Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but is from the Father who sent me.
‘I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid. You have heard me say to you “I am going away, and I am coming to you”. If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you this before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.’
The intimacy of John’s Gospel is astounding. In the farewell narratives it is at its warmest and most beautiful. The closeness which Jesus experiences with his Father becomes the measure of the closeness Jesus feels for his friends. It is an intimacy which the friends of Jesus must treasure no matter which century or country they live in. John believes it is unique to them. The “world” cannot grasp it, until it embraces that quality of love which is grounded in the divine. But the friends do not and cannot hold on to this love selfishly, for love is not love unless you give it away. No group of Jesus’ friends can be sectarian or selfish, building walls around themselves through dogma or ritual. The intimacy which they have experienced is a gift through which they embrace the pain of the world. It is as they become this suffering and serving body that they truly experience the gift of Shalom, the Peace which has been promised. The loving community of Jesus cannot stand still. Jesus says to us all: “Get up, we must be on our way.” The journey never stops. Nor does the love, the peace, and the joy.
Loving God, in Jesus our Friend, you come close as close can be, sharing our road, our home, our days of joy and sorrow; in human weakness you shed your power and tread the path to life and death. In Jesus you pitch your tent and stay; And even after the darkest of Fridays you do not withdraw your gift. In a miracle of love, you make us your children and call us to suffer and serve in this beautiful and dangerous world, making visible again your grace in Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Rev’d David Jenkins is a retired minister and member of Marple URC in Cheshire.