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Jesus' Words after the Last Supper: Chapter 6


Reviewing the Talks

We have now read closely all of Chapters 13 to 17 of John's Gospel, which relate to Jesus' words and actions on Maunday Thursday before His meeting with the armed party sent to arrest Him that night.

We have analyzed in great detail Jesus' words following His washing of His disciples' feet and seen that in it He clearly «explains» this action. He also explains to the disciples the importance of His coming actions. And so He prepares them for what is to come in the following day or so. He also prepares them for His coming back to them, foretelling them that they will witness the fact that He will rise from the dead. He also prepares them for their task of taking over from Him, of preaching His message to others.

Jesus insists that to be a disciple, a human must be ready to follow His commands, and His alone. She must have faith in Him, which means first having faith that God is He Whom Jesus said He Is: her (as well as everybody else's) Loving Father; second, that Jesus was sent by this Loving Father to be every human's role model, the One she has to follow when she has to choose how to live her life.

Jesus' way of living, the one to be copied by anyone who wants to be His disciple, is especially made public, explicit, or, as the Gospel author says, «glorified», by the actions - or lack of same - that come just before and just after these words.

She must first copy His actions of devoted and loving service examplified in the washing of His disciples' feet - and those included Judas', whom Jesus knew was going to betray Him. She must also copy His reactions in the face of our world order, a world of violence, political and religious condemnation for false crimes and apparent sins, in the face of moral and physical torture and degrading public execution. In other words, she must become like Him, Who was at peace with Himself, God Father and also the world. She must become like Him, Who was always loving and always forgiving towards all and sundry. Jesus again and again insists that His orders are simply to love everyone whatever the circumstances and that this is the way that God is «glorified», made public for Who He is.

In none of His three «talks» is there a single mention of ceremonial, religious or otherwise; nor of excluding anyone for any reason whatsoever. For Jesus, loving God Father simply means following His order to love all others. He does not add anything else to this. So why do so many insist in doing so? Do they not believe Him Who is God Incarnate? Is His word not good enough? Do they know so much better than Him? Who after all is God, they or Him?

This love for all and sundry is not something easy to live; refusing anger, hate, murder, does not come easily when we are used, abused and attacked, or when our loved ones are. Strongly do we feel compelled to act in self-defence, to protect ourselves, our property, and, first and foremost, our loved ones. This is a reaction that comes to us naturally, instinctively. And as strongly do we fell compelled to act to defend our way of life, our justice, our community, our country. This is natural, this is the way we are from birth. This is in our genes and in the way we are brought up, whatever the country, whatever the culture (at least as far as I know).

There is no doubt that instinct plays an important part in our lives; we could be said to be «wired» to react to violence by violence, trying to save our family and ourselves. More than that, our morality and our advanced legal system based on this morality both affirm our legitimate right to self-defence. But Jesus states categorically that all this is under the rules of this world order and not in accord with the Kingdom of God. These rules, Paul says, are the ones followed by the «old man», that «man» that in the Christians should have died with Christ on the Cross. The «new man», he says, is one who follows Jesus' example rather than her instinct, and so reacts to violence with love and serenity. Such a person is indeed a «new creation», one who does not follow her natural instincts, one who has been recreated by God Father in the image of His Son.

What makes following Jesus' example somewhat easier to endure is the fact that those who do so are promised a new Life in God, a new Life whose very existence is proven by Jesus being alive though dead. It follows that death is not the end for Jesus' followers: they who followed His ways in life will continue to follow Him after death, living His new Life. Jesus' resurrection not only vindicates Him and so proves that God is He Whom Jesus said He Is, and that He, Jesus, is His Word; it also proves that this new Life is something that His disciples will experience themselves as Jesus has so promised. God by raising Jesus from the dead, vindicates all the promises Jesus did make, including that He will come and take His disciples with Him to His Father's house.

«I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.»1 is again the crux of the matter. It is only by following the example of Jesus' life than one comes to the Father, to this new Life after death. All other lifestyles are useless. This is again a statement found over and over in the New Testament, but usually understood to mean a lot of things rather than the example just mentioned. Jesus never judged; He always forgave; He always loved, He never boasted; He lived poorly; He shared what He had with others; He helped out by His teaching and by His healing. He was not really violent; He did not force on people lots of rules and regulations to follow. On the contrary, He told them that His yoke was easy and His burden, light.

It is interesting to note that Jesus' disciples only came to live according to Jesus after His resurrection. His words were not sufficient; they needed His ultimate example, and they also needed the proof that He indeed was from God, and so spoke the Truth. But there is more: they needed His August Breath, God Father's Helper, the One Who helped them to become Jesus-like. They needed this Breath emanating from God Father, this Breath of Jesus, of Love, Life, and Faith in God Father. They needed to be transformed in Jesus' image by this Peaceful Breath Who told them that death is the way to God Father's loving embrace for those who live according to God Father's commandment of love.

