Love Has True Power and Purpose
A famous speech of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on Jan 6, 1941 was “The Four Freedoms” speech (of speech, of religion, from want, from fear). These “Four Freedoms” were illustrated in Norman Rockwell’s art, and they are inscribed on the Roosevelt monuments in Washington DC and in New York City. Stated during the Second World War, these “Four Freedoms” described the purpose of the USA in entering the war against Japan. It was not to seize power. The “Four Freedoms” speech was or became a treasured description of American goals, functions, and values.
In the Gospel reading today (John 18:33-37) we have Pilate asking, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (v 33). John (v. 36) records Jesus’ response to the title ‘King’. Jesus there empties and changes the meaning of the word. Jesus’ reign is not of this world. What does that mean? Surely, it means that there and then Jesus did not wish to seize or assert the right to power, or unilateral authority over people. Although we must keep in view that in the conclusion of time, all authority is delivered to “one like the Son of Man” (Daniel 1).
At any rate, Jesus there and then described his reign in terms of goal, function and (v. 37) purpose– the power of love and of truth: “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” It is not the love of power, but the power of truth and of love. By contrast with Pilate and his kind, Jesus’ purpose is that:
-God has sent me into the world in eternal love for the world
-to bear witness
-to the truth
He is the “faithful witness” of Revelation 1. In this dramatic scene in the final act of this Gospel, John presents one of the clearest statements of Jesus about himself in all of the trial scenes.
GOD HAS SENT JESUS INTO THE WORLD IN LOVE FOR THE WORLD
Why has God sent Jesus into the world? Why does God send Jesus to give his very body? How does John see this? God has made the world through Jesus (c.1) and does not condemn the world, but loves it (3:16). John records that Jesus said that he gives life (6:33) and light (8:12) to the world. John tells us that Jesus gives his very body to rescue the world. In the face of the hatred of the world (7:7) Jesus rescues the world from its ruler, from anti-Christ (1 Jo 5:19), from the evil one, and does so effectively (12:31). John reminds us of Jesus’ conscious self giving by the Greek word tetelestai, ‘It is finished, and my mission is complete!’ (19:30) and Jesus himself hands over his spirit to God. But our work is not complete, for it is by means of Jesus’ very body that Jesus is incorporate in us, and we in Jesus, and one in another in him. Through us the world knows that God sent Jesus (17:23).
TO BEAR WITNESS
To witness to something is not to persuade people about it, but to simply describe, by our words and life, what we have seen and experienced. If we hope to see justice in our community and country, the first step is to ensure that our own lives are a song of justice.
God’s word is truth (17:17), and Jesus is God’s Word, or is the supreme expression of God’s word (1:1-14). The Holy Spirit inspires the scriptures (beginning with the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings) and through them conveys this ‘Word’ of God. Jesus does not argue for his new philosophy, but bears witness to God and God’s truth that he heard from God (8:26). The truth fills Christ (1:14), he is the truth (14:6), as is the Spirit (1 Jo 5:7). The truth will makes us free (8:32), and it enables us to hear Jesus’ voice and come to him (18:37). As we learn to hunger and thirst for truth, we will recognize the face of Jesus, and the sound of his voice. The truth now abides in us (2 Jo 1:2), and we work with Jesus (3 Jo 1:8). Our love for one another is the outcome and the evidence of this having happened (1 Jo 3:19).
One concrete expression of this follows: Dana Wu, a parishioner of St Mary the Virgin, Chappaqua NY wrote an article titled “Kaiser rolls in Bedford Hills”. Dana describes a parish ministry in Bedford Hills (Women’s) Correctional facility. The authorities allow an hour for children to be with their incarcerated mothers. During that hour, parishioners from St Mary’s help decorate the meeting room and set up a buffet there involving kaiser rolls. In this way, the moms can make lunch for their children during that precious hour for them to be together with their children… for the months and years until finally the hour of the mom’s release arrives.
This Bedford Hills scene somehow captures and reflects a greater truth — the nature of the love of Jesus coming into the prison of our existence, feeding us with the love that comes through Jesus and his people, until the hour of our release. For all of us are or have been captives to sin; sin so serious that it required not just a period of incarceration, but that it required God’s Son to die to rescue us.
“Everyone who belongs to the truth hears my voice,” says Jesus. Let us have our ears open or opened by the grace of God to listen to and hear Jesus’ voice. Let us thank God for the purposes of Jesus made effective in our life.
In deed and in word, let us share our experience of that truth and that love with others who are suffering around us. They may be suffering perhaps in sickness, loneliness or despair; in captivity, in want, or (especially at this time) as refugees. Let us hear and become God’s word of love and truth to them.
In the name of Christ, Amen.