Text: John 13:5-17,33-35
April 9, 2020
5 Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” 8 Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” 10 Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12 So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 “For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16 “Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. …33 “Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This passage is the basis of Maundy Thursday. The word ‘Maundy’ comes from the Latin for ‘command’ or ‘commandment’ and it is in THIS story, on Thursday night before his arrest and crucifixion, that Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.” (v.34) That’s the ‘Maundy’ part – that you love one another. Jesus doesn’t leave us wondering what he means by “love one another.” He says that it is “even as I have loved you.” This is how people will know you belong to me, and if you belong to me, this is what you need to do – your new commandment, your ‘Maundy,’ your mandate – love others like I love you.
Jesus had also just given an example to help his disciples, and us, understand. The chapter opens by saying that Jesus loved his disciples to the end, then shares the story of the foot-washing. It was surprising, even shocking. It was the act of a host or a servant, not a revered Teacher (much less Messiah!). But that was just what Jesus wanted to demonstrate. When we look at all four Gospels and piece together the events of that night, it appears that the disciples had been arguing about which of them was most important, which was “the greatest.” And then Jesus sets an example for them. And it’s an example that he will make clear is his Maundy expectation, his new command of love.
This is what love looks like: it notices the other; it empathizes and sympathizes and responds to the need and the situation; it offers help appropriate to the situation – not just enough to get by, but a gracious and sometimes even extravagant outpouring of care. It is not governed by station or race or class or any other worldy framework, but by our desire to embody and show the heart of Jesus. Jesus asks, “Do you know what I have done to you?” He has acted out a living sermon; he has acted out his new commandment; he has set an example: love one another as I love you.
We’ve been focused on “returning to God” for the last several months. Here Jesus lays out what that looks like.
If you have known the love of God through Jesus and you extend that love, that service, that hospitality, that welcome to others, you are blessed. Just to be clear, you won’t be rewarded with a gold star or three guaranteed answered prayers; that IS the blessing. You are loving as Christ loves; that is the blessing. And that extends God’s blessing to others. That’s God’s best for you and for others; that’s what God desires; that’s what Christ commands. Amen.