First Reading: Acts 14:21-27
Second Reading: Revelation 21:1-5
Gospel: John 13:31-35
I looked at today’s Gospel as having three parts. The first part tells us about the Speaker. The second part is like the bridge in a song that leads to the final verse. The third part is a commissioning.
So, what does the phrase the “Son of Man”, which we would rightly take to mean “a human being”, tell us about Jesus? The first meaning of the phrase “Son of Man” is as a reference to the prophecy of Daniel 7:13-14, “As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed.” The description of “Son of Man” here is as a Messianic title. Jesus is the One who was given dominion and glory and a kingdom.
The second meaning of the phrase “Son of Man” is that Jesus was truly a human being. God called the prophet Ezekiel “son of man” 93 times. God was simply calling Ezekiel a human being. A son of a man is a man.
So, Jesus was in His essence God ─and─ Jesus was also in His essence a human being. Essence means the intrinsic or indispensable properties that characterize or identify something, without which it would not be what it is. In summary then, the phrase “Son of Man” means that Jesus is truly the Messiah and that He is truly a human being. So that is the first part if today’s gospel.
The second part gives us the setting in which Jesus is speaking as a bridge to the next part. Judas has just left the Passover Supper to alert the authorities of where to find Jesus, that is, just before the “Agony in the Garden”. Jesus knows the disciples lack understanding of a lot of what he has taught them, and addresses them saying, “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.’” Jesus knows he is going to be arrested, beaten and crucified. He knows his disciples will be disheartened so he gives them, the third part of today’s Gospel; Jesus commissions the disciples, and by extension us, to love one another. Jesus knows us ever so well and qualifies this love by stating, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Jesus is telling the disciples that he is willing to suffer pain and death for speaking truth to those holding religious and secular power because of his love for them─ and us.
Part of my ministry as a preacher it is to share insights as to how we can put the Word of God into action. For example, when Sarah told me that today, April 28th, is the National Day of Mourning for Workers Killed, Injured or Disabled on the Job Each Year, it didn’t make an impression on me. Then I heard about the garment workers that were killed in Bangladesh and saw it as an opportunity to share with you how we can put love into action.
In November 2012 a factory fire killed 112 garment workers yet clothing brands and retailers continued to reject a union-sponsored proposal to improve safety throughout the garment industry in Bangladesh.
Last Tuesday, Bangladesh, due to deep cracks appearing in the walls, police ordered the evacuation of a building in the Savar section of Dhaka, Bangladesh. But officials at the garment factories operating inside ignored the order and kept more than 2,000 people working. On Wednesday the building collapsed, killing more than 300 people.
These factory workers manufactured clothing for major clothing lines around the world, including the Canadian fashion brand and retail chain, Joe Fresh, a subsidiary of Loblaws Inc. We buy Bangladesh mass produced t-shirts for $10 at Loblaws and Superstore checkouts. For the $10 we pay for these impulse purchases, the workers in Bangladesh garment factories work 12 hour days, 6 days a week, and make only 18 cents an hour.
I present the situation in Bangladesh as an example of just one area where we can act on our love for one another. To be a follower of Jesus is to love enough to take the time to ensure that we do not contribute to the maltreatment of our neighbour, whether they are in Bangladesh or next door. We can take the time become knowledgeable justice-minded consumers. The Workers Rights Consortium (http://www.workersrights.org/) investigates garment factories and works to fight sweatshops and protect the rights of garment workers. The organization reports of the conditions of factories worldwide are available online. Consumers can search for reports by country or the brand of clothing manufactured there.
We can love enough to seek out companies that sell only fair trade or sweatshop-free clothing and consult ethical consumer guides. Love requires that we tell the companies and places where we shop, whether it’s Joe Fresh, Loblaws, Superstore or elsewhere, that we actually care about these issues and that we demand that the goods that we’re buying are made under safe conditions.
We would do this to show that we love as Jesus loved. We can claim faith to have faith but Jesus tells us that love is the measure by which we will be known as His; as Jesus says: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”