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Home » Daily Readings, New Testament Writers

Holy Wednesday: The New Covenant

Submitted by on Wednesday, 8 April 2009No Comment

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On the night of the Last Supper, when the hour of Jesus’ glorification has come, Jesus gives a new commandment to his disciples as his legacy. The giving of this new commandment is framed by two episodes that lend dramatic tension to Jesus’ words: the betrayal of Judas (John 13:21-30) and the prophecy of Peter’s denial (John 13:36-38). Below is an outline of vv. 31:35

31-32 The announcement of Jesus’ glorification
33 Beginning of the Farewell Discourse
34-35 the new commandment

Jesus’ Glorification. After Judas goes out to accomplish his act of betrayal, Jesus announces his glorification. In the Gospel of John, Jesus’ glorification is his being "lifted up" already announced in John 3. He will now return to the glory he had before "ever the world was" (cf. John 17:5). In John 12:23-26, Jesus had announced the arrival of the hour of his glorification and a voice from heaven confirmed it though it was not understood by those for whom it was meant (12:28-30). At that moment, he also gave his final invitation to the world (vv. 35-36;44-50). Within the context of his last meal with the disciples, Jesus announces his departure and assures his disciples that it will just be for awhile (cf. John 14:18-19)

Beginning of the Farewell Discourse. Jesus’ farewell discourse continues until the end of John 17. At the beginning of this speech, he refers back to what he already told the Jews on two occassions (cf. John 7:33-34,8:21). In 7:33-34, the Jews wondered at what he meant by "I am going away" (7:35). In 8:21, Jesus gave them a warning that they missed. Here, they wondered whether his going away meant that he will kill himself.

In John 7:33-34, the Jews missed the declaration that Jesus will go back to the One who sent him (7:33). In 8:21, the expression "Where I am going you cannot come" (8:22) will be clarified in John 10:18: "I will lay down my life of my own free will." And in 12:26, Jesus says that going where he goes is a privilege reserved for his servant whom the Father will honor.

The New Commandment. Jesus gives a commandment to his disciples before he leaves. The word used for "commandment" is entolh entole which is used in the Septuagint to translate several words that are related to the Law1.

In the Synoptics (Matthew 22:37-39; Luke 10:25-28; Mark 12:30-33), Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18 are used to enunciate the two greatest commandments. These two commandments not only put into proper perstpective the 613 precepts of the Torah but also describes for the Christian a life-style that goes beyond the righteousness of the Pharisee. Henceforward, love for God will not be separated from love of neighbor. In the context of John’s gospel, the commandment of love is new because the standard will be set by Christ himself:

There is no greater love than this:
that one lays down his life for his friend (John 15:13)

The words refer to Christ’s death on the cross, the act by which the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. It is also a moment in his "lifting up" and return to the Father. This love which is the sign of God’s love for the world (cf. John 3:16) is the love by which Jesus loves his disciples (John 15:9). That love will be the distinctive mark of his disciples (John 13:35), those who are "his own" (John 13:1)

This new commandment however is not to be understood as an imposition from without. "If you love me," Jesus says "you will keep my commandments" (cf. 14:15.23) Obedience to this new commandment is based on a personal relationship with Jesus. "You are my friends if you do what I command you … love one another" (15:14.17)


1See the use of entole in Psalm 118 (119), for example, which is the psalm dedicated to the Law. The word appears there in vv. 4.6.10.15.19.21.32.35.40.45.47.48.57.63.66.69 .78.86.87.96.98.100.104.110.115.127.128.131.134.139.143.159. 166.168.172.173.176.

John 13:21-30
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21When Jesus had said these things, he was troubled in spirit; and he testified, and said: Amen, amen I say to you, one of you shall betray me.
22The disciples therefore looked one upon another, doubting of whom he spoke.
23Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved.
24Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, and said to him: Who is it of whom he speaketh?
25He therefore, leaning on the breast of Jesus, saith to him: Lord, who is it?
26Jesus answered: He it is to whom I shall reach bread dipped. And when he had dipped the bread, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.
27And after the morsel, Satan entered into him. And Jesus said to him: That which thou dost, do quickly.
28Now no man at the table knew to what purpose he said this unto him.
29For some thought, because Judas had the purse, that Jesus had said to him: Buy those things which we have need of for the festival day: or that he should give something to the poor.
30He therefore having received the morsel, went out immediately. And it was night.
John 13:36-38
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36Simon Peter saith to him: Lord, whither goest thou? Jesus answered: Whither I go, thou canst not follow me now; but thou shalt follow hereafter.
37Peter saith to him: Why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thee.
38Jesus answered him: Wilt thou lay down thy life for me? Amen, amen I say to thee, the cock shall not crow, till thou deny me thrice.
John 17:5
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5And now glorify thou me, O Father, with thyself, with the glory which I had, before the world was, with thee.
John 12:23-26
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23But Jesus answered them, saying: The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.
24Amen, amen I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die,
25Itself remaineth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world, keepeth it unto life eternal.
26If any man minister to me, let him follow me; and where I am, there also shall my minister be. If any man minister to me, him will my Father honour.
John 14:18-19
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18I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you.
19Yet a little while: and the world seeth me no more. But you see me: because I live, and you shall live.
John 7:33-34,8
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8Go you up to this festival day, but I go not up to this festival day: because my time is not accomplished.
33Jesus therefore said to them: Yet a little while I am with you: and then I go to him that sent me.
34You shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither you cannot come.
John 7:33-34
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33Jesus therefore said to them: Yet a little while I am with you: and then I go to him that sent me.
34You shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither you cannot come.
John 10:18
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18No man taketh it away from me: but I lay it down of myself, and I have power to lay it down: and I have power to take it up again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
Matthew 22:37-39
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37Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.
38This is the greatest and the first commandment.
39And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
Luke 10:25-28
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25And behold a certain lawyer stood up, tempting him, and saying, Master, what must I do to possess eternal life?
26But he said to him: What is written in the law? how readest thou?
27He answering, said: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind: and thy neighbour as thyself.
28And he said to him: Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.
Mark 12:30-33
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30And thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. This is the first commandment.
31And the second is like to it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these.
32And the scribe said to him: Well, Master, thou hast said in truth, that there is one God, and there is no other besides him.
33And that he should be loved with the whole heart, and with the whole understanding, and with the whole soul, and with the whole strength; and to love one's neighbour as one's self, is a greater thing than all holocausts and sacrifices.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5
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4Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.
5Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole strength.
Leviticus 19:18
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18Seek not revenge, nor be mindful of the injury of thy citizens. Thou shalt love thy friend as thyself. I am the Lord.
John 15:13
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13Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
John 3:16
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16For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.
John 15:9
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9As the Father hath loved me, I also have loved you.
John 13:35
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35By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.
John 13:1
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1Before the festival day of the pasch, Jesus knowing that his hour was come, that he should pass out of this world to the Father: having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

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