John’s Gospel of Unity amidst divisions
The unity between Jesus and His disciples are modeled on this Father-Son relationship. In John 13, Jesus explains and sets an example for unity when He, in an act of service, washes the feet of his disciples: “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me” (John 13:8).
By Sr. Johncy SMI
It is remarkable that our country is a home for all the major religions, many cultures, languages, and political ideologies. Yet, there exist disparity between the rich and the poor. Religious fundamentalism, gender discriminations, and educational differences still haunt and hurt the unity of the people. In such a context, how can the prayer of Jesus for unity “that they may be one” (John17:21), be an inspiration and model for us today?
The oneness, for which Jesus prayed for, is the very unity that Jesus had with the father. “As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me”(John 17: 21).In the first chapter of the Gospel itself, the Evangelist tells us that the Father and Son, are distinct, and have the same divine “nature,” and “essence.” Jesus is always in the bosom of the Father (John 1:1–2, 18). Jesus says that He and the Father are one, and this unity is assumed throughout the Gospel (John 14:10; 17:22; 10:38). When people hear the ‘words’ of Jesus, they have heard the ‘words’ of God (John 14:10), and when they see the ‘works’ of Jesus, they have seen the ‘works’ of God (John 5:17; 19–20).
The unity between Jesus and His disciples is modelled on this Father-Son relationship. In John 13, Jesus explains and sets an example for unity when He, in an act of service, washes the feet of his disciples: “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me” (John 13:8). Jesus washes us through His death on the cross, thus uniting us with the Father. Therefore, the death of Jesus was a death that unites humanity to the Father, a life-giving one, death for others. This self-giving death of Jesus is the greatest sign of His love, a love that made His followers His friends. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). It is this love that reconciled and united the whole world to the Father.
The Gospel of John presents before us such a community whose members are comprised of all categories of people. There is a consistent balancing of female and male characters. In the narration of their encounters with Jesus, the Gospel presents moments of faith in which Jesus invites, challenges and confirms individuals in their call to discipleship and their role in leading others to Him. In their faith-journey, Jesus calls them disciples (John 8: 31), friends (15:15), and little children (13:33). These titles reveal the intimate love of Jesus for them. The unity between Jesus and them is like the unity between the vine and the branches (15:4–8).
The disciples are given this same means to bring unity and love in the world: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34). The greatest sign of this love is a life-giving death. This can be done at least by serving them selflessly regardless of religion, caste, creed, and gender, especially to the most vulnerable of the society on a daily basis. For, everyonewhobelievesinJesusisendowedwiththis mission of transmitting and safeguarding the same unity among the people: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21).
Loving all people as ‘Jesus has loved’ will break the hostile divisions among all people. It will unite humanity as one under the banner of love. This inherent unifying force of the gospel makes it different from all other narratives by Matthew, Mark and Luke. As we read the Gospel of John—a Gospel of faith, love and unity—may it inspire us for love and unity that can destroy all types of divisions and the hostile agents of disunity and hatred in our society.
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