Greatest Love

A personal reflection, based on John 13.21-32, preached with the people of Epiphany Episcopal Church, Laurens, SC, on Wednesday in Holy Week, April 17, 2019


From a human point of view, I always find it to be an incredibility, something beyond my reason, beyond my common sense that Jesus, knowing Judas was to betray him, allowed him to depart to fulfill his dastardly deed.
The Last Supper (La ultima Cena) (1786), Benjamin West (1738-1820)

Had I been Jesus, I would have said to my disciples, “Get him!” perhaps, “Kill him!” at the least, “Don’t let him leave!”

But Jesus, from a divine point of view of the destiny of redemption, knew that his death would fulfill the work of saving the world from eternal disaster. Jesus knew that in his dying and rising he would face and defeat death. For death would not, could not keep him dead. Thus, he spoke, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him.”

Reading on in the Gospel according to St. John, Jesus continues to prepare his disciples for his exodus, his departure from them, offering his greatest commandment: “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.”(1)

As long as I live and as long as I follow Jesus, this commandment remains. I am to love others. Any and all people. All of the time. In the mundane, even menial acts of service and, should an occasion demand, in great heroic, risk-taking, potentially life-losing sacrifice.

For, as for my Lord Jesus, so for me, his disciple, as precious as life is, dying to my life in this world isn’t the worst thing that can happen to me. Rather, I have come to believe, the worst thing that can happen to me is dying, which all must and will do, without a greater cause or purpose or love than myself.


(1) John 13.34-35

Illustration: The Last Supper, Benjamin West, 1786. Note: West’s portrayal of the Last Supper depicts Jesus, with bread in his left hand, having served the brooding, traitorous Judas Iscariot, who, hearing Jesus’ bidding, “Do quickly what you are going to do,” is on his way out to betray Jesus. Also, to Jesus’ left is the disciple “whom Jesus loved,” who, at the request of Peter (on Jesus’ right), has inquired of Jesus, “Who is it?” regarding the identity of the betrayer.

2 thoughts on “Greatest Love

  1. Paul,

    Thanks for writing what so many of us have thought!!! I love your thoughts on what you would have done were you Jesus. If I had been Jesus I would have run fast!!! Thankfully though, Jesus didn’t take any of the actions from our thoughts!

    The other focus of your reflection is so important, yet so difficult to do on a 24 hour 365 a year basis. LOVING everyone else sharing this earth with me ain’t easy…. but we should still make every effort to do so. When people I can’t easily love come on the radio or tv, I will typically change the channel so I can avoid a quick mood change… but during this Lent I’ve been so focused on my actions (ALL of them). So now instead of focusing on how quickly I can change the channel, I try my best to Listen and find ONE thing that I love about that person as a result of what I heard. Sometimes the only thing I can love is the fact that they didn’t talk more than 3 minutes. But other times there may be more substance to my love for them in that encounter.

    Thanks for the reminder that we should love others as ourselves….

    Much love!


  2. Yes, Lord, Loretta, this love-thing, loving others all of the time is a hard thing. Your comment about watching television and changing channels brings to my mind something I learned for myself a long time ago…

    Given that I’m an opinionated person, I long ago discovered that if I listened long enough to another person, which is one way of loving (by “listened,” I mean paying strictest attention to what s/he was saying and, thus, not considering my oft pre-formed, based on my beliefs and opinions, judgments of what s/he was saying), I would learn something new about that person, about life, and about myself. And as opinionated as I can be about preaching, I have learned that if I listen to another preacher, regardless of however s/he writes, speaks, etc., I will hear the gospel of Jesus.


    Liked by 1 person

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