Filed under: Sermons | Tags: 31b-35, discipleship, John 13:1-17, maundy thursday
Knowing he was heading towards his death, Jesus shared one final meal with his disciples. Around this table, Jesus did and said strange things: last things: things to be remembered. Taking the place of a slave, Jesus knelt and washed his disciples’ feet, giving them a new commandment- to love one another as Jesus loves. Acting as host, Jesus took bread and wine, blessed and shared them, declaring that he has taken the place of these simple foods, that now they are his body and his blood, given for them.
In John’s gospel, the central event of the supper is Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet. In Jesus’ day, households had slaves or servants who did the dirty work. And it was dirty! One of the ways that people were welcomed into their friend’s homes was to have their feet washed by one of these slaves. Now, these aren’t people who have been driving clean cars and walking on soft carpeting or swept sidewalks all day. The disciples have been walking through a busy city with marketplaces, animals roaming the streets, and the dry dust coating their feet.
The only time I’ve experienced something similar is while studying in India. I had one pair of Chaco sandals that I walked everywhere in. Dust and dung, spit and trash, puddles harboring who knows what- I walked through it all. In the evening, when I returned to my room and removed my shoes, my feet, browned with grime, had white stripes of contrast, where my sandal straps had been.
Think of your feet like that, and then picture someone washing them. It would certainly be a refreshing and welcoming act. But I wouldn’t want my professor to have to do it, much less my Lord and Savior!
I can understand Peter’s objection when Jesus kneels before his feet. How could he let Jesus, respected teacher, promised messiah, son of God and worker of miracles, do something so dirty and degrading? How embarrassing, to let Jesus see and touch the residue of all the grossness his feet had walked through?
Yet, once Jesus tells Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me,” Peter is eager to receive this gift.
Are you? Are you ready to acknowledge the many places your feet have taken you? Are you ready to confess your sin? Are you ready to be deeply known by Jesus? Even to be known in your smelly, dirtiness?
Jesus has come from God to know you. This foot washing is a sign of how Jesus is intimately close to you. He knows well all you have touched and been through. Holding the dirt of those places in his hands isn’t enough. Jesus travels towards fuller experience of the human condition. He will move from washing dirty feet to betrayal, abandonment, suffering, and death.
Jesus comes to you to sustain you and give you life. Jesus washes you, welcomes you, and feeds you. Jesus does this for the whole world.
In Mark, Matthew, and Luke’s gospels, as well as in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, the central event of the supper is Jesus’ institution of what we now call Holy Communion. Here Jesus gives bread, saying, this is my body, and wine, saying, this is my blood. His body is soon to be broken and his blood soon to be poured out. Jesus will soon die. His death will nourish all disciples, sustaining them into a new life-giving relationship with God.
When we celebrate in remembrance of this last supper, we participate in God’s promise. Tonight, Brandon, Morgan, Olivia, Becca, Alexa, Natalie, and Alexis join us at the table to be fed by Jesus. Jesus serves us with his very body, blood, and life. These are Jesus’ gifts of love.
Jesus comes towards us, to love us and serve us, in our grimy condition.
As a church, we can easily forget the state that we are in when Jesus comes to us. As followers of Jesus, we are called to go out and meet people, serving them where they are. We go to people- and not just people who think like us or act like us or look like us. Not just people who are clean, or even those who want to become clean.
It’s popular in our culture, to think we need to bring people into church and teach them how to behave. Parents bring children to church to learn morals. We see the battles of well-meaning Christians who try to elevate the status of the Ten Commandments and display them in the public world. They hope that everyone will recognize and follow God’s laws. But being Jesus’ disciples is about more than making everyone outside the church look like our vision of what the inside of our church should be like.
Tonight, we hear Jesus giving the final word on being his disciple. Jesus focuses us on a new command. Preparing for his death, he wants to make sure we get one thing right. Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.” If we remember only one thing about Jesus and how to live as a disciple it is this: LOVE.
Love, as Jesus loves. Jesus makes very clear how we love like him. We love by stepping away from our rights, our control, our way of doing things. We give up power, preservation, and pride. We risk being betrayed, backstabbed, and burned. We even become willing to die. All to love each and every person. To know her fully, to be in deep relationship, to touch the grime of her life, and really, truly welcome her. To kneel in front of one others might judge our inferior. To serve him, give him dignity, and grant him life.
Love one another, love the other. Jesus first loves you. Jesus loves you through the washing of the disciples’ feet. Jesus loves you through the bread and the wine. Jesus loves you through his betrayal, arrest and death. Jesus has come, so that you would be loved, so that you would love.
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