Thursday, April 2, 2015
Maundy (Holy) Thursday
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
23 For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
13 Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2 The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4 got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5 Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12 After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, 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 that is what I am. 14 So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16 Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17 If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32 If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33 Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
At the end of the gospel passage we just read, Jesus says that he’s giving the disciples a new commandment. It recently struck me what a funny thing that is for Jesus to say. It’s odd because the commandment that he gives sounds a great deal like another one he recently cited from Deuteronomy, which even back in Jesus’ day was nothing new. Jesus says here at the Last Supper to “love one another.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Jesus was asked by local religious leaders to tell them what the greatest commandment was and Jesus said, “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your strength.” And then Jesus went on to say that the second greatest commandment was to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
So what’s new about loving one another that Jesus says he’s leaving a new commandment with them? Clearly, Jesus has told the disciples on at least one occasion that loving others is an important mandate from God. What’s the difference between this one and “love your neighbor as yourself?” Why does Jesus say this is something new?
This time, Jesus changes the model after which they are to love one another. Before, he quoted scripture – a long-standing commandment of loving neighbor as you love yourself – but this time, Jesus is asking them to take it a step further. Now, he says, you aren’t just to love one another as you love yourselves, but love one another as I have loved you.
Love one another like the one who just knelt to wash your feet, dear disciples.
Love one another like the one whose body was broken like the bread at the meal for the sake of others, dear disciples.
Love one another like the one whose blood was spilled like wine for your sake, dear disciples.
And when you do these things. . . they will not go unnoticed.
We celebrate communion as a community to remember, to seal, to experience the love that Jesus showed us and in turn, we take that remembrance, that seal, that experience of love out into the world. That is how people will notice.
The difference that makes this new commandment new is that this is love that has Jesus as the model. We can’t really know God without Jesus Christ. There is only so close to real love we can get by our own effort. By our own effort, we might be able to often love our neighbors as ourselves, but to love one another as Christ loved us requires us to participate in the life of Jesus. The one who washed feet, who died for the sake of others.
We tend to prefer the “old” love commandment. The one where we love one another as we love ourselves. Human love is more comfortable. Human love says to make sure the other person has water with which to wash their feet. The love of Christ washes their feet for them. Human love says to go to great lengths for the well-being of other. Jesus’ love says to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of others. Human love gets a pat on the back for doing a noble thing. The love of Christ gets noticed as being something completely different. And this, says Jesus, is the mark of a true disciple – a mark visible to all of the people around you.
We will celebrate communion in just a few moments. This is not something that we do because it saves us. This is not something we do to be good Christians. This is something that we do as a sign and a seal of God’s grace – the grace that offered us wild, unfettered love – humble, serving love that went to the cross for us.
Love one another. Just as Jesus has loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are Jesus’ disciples, if you have love for one another.