Maundy Thursday – John 13 – March 29th, 2018
In the Name of Christ the Crucified +
The hour approaches – the hour approaches where our Lord will be betrayed, where He will be handed over to be beaten, and scourged, and crucified. The hour is getting late, and He knows that His time of teaching His disciples is short. There are all these things that they don’t understand. Sin keeps popping up in them, and temptations will continue to hound them. What teaching do they need to hear – now - when time is short?
Jesus washes their feet. Jesus shows Himself to be humble, to be a servant. Why? For I have given you an example. Jesus knows, Jesus sees, Jesus understands. Jesus gets what sin is. To sin is fundamentally to love yourself and hate the neighbor. To sin is to make demands of your neighbor, to expect them to serve you. To paraphrase a former President, to sin is to ask what your neighbor can do for you, rather than asking what you can do for your neighbor. And Jesus realizes that this will be a lingering problem, and so this is where He focuses a great deal of His teaching this night.
He sums it all up. He gives us a nice little phrase that we can understand. A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. It’s not really that new of a commandment. Honor Your Parents. Don’t kill. Don’t steal. That’s all covered in the commandments. But Jesus knows how we can abuse those – how we can look simply at what we are supposed to not do, and build ourselves up as hypocrites. I haven’t insulted mom and dad, I haven't stolen, I’ve not robbed a bank, see how wonderful I am. We try to find loopholes in the law, and Jesus slams them shut. Love one another. No, people, don’t think that you can deftly avoid the law, don’t think that you can use it to prove yourself to be a good person. Here is the standard, here is the commandment. Love one another.
Think about that. That’s a deep law, that’s a deep commandment. When you are doing something, pause, stop and think, “How am I loving my neighbor by doing this?” That is a high standard. But this is nothing new. The Law always has high demands – but Jesus isn’t going to let us fool ourselves into thinking otherwise. He gives us in the Church our marching orders, and they are rough. And even as He speaks this Law to us, even as He gives us this new commandment – He doesn’t just let us stew. He doesn’t just let us fret. Rather, hear what He says, “Just as I have loved you.” Although our eyes are shown our own lack, they are also focused on Christ and His love for us.
Christ’s focus is always upon the neighbor. Christ’s concern is always shown for those around Him. Think on the times where Jesus shows compassion upon people, where He heals, where He feeds, where He shows love and concern. Indeed, involving the love of the neighbor, He is our highest example. But think on this. Jesus has loved you. This is His great focus – showing love to you. This is His great focus as this Thursday gives way to Good Friday. Christ’s eyes are upon showing love to you as He goes to the garden; His love for you is shown as He is led like a lamb, silent to the slaughter, during the accusations and kangaroo court of the Night. His love for you is shown as He allows Himself to be whipped, to be beaten, to be nailed to the tree. All this is done because Jesus has loved you. All this is done because Jesus would have your sins be forgiven, because He would rather pay the penalty for your sin than let you bear it. For Jesus, saying that He has loved us is not just some empty words, a trite phrase used to manipulate or seduce. He puts His love into action as He strides towards the shame and suffering of the Cross.
This is the very same love that Christ gives to you. This is the very same love that Christ fills you with, this is the love that is the fruit of His Spirit, which He has given you. As Christians, you do love each other just as Christ has loved you, for the love you bear and share and show forth to each other is in fact Christ’s love, Christ’s love welling up and in and through you. Christ’s command this night is also a declaration of what He is doing with your lives. Christ takes sinful people, and washing you clean He shapes you with His Word – the Potter remolds the clay into His Holy vessels, and now Christ fills you with His own love, and He pours out that love upon your neighbor through you. When you show love to your neighbor, that is Christ working through you. It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me. This is how Paul describes this miracle. Christ fills you to bursting with His love, so that you can’t but help to show forth His love, in spite of yourself. This is our lives as Christians, where Christ overwhelms our sinfulness with His forgiveness and with His love.
This is what Jesus does whenever He calls and invites you to His table. It is no accident that our Lord, on the night when He gives us this new command, on the night when He was betrayed, takes simple Bread and Wine, and uses them to give us a gift beyond the ability of our mind or reason to comprehend. Jesus knows and understands in full a truth that we are taught when we are young but can so often forget as we grow old – that we are weak, but He is strong. So He calls us to His table and says, “Take and Eat, this is My Body. Take and Drink, this is My Blood.” Of course our Lord would do this, of course our Lord would give you all that He is, all His strength and love – for this is what love is – to give of one’s own self to the neighbor. And this is what Christ does in His supper. And why? We have a great prayer after Communion which tells us the answer. “and we implore You that of Your mercy You would strengthen us through the same, through this supper, in faith towards You and in fervent love toward one another.” Jesus sees His disciples that Maundy Thursday evening, He sees you – and He wants you to be strong and firm in the faith, to be filled with Him and His love, and so, He calls you to His table. This very day, this very hour God Himself says, “Come and receive Me, take all that I am, so that I might be your strength, and that you might cling only to me.” This is what our God does for you. He washes you clean of all sins, done by you or to you, and brings you unto Himself. He gives you every good gift; He gives you Himself.
The hour of our Lord’s Crucifixion was drawing closer and closer the first Maundy Thursday night – but as always, our Lord’s eyes are fixed on His neighbor – His eyes are fixed upon you. And He takes you, and turns your focus away from selfish desires and foolish greed, and instead focuses your eyes upon Him and teaches you to love your neighbor. He feeds you on His own Body and Blood that you will be strengthened in Him. Behold what Christ Jesus our Lord does for you. In the Name of Christ the Crucified + Amen.