Once «armed» with this Breath, the disciples had the required confidence to face this word order's forces head on, to tell its representatives that they were dead wrong, and face the consequences. This Breath from God Father gave them the audacity to state categorically to all who wanted to hear that this world order's value system is totally wrong. This Breath gave them the courage to face privations, persecutions, torture and death just like their Lord and Master. This Breath actually made them like Him, and made them notice this very fact, as well as made them want to become more and more so.

So we can see the importance of the parable of the vine. Jesus' words and His Breath permit the disciples to be fruitful and so be a living part of the vine that He is. Indeed, how can she be a branch of the vine if she does not produce grapes, the fruits that vines produce? She can be part of Christ only if she produces the same fruits as Him, if she follows Him in His words and in His deeds.

Of course, Jesus had to live His final hours and ultimately His death to provide His disciples with the ultimate example that they must follow. His death also permitted Him to bring about the ultimate proof He told the Truth: His resurrection. His death forced His disciples to take over from Him, something they could not do without starting to breathe His Breath of Life and by so doing, become more and more like Him in His union with God Father.

Jesus makes very clear that this world order is in no way compatible with God Father's Kingdom. This is of course obvious as the first is based on violence while God Father's Kingdom is based on love. It is only those who are like God Father who can share His Life, His Identity: you cannot become assimilated to God if you hate, as He does not; you cannot become assimilated to God if you find faults with others, as He does not. God is Love. This is why He is Father.

It should be clear from what has just been said that expressions like «being born again» and «having received the Spirit» have to do with this abandonment of our instincts in favour of Jesus' Law of Love. These expressions have nothing to do as such with speaking in tongues or prophetizing or anything else. It is also clear that those who do not at least try to live according to Jesus' way are not «born again»; in fact, it is quite doubtful that they have understood Jesus' message at all.

We hear so often people referring to the «Judeo-Christian ethic», described as the basis of our Western societies. I have a real problem with this terminology, not that this will have any effect on it use, as it is well anchored in our language and in our traditions. It is a fact that what is referred to as the «Judeo-Christian ethic» can be shown to be at the base of the world order as lived in most Western countries as it is at the base of their legal systems. The problem is that this ethic is not based on Jesus' teachings as He categorically stated that we are never to judge others, that we have to be of service to everyone, good or bad, and forgive everyone, good or bad.

Those who talk about the «Judeo-Christian ethic» mention the fact that Jesus did say that we were to follow the Ten Commandments. This is indeed true. But He never said that we had a duty or even a right to force these on others. In fact, Jesus never said that we had any rights. Jesus only said that those who claim to be His disciples had the obligation to follow His commandment of Love for all and sundry. And again, He never said that His followers had either the right or the duty to impose such a commandment on others.

That, of course, does not mean that we as Christians are not to proclaim Jesus' message; of course we are. But the most important way to preach Jesus' message is by living it oneself. How can we possibly ask others to follow a message that we do not?

I would like to point out that I am here merely trying to express in my words what Jesus has said, to paraphrase it and to see how it can be applied. I am a lay person, at the very bottom of the Church's hierarchy and so I have no policy to defend, no historical decisions to uphold. I am basically trying to understand what God says in the Gospels and in the other New Testament texts. I am offering to whoever is interested the results of my studies and insights. That is all. That is enough. It is to the reader to decide if this is true to Jesus' message, and if it can be of some personal use.

To go back to the Apostles, they were commissionned to go and preach the Good News that God is Love, that God is Father, that our sins are forgiven as a matter of course, that God Father wants us with Him for all eternity. They did not force their way of life down anyone's throat. They gave the message. They answered questions, they told the truth about Jesus, about what was done to Him and His resurrection. They told people what is right and what is wrong, and that doing what is right matters. This they did just as Jesus did, as it helps us for our future life in God. But they did not judge - in the sense of punish - those they talked to, as well as the authorities, as Jesus did not.

Some of them suggested ways of living our life on this earth, but they usually managed to resist the temptation of imposing them on those who wanted to become disciples. And when some of them tried to impose on the disciples Judeism with its Laws and Regulations, Paul affirmed categorically that this was exactly opposite to Jesus' message, and argued his point convincingly. He stated that Jesus brought freedom from rules and regulations, not slavery to them. Indeed, Jesus made it abundantly clear that all that mattered was to love God and our fellow humans.

Of course, with the name Christian comes obligations: we are to love each other and to be one in this love. If we refuse to live that way, we are an object of scandal, as we are confessing by our actions that to be a Christian is not to love everyone, either friend or foe; that to be a Christian is not to be one with all the other humans: we are proclaiming a lie, a message that is totally against Jesus' message. Surely, we do not want that. It is our duty as Christians to be the Manifestation of God on earth, His Epiphany, by living as Jesus commanded us, as God Father's children.

1 John 14:6b

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Solemnity of the Epiphany of Our Lord, January 6th, 2008

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