RCL Year C Easter 5
Acts 11:1-18, Psalm 148, Revelation 21:1-6, Saint John 13:31-35

The Gospel transports us to Maundy Thursday, the Last Supper, when a longer portion of Saint John, Chapter 13, is proclaimed. On Maundy Thursday, just a month ago, I had this to say about the new commandment Jesus gives his disciples:

“Jesus, at his Last Supper with his disciples, tells them, ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.’[1]

“It’s the old commandment of loving one’s neighbor[2], but the bar has been raised considerably. We are to love our neighbor not as formerly, as we love ourselves, but we are to love our neighbor as Jesus loves us. And Jesus loves his disciples, and he loves us, enough to lay down his life for them and for us.”[3]

In the Great Fifty Days of Easter, we do well to ask ourselves how Jesus’ Resurrection affects us. And any answer to that question necessarily includes Jesus’ new commandment that we love one another as he loves us.

I do not think that Jesus endured the cross, with all its pain and shame, in order to set us free to dislike and to despise our neighbor. Certainly, we may not treat our neighbor as Peter treated the unclean foods before his vision in Joppa. On the very contrary, Jesus says in the Gospel today just the opposite. “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”[4] You see little wiggle room in this. We are to love our neighbor as Jesus loves us. That love is the testament that we are Jesus’ disciples.

I do not see any way to evade what I have just said. I give it to you in the most personal terms I have. I am to love my neighbor across the hall as Jesus loves me. Whether I love that neighbor or not declares me to be Jesus’ disciple or not. It really is that simple.

As surely as Jesus laid down his life for us, we participate in his death and share in the benefits of his Passion by loving our neighbor as he loves us.

That is what our lives are to be in Resurrection light. That is how we shine as Jesus’s disciples. Loving our neighbor qualifies us as Jesus’ disciples.

When we finally love our neighbor, whether in this life or in eternity, in the terms of John’s Revelation, there will be “a new heaven and a new earth.”[5] When we finally love our neighbor, “the home of God” will indeed be “among mortals.”[6] Then, all things, all manner of things, will be well.

[1] Saint John 13:34.

[2] Leviticus 19:17-18.

[3] Howard Stringfellow III, Sermon on Maundy Thursday, 14 April 2022.

[4] Saint John 13:34b-35.

[5] Revelation 21:

[6] Revelation 21:3.