Pastor’s Blog – A Reflection on the Scripture for Sunday May 19, 2019
Scripture for this week: John 13: 31-35
Scripture for next week: John 14:23-29
When we are reading a story, context is everything. My wife and kids are participating together in the national Game of Thrones adventure. Even though one son is in Chicago, and another is in Des Moines, and my wife and daughter are in Arkansas, they all gather virtually on Sunday evenings to immerse themselves in the unfolding drama, texting each other continuously as the plot unfolds. As the current season approached, Logan was the organizer, challenging all parties involved to make sure they were caught up on the story before season 8 began. Logan knows that if they are going to be able to understand the unfolding plot, they must be well versed in the previous story line. You can’t just open the book to the end of chapter thirteen, read a few verses, and hope to understand what the future king is saying.
Context is everything in any story, and we need to remember that fact especially when we are reading the Bible. We have been trained to read the Bible devotionally, pondering a particular verse, mining it for meaning, and/or listening to sermons based upon said few verses. A better way to hear God whispering to us is to honor the original author by paying attention to the way the story has been crafted. And when we are immersed in the work of art that is John’s Gospel, we are swimming in one of the greatest pieces of art yet crafted. Literary clues are the deep currents that drive the oceans of meaning in this story.
The 13th chapter begins with a narrator speaking, “Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end (13.1 NRSV).” This is the thesis statement for the section of the story that flows through the end of chapter 17. The following drama is going to be built upon this thesis foundation. It will be a story that models how Jesus loved his disciples, but more importantly, why he loved them.
The answer to why Jesus loved his disciples comes in our selection of text for this week. “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once (13.31-32, NRSV).” As I read and reread this scripture, the word “glorify” caught my attention; as in, how did Jesus glorify God? It could not have been the crucifixion, because that was yet to occur. But Jesus quite clearly says that the son of man has already been glorified, and has already glorified God…how? Perhaps the answer is in the context of the story that has just happened. Jesus, the future king, has just loved his disciples by washing their feet. Jesus has humbly loved and cared for those who felt like they should be serving him. Is that kind of love in which God is glorified?
In the thesis sentence John says that Jesus loved his disciples to the end. Compare and contrast that to the conversation Peter has with Jesus in 13.36-38, “36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now; but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times (NRSV).” Jesus stayed with his disciples to the end, but the same was not true for the disciples. Perhaps God is glorified when God is the reason we love other people selflessly to the very end. Perhaps God is glorified when we demonstrate love that catches people off guard; a love so selfless that observers are stunned and wonder how we could love that way. Perhaps. The story does not prescribe, it describes. How is God speaking to you as you read and reread?
May you experience a God glorifying love that catches you off guard this week, and may your love for others also glorify God.