The In-Crowd

Friday, December 27, 2013 – Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 97, 98 (morning) // 145 (evening)

Proverbs 8:22-30

John 13:20-35

Today we celebrate the feast of St. John, a member of the innermost of Jesus’ inner circles. Many readers of the Scriptures identify John as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” While the twelve disciples stood out from the crowds that followed Jesus, three of these disciples seem to have been especially close to Jesus: John, John’s brother James, and Simon Peter. Jesus chose these three to accompany him up the mountain to witness the Transfiguration and into Gethsemane to witness his agony.

How comfortable are we with the idea that Jesus had extra-close relationships with some disciples and not others? This image of Jesus with outer, middle, and inner circles of friends might trigger some of our social anxieties. We worry about whether we are part of the “in-crowd,” or whether we’ll be left on the fringes. As someone who moved to a new town just over a year ago, I know that I’ve spent time wondering whether and when I’ll develop the deep and close friendships that I value so much.

Jesus’ disciples might have struggled with the same concerns about their lives in community with others. Since Jesus is the revelation of our abundantly loving God, it’s a little disconcerting to realize that his capacity for deep, personal relationships was not infinite. It seems that Jesus’ humanity placed very real limitations on the type of love that he offered to his followers.

At the end of our gospel reading, Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment, “that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” Perhaps it comes as some relief that, when we offer the love that Jesus showed us, we aren’t asked to be inexhaustible sources of love for all people. Only God can offer that kind of love. In his human life, Jesus took time to cherish and nurture the relationships that were most precious to him.

The main scene from today’s gospel reading is a wonderful snapshot of that kind of love. John, our saint of the day, is “reclining next to Jesus.” Jesus says something a bit cryptic, and Simon Peter—another one of Jesus’ very close friends—motions to John to ask Jesus what he means. I can just picture the physical closeness and the gestures of Simon Peter that speak more clearly than words within this tight community. What a privilege to be in families, partnerships, and friendships that are so connected.

How is the risen Christ calling you to join the apostle John in his inner circle of intimate disciples? Who is Jesus calling you to love just as he loved us? The love that we have to offer each other in this life may be finite, but it is infinitely precious.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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