Maundy Thursday - 6th Petition – John 13
In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
There are two senses, two ways in which the word “tempt” is used in the Scriptures. One refers to forging a weapon – where to set the metal you heat it, you tempt it – all so that it can be made into something stronger and better. It's a trial – not in the sense of wanting to throw someone into jail, but to strengthen them. The other way is what we normally think of today when we think of tempting – and that is an attempt to try to make someone sin. There's a trial, but it's an attempt to get folks to mess up. When we say that God tempts no one, we are confessing that God never leads us to sin, never tries to make us go astray as it were.
So then, where does Jesus lead? It might be good to ponder for a few moments what we see our Lord doing this night. There He is, the Rabbi, the Teacher, the Master, and yet He stoops down to wash the disciples' feet. Now, let me remind you, this would be a gross job. We get that feet can be icky and messy – but you know what's different about today than Jesus' day? Socks and shoes. That's what we wear, by in large, and you know what? They keep our feet a lot cleaner. Now, imagine wearing sandals all day on dusty roads and foot sweat and dirt all combined. That's what's on the feet. That would be what Jesus would be kneeling down to clean. Do you see why washing the feet was seen as the work befitting the lowest servant in the house? And yet, there Christ Jesus is, washing away. Peter doesn't understand, Peter wants Jesus to stop, but no, still our Lord washes away.
Then, when He finishes, Jesus says, “If I, your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.” Jesus leads you to service. When we think of our service as Christians, often we are tempted to think of high and wondrous and glorious things – real service to God would mean converting the heathen nations, or huge sums of money given to the Church, or something like that. Nope. Those are the temptations of pride springing forth from your evil flesh. What does God's service look like? It looks messy and dirty. It's never high and exulted and glorious – it means getting down in the dirt and the mess and serving your neighbor. And you have plenty of people that you are given by God to serve – in your family, in your job, in the normal, simple mundane every day tasks that are set before you. You know, the things that a common servant would face. And you know what – it's okay to be a common servant to your friends and family. It's who we ought to be in Christ.
And here, my friends, is where temptation kicks in. So often, when we think of temptation we think of it in terms of doing “BAD” things, where if we can make the, bigger and badder, grander and grosser and all the more salacious, well, all the better! And yes, when you are tempted, you are tempted to do bad things... but when we as Christians talk about bad things, we shouldn't just talk about the sort of things that would end up on the evening news or gossiped about over coffee. Listen again to our Catechism lesson. “We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice.” When we talk about temptation, the first we as Christians ought to start with isn't the grand and showy sins. No, Satan is much more subtle with his temptations. The two that are given are false belief and despair.
Think about your simple, everyday life. Satan and the world and your flesh will strive to make you hate it, to despise it. To Complain about it. You will be tempted to view your life as pointless, inconsequential, not everything you'd want it to be. You'll be tempted towards despair, towards the blahs – where you'll be tempted away from just simply going and washing your neighbor's feet or whatever task it is at hand. We all know that temptation. You'll be tempted to think that your life doesn't really matter, isn't important – and this is a false belief – because if Christ Himself serves, then it is truly a good and important and special and wondrous thing that you get to serve in the various ways He has given you to serve. Do you see how we are tempted away from the simple service that God leads us into?
Now when we see this, when we realize how often we mess up in even these little things, that's when Satan will shift gears. Oh, he'll still play around with false belief and despair – but instead of getting you to not do what you are suppose to for your neighbor, he'll attack you inside. Satan will pile the guilt on and tell you that you are just lousy and worthless and unlovable. Which, again, is false belief. God Himself has said that He loves you, that He forgives you all your sins, that you are His own precious child. Yet the temptation we face is to listen to what Satan says of us rather than what God says.
For this reason, Christ Jesus your Lord comes. He came, and as we see in our Gospel lesson, He was the perfect servant for us. And when I say for us, I don't mean merely that He was a good example – He is, but also, in His perfect and unfailing love, Christ Jesus takes your place. He fulfills all righteousness without giving into temptation, He is the spotless Lamb of God. And He follows His service to you all the way. He follows it all the way to the Cross – as we will focus on tomorrow in great detail. He goes to the cross in service to you, He even rises in service to you. He gives you His body and blood in service to you – and why? So that when these temptations of Satan come around, so that when false belief and despair come creeping around you – whether over what you ought to do or over what you have failed to do – you would not be focused upon Satan's temptations but rather focused upon Christ Jesus.
Do not look at the world's temptations, do not listen to Satan's braying, do not even listen to your own flesh. Rather, Jesus says, “Look to Me, o Christian! Take and eat, this is My Body, given for you. Take and Drink, this is My Blood shed for the remission of all of your sins. Taste and see that I am good to you, that you are redeemed and forgiven, and that in Me you will long outlast Satan and the world and even your sinful flesh.” Christ makes us to focus upon Him and see that because of His perfect service, His perfect death and resurrection, we are forgiven, we are given holy lives to lead now (even if the world doesn't think all the much of them), and we are promised a resurrection where we will have a new heavens and a new earth, a resurrected body – a life where temptation will be done away with for good. This is what Christ Jesus your Lord has done for you. This is where He leads you. This is why He comes to you in His Word, in His Supper. To lead you away from temptation and to give you Himself – for He loves you. In the Name of Christ the Crucified +