April 17, 2003 - Maundy Thursday
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that the time had come to leave this world to go to the Father. Having loved his dear companions, he continued to love them right to the end. It was suppertime. The Devil by now had Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, firmly in his grip, all set for the betrayal.
Jesus knew that the Father had put him in complete charge of everything, that he came from God and was on his way back to God. So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron. When he got to Simon Peter, Peter said, "Master, you wash my feet?"
Jesus answered, "You don't understand now what I'm doing, but it will be clear enough to you later."
Peter persisted, "You're not going to wash my feet -- ever!"
Jesus said, "If I don't wash you, you can't be part of what I'm doing."
"Master!" said Peter. "Not only my feet, then. Wash my hands! Wash my head!"
Jesus said, "If you've had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you're clean from head to toe. My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene. So now you're clean. But not every one of you." (He knew who was betraying him. That's why he said, "Not every one of you.") After he had finished washing their feet, he took his robe, put it back on, and went back to his place at the table.
Then he said, "Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as 'Teacher' and 'Master,' and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other's feet. I've laid down a pattern for you. What I've done, you do. I'm only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn't give orders to the employer. If you understand what I'm telling you, act like it -- and live a blessed life."
. . .
...Jesus said, "Now the Son of Man is seen for who he is, and God seen for how he is in him. The moment God is seen in him, God's glory will be on display. In glorifying him, he himself is glorified -- glory all around!
"Children, I am with you only for a short time longer. You are going to look high and low for me. But just as I told the Jews, I'm telling you: 'Where I go, you are not able to come.'
"Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples -- when they see the love you have for each other."
1. Apparently caring for one another in small, service ways had not been made obvious enough. Now comes a tough question for us. How have we experienced being cared for by GOD? GOD's beloved? Church? individual beloveds? And an equally tough question - what we have done with that experience?
What would make a difference for us to be able to pass on something better than we have experienced? Where would the impetus for giving better than we get come from? Could such ever really be believed?
2. When that "better than we got" shift goes on, glory abounds and ripples out and echoes on. If you can begin to get this "better than we got" image, faith breaks its constraints and hope grows beyond expectation and love abides.
3. A result of this process leads beyond commands to friendship where one naturally goes out of one's way for another. What might otherwise be seen as an external control becomes an internal response of - "of course, how could it be otherwise."
Tonight we don't read about betrayal - that is usual enough in life. There is always enough blame to go around.
Tonight we remember the unusual - caring for one another, no matter what. Tonight we persist in building enough community to go around, a community that will not be limited by betrayal and will be always resurrecting new life from lost life.