If it’s not about Love, it’s not about God!
Chapters 13-17 of John describe the Last Supper. It is, therefore, the night before Jesus will be executed by the Empire. In chapter 13 Jesus washes the disciples’ feet as a sign of the kind of life they are to continue to live after he is gone. He has come from God and is returning to God. He comes from Love and returns to Love. And in these chapters, he is assuring them that the Life of Love – love of God and love of neighbor – they have experienced walking with him these three years together will continue. “Little 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.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. 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.” (John 13:33-35) We come from love, we return to love and love is all around.
Peter, of course, wants to follow him home, to the dwelling place of God’s eternal love for all persons and all of creation. You cannot follow me now, says Jesus. I need you to remain in the world but not of the world. I need you. I need you to walk in the way of Torah, in the way of God’s Word, in my way, the way of Love for one another and all others. Don’t you remember, Peter: You are to Love God with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength. AND, Love your neighbor as I Love you, as God my Father Loves me. After all, you know where I am going. Then comes chapter 14, a source of endless trouble and misunderstanding. Thomas, the one who insisted on seeing the Risen Lord himself, the one who upon seeing him proclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”, that Thomas, says, “Lord, we do not know the way, we do not know the road, we do not know the path.”
To which Jesus says, “Sure you do, Thomas. I Am. I Am the path, I Am the truth, I Am Life – the Life that is the Light of the World!” The path, the road that leads to truth and life would have reminded his Jewish audience of halakha, “the way one walks.” Richard Swanson likens this to the Lakota people who talk about “walking in the sacred manner,” that is, the way that human beings were created to live. Halakah means walking in the ordinances, the commandments, the way, the path, the road of Torah living, which this Jesus summarizes as “loving God and loving neighbor.” It is nothing less than The Way of God. If it is not about Love it is not about God! [Richard Swanson, Provoking the Gospel of John, p.315]
It is not about some exclusive road to walk in the sacred manner. It is about the particular way in which the community of Jesus is called to walk. There are no claims to superiority, exclusivity or any other kind of special place in God’s universe. It is all about what we are to be doing when after tomorrow he is dead and hanging on a Roman cross. Love those neighbors.
When asked, “Who is our neighbor?” Jesus, a real shrewdie replies with a story. A person is attacked on the road and left for dead. A priest walks by, a Levite walks by, a lawyer walks by, but a Samaritan stops and provides health care and healing for the person. Three Israelis walk by and a Palestinian stops to help the person. Hillary Clinton lies beaten on the side of the road and the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee walks by, a Democratic Senator walks by, and then Donald Trump comes along and says, “I will enact an affordable care act to take care of you and all others in need!” Which one is the neighbor he asks? You get the picture, yes?
The disciples have been walking on this road, following him, he who is the human face of God, for three years. Yet, now Philip, the one, you recall, to whom some Greeks came and asked, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus!” – now this same Philip asks Jesus, “Hashem, show us the Father.” Jesus must have sighed, a long, exhausted and frustrated sigh. How many times must I go over this, Philip. I AM in the Father, Elohim, YHWH, the one who said, “Light!” and there was light and life and love. You have been with me all this time, you have seen the works: the blind receive vision, those who are broken we bind up, those who are hungry we feed, those who are thirsty receive drink, those who have sinned are forgiven, those who are strangers are welcomed, refugees are given safe haven, prisoners are visited and comforted. If you cannot trust me, if you cannot trust the Father, trust in the works themselves. Because if you do trust in the works themselves, you will do the works that I do, and the one who trusts in the works and is faithful toward me will do greater works than these! And why? How? Because I AM going to the father. I Am returning to the dwelling place of the Father’s eternal Love. Because I am leaving you, you, all of you, every one of you and all of you together will do greater works than these!
He is not leaving them, he does not leave us, alone and helpless in this world of deep darkness. The Way they have walked with him continues in them, in us, in all who trust in the works themselves. His departure does not signal an end to the Way in which they have lived with him, but rather a beginning of continuing to live this Way, which is none other than that Way that Loves God and Loves Neighbor – all neighbors, most especially those beyond the community of God’s eternal Love. Because if it is not about Love – a love that accepts and welcomes and cares for all persons and all creation – then it is not about God!
The Word, the logos, must be weary of trying to explain this to them, to us, to the world. The logos in Jewish texts often is Torah – the commandments, the Way of God. And the logos in this text is Jesus. So, if the logos is Torah and Jesus, then the whole sense of being faithful and trusting of Jesus begins to make sense. Christians tend to read this as evidence that they alone have real access to God and God’s Love. Yet, Jews like Jesus and Paul speak freely of Torah as the path to God on which even non-observant gentiles and even atheists may already be walking as well. Torah is as basic as gravity. How can you supersede gravity? So, think of Jesus as the gravity that draws people and all things to God and God’s Torah and a life of halakha.
This world Jesus speaks of is God’s world. It is not a Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or any other kind of world. He has come from Love and returns to Love so that we might be the Love that is all around all the time everywhere for everyone. Those who can understand this and trust it in any way possible will continue the works, “and greater works than these will you do!”
It is no wonder so many Christians try to focus exclusively on being the Way rather than taking on the responsibility to do “greater works than these.” Jesus is not asking simply for belief or faith. He wants action. He wants works of Love. Anyone can say he or she believes or has faith. But, says Jesus, if you truly wish to be with me and in me you will continue the works themselves, and greater works than these. No doubt he is still waiting for Thomas, Philip and all of us to get it. How weary he must be of saying this. How patient he is just waiting for us to get with the program, the movement, The Jesus Movement, the Way of Torah, the way of halakha, the Way of God’s eternal Love! I can hear him sighing right now. Can you? When will we walk upon this Earth in the Sacred Manner? This is what he is still asking. What will we do?