When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Translation: Then, when he had gone out, Jesus said, "Now the son of man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and immediately he will glorify him.
Little children, I am with you yet a little. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Judeans, 'Where I go, you are not able to come,' I say to you now.
I give to you a new commandment, that you might love one another just as I have loved you so that you also might love one another. By this, all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
Background and situation: The end of Jesus' life is near. The appearance of "some Greeks" in 12:20 appears to be the event which marks the approach of "the hour," which, in the fourth gospel, is a term used for Jesus' crucifixion. When these Greeks wish to see him, Jesus says, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified" (12:23).
At this point, the fourth gospel begins ratcheting up to new levels of intensity. The "hour" is a time of crisis. Jesus is "troubled" (12:27) but nevertheless asserts that he came precisely for the "hour" when he would be "lifted up" and "draw all" to himself (12:32).
In 13:1, the significance of the "hour" is stated explicitly. It is when Jesus will "depart from this world and go to the Father." He washes the disciples' feet (13:1-11) as an example (13:15) for the disciples to follow. Then, Jesus is again "troubled" (13:21), this time because he will be betrayed by Judas who has just "gone out". The fourth gospel tells us, portentiously, that it is night (13:30).
The glory of the "hour": Nevertheless, the "hour" is also the time of "glory." Jesus will die, yes, but in doing so, he goes to the Father and will be reunited with the Father. Thus, though it is night and the betrayer is loose, the fourth gospel breaks into "glory language." "Glorify"--doxazo--appears five times in two verses--three are past tense and passive, two are future and active.
Time is expressed paradoxically and expansively. The first use of doxazo--nyn edoxasthe--is "now was glorified." This brings what appears to be a past action into the present. The last one is euthys doxasei--"immediately will glorify." This seems to bring present something that will happen in the future. Thus, the "hour" of Jesus "glory" is not a mere past event, nor something future. The death and resurrection of Jesus is an ever-present reality.
A major theme of the fourth gospel is the close identity--indeed, mutual indwelling--between Jesus and the Father. In fact, sometimes, such as in this reading, Jesus and the Father are so close that it is not entirely clear which ones are conducting the action of the verbs, or which one is the recipient of the verb's action. The "glory" flows between Jesus and the Father--not only mutual indwelling, but mutual glorification!
Little children and Judeans:
Little children, I am with you yet a little. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Judeans, 'Where I go, you are not able to come,' I say to you now. I give to you a new commandment, that you love one another just as I have loved you so that you also might love one another. By this, all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
Jesus speaks with affection--this is the only use of "little children" (teknia) in the fourth gospel. This recalls the promise of the fourth gospel's prologue that those who "receive" and "trust" Jesus are given "power to become children of God" (1:12). This power comes from God, and not from ancestry or tribal affiliations (1:13).
Jesus then mentions the "Judeans", the fourth gospel's primary designation for the opponents of Jesus. ("Judeans" is a better translation of ioudaioi than "Jews." Ioudaioi did not refer to Jews per se until after the Bar Kochba revolt in AD 135, well after the writing of the fourth gospel.)
The fourth gospel is insistent that ancestry and tribal identity are not what makes one a "child of God." As it happens, the "Judeans" did believe that their status with God was as a result of their ancestral connections as children of Abraham (8:39-47).
The irony is that both the Judeans and his own disciples appear to be in the same boat. They will both "seek" Jesus. Wes Howard-Brook notes that "seeking" Jesus has, heretofore in the fourth gospel, been identified with Jesus' enemies. See 5:18, 7:1, and 7:34.
Yet here, both his "little children" and his Judean enemies "seek" Jesus. Where Jesus goes, however, neither his opponents nor his friends are able to follow. Why, on this point, is Jesus lumping his enemies together with his disciples? Howard-Brook:
The image the remark leaves behind is of disciples and Judeans both seeking Jesus but being unable to find him. Perhaps the sense is that even though the disciples' intention is not the same as the Judeans', the result of Jesus' going will be the same for both: bewildered inability to achieve the goal. Both his enemies and his friends will have to continue without his physical presence. (p. 311)
Love one another: Jesus then announces a "new commandment." His disciples are to "love one another." This is agape love, the most encompassing and radically accepting type. Exhortation of the disciples to love one another will also appear in 15:12 and 17 in nearly identical language to that which appears in 13:34-35.
In what way was this a "new commandment"? Had not Leviticus 19:18 also encouraged loving one's neighbor? Yes, but in that instance, the exhortation was to "love your neighbor as yourself." Here, the disciples are to "love just as I have loved you."
Jesus has just modelled the washing of feet. He called this an "example," and said that they "should do as I have done to you" (13:15). This was followed, however, by the defection of Judas. Even then, Jesus exhorts them not only to wash each other's feet, but also to love one another. (One wonders: Does this include Judas?) The purpose of loving each other is so that others may know that they belong to Jesus.
Can one be commanded to love? The verbs are in the subjunctive mood, but are typically translated as imperatives. This is not inappropriate, but it appears that translation as subjunctives might be better. The subjunctive mood has an element of contingency and conditionality, such as, in this case, "I have loved you so that you also might love one another."
True love requires moving beyond one's own egocentricity--one's self-centeredness, you might say. Since love involves the expansion of the ego to include the other and seek the best interests of the other, this can be confusing, especially if love is thought of in terms that support our ego's own perceived needs and wants.
Some people's love is not love at all, but dependence masquerading as love. For example, one may want to appear to be loving. They may already believe that they are loving. This is how they understand and define themselves.
Along comes someone who poses as needy. They may not really be needy--they may in fact be "help-rejecting complainers"!--but they present themselves as needy and understand themselves in that way. They are the perfect recipient of attention for the person who wants to appear loving.
The resulting relationship is likely not to be truly loving, but rather co-dependent. The former gets the appearance of being loving; the latter gets the attention they've been craving. What may appear to be a "win-win" is really a "lose-lose" because neither person's ego defenses or psychological superficialities have been confronted.
Another example would be parents who shower "love" on their child, while at the same time, for their own egocentric reasons, trying to protect that child from the harsh realities of life. Such a child has not experienced true love, but rather "learned helplessness." In the face of life's normal difficulties, they are likely to respond with helplessness and, often in the face of even mild difficulty, will seek someone stronger to lean on.
There are any number of ways in which people seek to maintain their own defenses, pretensions, and self-justifications--at least one for about every person on earth. We tend to "love" those who buy into our self-justifications, thereby letting us stay in our neurosis.
True love, however, is a product of maturity. Psychological maturity involves breaking open the hard shell of our egocentric defenses, standing on our own two feet, and meeting the events of our lives with creativity and courage. This is not done over-night. The path to maturity, and therefore to love, is a life-long process.
Image: The Washing of the Feet, Ghislaine Howard