As is so often the case, the context of our Gospel reading today helps us discover its deeper meaning. The Gospel begins with the sentence, “When Judas had gone…” It was clear to Jesus at that point what was about to unfold. So his advice to his disciples at that moment was significant; that what was about to happen would glorify God. Amazing really, that the betrayal, conviction, torture and eventual death of Jesus would somehow glorify God….
Jesus knew that these things would cause dismay and consternation among his followers, and that his going away would be a further blow to them. And so he addresses them, for the first and only time, as his ‘little children’ as he gives them a new commandment, that they love one another.
The commandment to love was not new to the Jewish people, Gods will that we should live lives of love did not begin with Jesus. What then was ‘new’ about this commandment? Surely it was that the type of love Jesus was asking of us was a love perseveres even when it costs us. That our love should not only be for those who ‘deserve’ it, but that we should love as Jesus himself did, with a sacrificial love.
Its only this love will build up the kingdom, its only through this sacrificial love that “others will know that you are my disciples.”