Kenora Maundy Thursday
9 April 2020
Psalm 116:1, 10-17
1 Corinthians 11:23:26
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
on the night he was betrayed
Jesus washed the feet of his disciples
and gave himself in a meal of bread and win.
May we who celebrate these signs of his love,
serve and give ourselves to others
in his name and to your glory;
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
“Jesus knew.” (Jn 13:1:b, 3a)
This is the phrase that jumps off the page, at me, this evening as we contemplate Jesus last gifts, last words, last lessons to us before the drama and the events that lead from this room to the cross.
At the same time, we, today, have the benefit of hindsight. We know what’s happening, here, today. We know what Jesus is willingly walking into and why. And we know that if it was you, or me, we wouldn’t be able to do what God asks for the burden of sin to be alleviated.
Jesus, on the other hand, knows what’s coming. He knows what God asks of him, for you and for me, for all those around the table, and instead of giving a ‘take one for the Gipper’ speech, he takes a different approach.
Tonight’s gospel tells us: “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (vs 1)
So, not only does Jesus love you and me and those about him, but he has no intention of stopping that love, no intention of changing or veering from God’s will for our salvation, no matter what the cost.
And, in this determination, we can see that its love that brought God to create the world and everything in it.
Its love that brought God into the world as an infant at Christmas.
It’s love that encourages him to come among us and teach us of God’s love.
Its love that encourages tonight’s actions and leads him from here to the cross.
Yet at the same time, Jesus still looks at us with the same look he gives he apostles when they ask him if God is now going to return sovereignty and independence to Israel. Jesus still looks at us like children who just don’t get what God is doing.
And with this look then he knows that no matter how little time he has amongst us, no matter what the deadline might be that looms on the horizon, he needs one more opportunity to help us to open our hearts, our eyes, our lives to what it is God wants from us. What God wishes from us is to treat each other as Christ treats us, to love each other, and ourselves, as God loves us.
“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” (vs 3)
“The Father had put all things under his power.” And this is the point at which Jesus takes off his outer garment and washes the disciple’s feet. He washes all of their feet to include them, to include each of us in this new covenant.
A covenant that encourages us to love our neighbours as we love ourselves.
A covenant that encourages us to follow the examples that we’ve been given, not just here, in today’s gospel, as Jesus kneels at our feet, but in all of the pages of the gospels.
From a human point of view, we ask why would Jesus willingly go through with the event that takes him from this upper room, to the cross, to the grave if God has given all things into his keeping?
The gospel tells us: “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” (vs 1c)
And this includes each one of us, here, today. It includes what we experience when we are able to open our hearts, our lives, to the will of God, and live our lives as God, as Christ has set us that example.
We are loved by God, and because of that love, he, the Saviour of the world, willingly walks from this upper room, to the cross, bearing the weight of our sin.
Tonight, we see that it’s out of love that he willingly washes the feet of his closest and dearest friends, including the feet of the one who will betray him to his death on the cross.
He sets us the example of how to love each other, how to serve each other.
Where Matthew, Mark, and Luke’s gospels all focus on the Last Supper that Jesus has in this same upper room with his closest followers, we see that John focuses on Jesus’ emphasis to serve others as we, ourselves, have been and continue to be served.
“Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world.” (vs 1b)
“12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. ‘Do you understand what I have done for you?’ he asked them. 13 ‘You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.’” (vs 12-17)
And still we return to the phrase, to the idea, the concept, even that “Jesus knew”.
He knows his time was short.
He tried one last time to find a way to encourage us to get down off our pedestals of righteousness and serve each other with the humility with which Christ serves us, when he knees at our feet and washes our feet.
He knows that the path to the cross starts here and now.
As Israel celebrates Passover, the time when God liberates Israel from a life of bondage, today we see God intervene, once more, to free us from bondage to sin.
At the same time, Jesus knew that this wasn’t enough.
Humanity, when we are left on our own, has the bad habit of putting up barriers, regulations, police checks, training seminars, and eternal rounds of schedules, meetings, and tasks.
Humanity has a tendency to put many layers of bureaucracy between us and what we don’t understand. We willingly put layers of humanity and politics, and anything else we can think of between us and what we don’t understand, what we can’t comprehend, what is able to be a benefit to all who believe.
And Jesus knows.
He knows us, from the ends of our hair to the tips of our toenails, and he knows the yearning of our hearts to feel God’s love surround us and hold us.
Recently, I read an article about how weighted blankets are helping children and adults, alike, deal with stress and anxiety. That such weighted blankets simulate the sensation of being hugged, held, and comforted. This is backed up by research done by Temple Grandin, a woman born with autism.
Through her experiences, her research, and her inventions she opened doors for those with autism and other similar syndromes to realize that they have great potential in themselves, although they deal with the world in different ways.
She acknowledges that we need to feel the weight of love, and that weight is, in that article, simulated with the weight of a blanket.
He knows we need to feel the love of God pressing in on us on all sides, hugging us, holding us upright, guiding us in our day to day experiences.
Jesus knows that we learn best when we emulate the models put before us, and today he models not being above those we are asked to serve, but rather to be among the people and to serve as Jesus, as God serves us.
But the best part is that it’s out of love that Jesus does what he does, today, washing our feet, urging us to serve as we are served, because Jesus knows.