfect but we have a God who loves us no matter what. Who has forgiven and who will always forgive. Let us walk tall free of shame and fear, and shine with the love of Christ for all to see…


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