At this most profound turn of events—as Jesus turns his thoughts and attention decisively to the cross—he utters words that must have been deeply surprising at the time, and still a surprise today. “Now is the Son of man glorified” (13:31). Really? As he is betrayed, the Son of Man is glorified? As he is vilified and falsely accused? As he is beaten and mocked? As nails are driven through his hands? As he dies on the cross—a place of excruciating (note the derivation of that word) torture and shameful despair? Yes, now Jesus is glorified.
Our concept of glory is so far removed from that of Jesus’ that it is hard for us to grasp what it is that he could have meant. But even in our own experience, we know something of this truth. The runner who stops short of the finish line to go back and help a fellow runner across the line, and as a result finishes last—that runner is glorified and memorialized. The soldier who gives his life for his comrades. The emergency responders who risk all to save a few. Such suffering, pain, and difficulty is indeed glorious because it is the necessary cost of rescues.
As the dust settles from the bomb blast of this truth, Jesus uses the pregnant pause to turn his attention to what he wants as the implication of all this for his disciples. And what is the implication, the application? Love. “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (13:34). How has Jesus loved us? Answer: at the cross, that is where his love is ultimately revealed and enacted. There he loved (past tense) because his action of love was completed and fulfilled and finished at the cross. It is in that way that we are called to love each other! No sentimental love this. No passing emotion. No quick easy words without the action to back up the rhetoric. All the blood and sweat and pain of the cross is the way—sometimes it will feel like this—that we are to love each other. Jesus has given us an example, one that we are to follow in the way we love each other in the Christian community.
Simon Peter, ever forward, ever bold, steps up and wants to know where Jesus is going (13:36). Clearly they have not yet understood what is going to happen. Peter follows up with a brave commitment to lay down his life for Jesus (13:37). Many a person has sworn an unerring devotion to Jesus in the midst of a passionate worship meeting, but has found that the true harsh reality of such devotion is less palatable than the warm emotion of a worship song. Not that we are not to swear devotion to Christ, but we are to count the cost so that when we are faced with the true cost of such commitment, we are ready to lay down our lives for the Lord. Instead, famously, Peter denied Jesus, and that not just once. Beloved, if you have denied Jesus, do not despair. Instead, come back to Christ, and he will embrace you, release you from guilt, and set you free once more to serve him today.
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