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The following is an excerpt from Steve's Easter book from the Pilgrim Year book series.

BEHOLD, I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…

John the Evangelist

A new commandment I give you.
Love one another, as I have loved you.

Jesus

The following is a reflection on the Lectionary readings (John 13:31-35 and Revelation 21:1-6) for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year C).

“Love one another, as I have loved you” is the new commandment that Jesus gave in his farewell address to his disciples during the final hours before his death. He said this knowing that Judas was going off to betray him, Peter would soon deny him and the rest of the disciples would scatter. Before long, the disciples would be huddled miserably behind shuttered windows and locked doors, as if such things could hold back the darkness that threatened to consume them.

Had the disciples thought for a moment about Jesus’ curious choice of the word ‘commandment,’ they might have taken heart earlier. It might have dawned on them who was speaking. They had, after all, watched this man command the sea, and the sea had obeyed. These were cradle Jews; they knew from the Exodus story who commands seas with such authority. They were also heirs of a deep tradition of divine commandments, written by God’s own hand – commandments that would kickstart a radically new social experiment with no equivalent in the ancient world.

I suppose if I had been there, I wouldn’t have made the connection either. Would I have imagined that the same God who was shrouded in cloud and fire on Sinai’s heights would appear as this person I knew in such a homely state – a friend whom I had touched, whom I had watched sleep and eat and weep?

It is only John’s Gospel that records this unique commandment. It is said that the apostle John, in his old age, would endlessly remind those around him to love one another. When questioned why he told them this so often, his reply would be, “Because it is what our Lord commanded. If it is all you do, then it is enough.” (Karyn Wiseman, “Commentary on John 13:31-35” (April 28, 2013), www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1621). I love this apocryphal anecdote. As we learned for the feast of St. John the Evangelist on December 27 (see Pilgrim Year: Christmas), it was John who wrote the Gospel that has been called the “whispering forest of all traditional poetries.” (Hugh Kenner. The Pound Era (Faber & Faber, 1972), 521)

John’s account is not a history of events as much as a plumbing of the depth of meaning behind Jesus’ life and ministry. John is commonly thought to be the “beloved disciple” mentioned in his own Gospel. According to some scholars, the title of beloved disciple may not have been a term of endearment so much as an actual appointment. For it is thought that rabbis of the time would, before their deaths, choose from among their followers a “beloved disciple” whose charge it was to contemplate the rabbi’s teachings until long after his death, and then write an account of the deeper meanings of his life and work. This is what John seems to have done, writing much later and more searchingly than the other Gospel accounts. Only a man who has thought long and deeply could reduce the teachings of Jesus to such an elegant formula: Love one another. If it is all you do, then it is enough

St John the Theologian, writing the book of Revelation.
St John the Theologian, writing the book of Revelation. Source: www.ebyzantinemuseum.gr

The quality of newness with which John remembers the core commandment of Christ resonates with the newness echoing through the Book of Revelation, written by John in his own last days:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.”

Revelation 21:1-5

A new commandment, a new heaven and a new earth, a new city, resplendent as a bride adorned, presumably with the jewels of heaven – and a new way of thinking, for the disciples at least.

As New Testament scholar Barbara Rossing explains, “The promise of newness gives a radiant image of resurrection and renewal.” The promise is not to obliterate the old, but rather to renew the old as the heavenly city descends to the earth. “Contrary to popular apocalyptic thinking,” Rossing continues, “there is no rapture or future snatching of Christians up from the earth in Revelation. Instead, it is God who is raptured down to earth to take up residence among us.” (Barbara Rossing, “Commentary on Revelation 21:1-6 (April 28, 2013), https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1696)

This interpretation speaks of God’s astonishing commitment to his creation, and the promise of a time where love, as we understand it through the self-donation of Jesus, is the ordering principle of all earthly relations.

Someone once said Christians are no different than anyone else except they have been given a sneak peek into the last chapter of history and have been charged to give witness to that ending in the present moment in cooperation with God – the Alpha and Omega – who is indeed already making all things new.

Bear in mind that Jesus spoke this language of newness in the darkest of hours, as did his beloved disciple John. Any one of us may face similar days. May we remember that the trials we suffer have already been redeemed by the love present before the foundation of the world – the same love that will transform our frailty into glory at the end of time and that will be a new beginning. May we take heart.

BEHOLD, I MAKE ALL THINGS NEW (OMEGA)
by Alana Levandoski

Behold, I make all things new
Behold, I make all things new
Behold, I make all things new
I am the light
I am the light

Anything made manifest
Anything made manifest
Anything made manifest
Becomes the light
Becomes the light

Turn your face toward my face
Turn your face toward my face
Turn your face toward my face
Become the light
Become the light

Appears on the 2015 CD release: Alana Levandoski /Behold I Make All Things New

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