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 will glorify him at once. 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: 31-35 (NRSV)
What are we to make of Jesus’ passion and death?
The leader chooses to take basin and towel in hand,
to bow down as a servant to wash the feet of his followers.
We might describe the poignancy of the task
and the meal he shared as anticipatory grief
for the gospel writers let us know the intentionality
with which each moment of the evening is observed.
A simple meal is given new meaning
through the charge to remember in its repetition.
And then, they move on,
out into the gathering darkness of the night,
to face the darkness of the world mired in sin.
As he has so often on a mountain or by the sea,
Jesus stops to pray, this time in a familiar garden.
It is an olive grove hundreds of years old
that will go on for generations to come, even to this day.
He is not alone. The disciples are nearby,
but he feels the abandonment of those who betray and deny him,
who cannot or will not watch with him.
It is the loneliness he has experienced in observing the least, the lost,
those who have been rejected and misunderstood.
These are the ones for whom he will stand trial.
In the courts, he stands alone, endures the taunts of the crowd
who sneer at one who claims power, a strength
that is not defined by greed – enforced by any means.
He stands silent as they mock him and inflict brutal pain.
He bears the despair of those whose hope is dim,
who are not valued but rather used and abused.
He is mourning for the world that cannot see or understand
that in all creation are other real living beings loved by God and worthy of care.
He chooses to confront injustice in its most stark and raw form,
exposing just what it is, a lie that assigns blame to the innocent.
The choice he makes in laying down his life is done in the hope
that holding up a mirror to humanity will reveal the senseless suffering.
His greatest desire is that all will grasp the immensity of this gift of grace
and be inspired to another way of living.
And so we remember and pray for strength to listen, to hear, to look,
and to resist turning away from that mirror held up for us
so we might learn once again to live as he taught,
loving God, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.