Psalm 122; 1 Kings 7:1-33; John 13:31-38

Psalm 122: Ancient cartographers drew their maps with Jerusalem at the center of the world. This psalm provides good evidence of why this was so. It is a song sung by pilgrims coming to Jerusalem to worship God: “I rejoiced in those who said to me: “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”” And this can happen only in Jerusalem, “”where the tribes go up.” (4)

There is a very real sense of something extremely special that happens when pilgrims anticipate crossing over the threshold into the city: “Our feet were standing / in your gates, Jerusalem.” (2) This is unlike any other place in the world.

Jerusalem is not only where God resides, but it is also the political center, where power resides, for “there the thrones of judgment stand, the thrones of the house of David.” (5) And unlike virtually ever other ancient city; Jerusalem’s special status continues today. It has been fought over for millennia and it remains the center of Judiasm, and Islam claims its special place, not to mention it is the city where the Holy Spirit descended on that band of disciples and apostles following Jesus’ death and resurrection.

And it is still the nexus of political battling, that makes the prayer included in this psalm not only pertinent but heartbreaking:

May there be well-being within your ramparts,
tranquility in your palaces.
For the sake of my brothers and my companions,
let me speak, pray, of your weal.
For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,
let me seek your good.

1 Kings 7:1-33: While the Temple only took seven years to build, Solomon takes thirteen to build his own house. Which includes of the House of the Forest, the Hall of Pillars, the Hall of the Throne, and his own residence  “in the other court back of the hall, ” as well as as separate residence for his Egyptian wife. As we just read in the psalm, Jerusalem is both where God resides, but it is also the center of political and temporal power. Clearly, through these magnificent structures, Solomon made a statement to the rest of the world that Israel was wealthier and more powerful than all the other nations and that these buildings were ample proof that Jerusalem truly was at the center of civilization.

Not only buildings, but furnishings., especially the bronzework made by Hiram of Tyre, all described in loving detail by our author. The bronze and copper molten sea,” a laver that was 15 feet in diameter and 7 1.2 feet high, resting on 12 bronze oxen, must have been particularly impressive.

When we realize that I Kings was written during the exile in Babylon, we can only imagine the author writing with a mix of passion and bitter nostalgia of what had been and was never to be again.

 John 13:31-38: Judas has “gone out,” and only the band of true disciples remains in the room. Jesus is making it clear that his end is near, “I am only with you a little while longer.” And then the rally bad news, “Where I am going, you cannot come.” Which for me is a reference to the entire chain of events that will be occurring over the next few days, ending finally at his ascension. But in his impending absence, Jesus gives the disciples something that will fill the void of his physical absence: love.

Loving each other is not just a suggestion; it is a commandment. I forget this a lot. Because as a commandment, it means we are to love the unloveable, and worse, to love those who are our enemies. In this regard, Jesus turns the world upside down with this simple single commandment. Even those who don’t accept Jesus died and was resurrected, are forced to confront the absolute truth of this commandment. They cannot deny the verity and wisdom of what Jesus is commanding.

And of course our collective inability to truly carry out Jesus’ command is exactly the proof of why Jesus came to earth, lived, died and rose again. As Jesus is about to demonstrate, that is where a greater love than any other human has been able to accomplish. Because what Jesus is about to do is the highest expression of the love of God.

But Peter, being Peter, completely ignores what Jesus has just said about love. His steel-trap mind got stuck on why he can’t accompany Jesus and his fierce loyalty to his leader. And Jesus effectively tells Peter (and us) that absent the love that he has commanded our desires and intentions, Like Peter’s, are hollow. But I also know this: I would have responded exactly as Peter. And I would also have denied Jesus–as I have done so frequently in my life.

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