What a week it had been–the joyous crowds ushering you into Jerusalem for the Passover festival. Teaching, healing, worshiping in the Temple, mobbed by crowds everywhere you went.
And a mounting tension…something you couldn’t put your finger on, but knew in your gut was coming…something evil, unavoidable.
The religious authorities had been hounding you for months// really, since your ministry began. As pawns of the Roman government, it made sense that the Pharisees, Saducees, and scribes would find talk of establishing a new kingdom threatening. And Judas…something was off with Judas. Since arriving in Jerusalem, he’d been even more secretive than usual.
So when you gather with the twelve in the borrowed upper room for the Passover meal…whether through imprisonment or assassination, you sense it could well be the last time you’ll experience the Passover meal with these friends. You’ve been teaching for all you’re worth for three years now, desperate to open the minds and hearts of at least these twelve to God’s deepest hopes for them and for the world.
Not to put too fine a point on it, the twelve have been slow on the uptake. You tried to show them a world where all were equally loved by God, then John and James come looking for special seating in the afterlife. Another prophet is sharing the good news down the street and, because it’s not you, your disciples ask if they should rain down fire on the prophet.
This could be the last meal. Maybe not, but it could be. If it is, what will you say? What one thing can you say that might, just might, stay with them…and take root…and change them…so that they might, just might, change the world?
Here’s how John, dear John, will remember your words later. “My little children, I won’t be with you much longer. You’ll look for me, but what I said to the Temple authorities, I say to you: where I am going, you cannot come. I give you a new commandment (novum mandatum): Love one another. And you’re to love one another the way I have loved you. This is how all will know that you’re my disciples: that you truly love one another.”
As the silence deepens, as the words hover in the air, something settles inside you…yes. Yes. That’s what everything means…everything you’ve taught, everything you’ve done, every law in the Torah, every sign from God…all of it, all of it, all of it, when distilled, means this: “love one another.” Love one another. Love one another.