Sermon for Maundy Thursday 2021 8 pm
May I speak in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
As is often the case, John's gospel reports more of the contents of Jesus' instructions to his disciples than do the other three gospels.
When I remember my Army life it was dominated by Orders, Instructions and Guidance, whether oral in Jesus Case or in writing in great detail, spelling out things Like
“Situation” What was going on - and what we were getting into.
“Mission” A succint statement of what we intended to do about it.
“Action” How we were to achieve our mission and who would be doing it.
One of the privileges of Commanding men and women was that by leading them, you were also their servant. Your role as well as providing leadership, was also one of pastoral responsibilty for their welfare, ensuring that they had the resources necesary to do what you were asking and building trust between each other to know that we were able to rely on each other implicitly to do the best for each other.
Sticking with each other, through thick and thin.
When I read this gospel passage I see that Jesus not in a warlike way, was introducing his followers to what was to come, he was laying out the situation, giving them their mission and indicating that he was doing it in love and care for them and for all of mankind.
We can see in Johns writing as an eyewitness to all that he writes about. While the other disciples were in hiding, frightened of the Romans and the those people of Israel who had got Jesus Condemned.
As we may have seen during our Lenten journey, Jesus' own journey was headed for the cross and finally the empty tomb.
Here in John 13, we hear again the familiar story, we can surmise that Jesus' death and resurrection were now imminent. But we are travelling that journey reflectively along side him.
Jesus had come a long way and he knew that he had come in obedience to his Father's will. We can see that in his obedience he was also acting in love for all of humankind.
It seems quite clear that he had a special kind of love for those who had chosen to follow him and had stayed with him through all of the turbulence that accompanied them all in getting to this point.
Let us recall that as we approach the evening meal outlined in our reading, Judas has already undertaken his act of betrayal of Jesus, taking the 30 pieces of silver as Jesus’ price.
I find it remarkable, that Jesus the Teacher, took the place of a servant, washing the feet of his disciples, even in the midst of betrayal.
We should remember that foot washing was not a foreign action at all. In point of fact, it was a needed service for those who travelled the dusty and dirty roads where Jesus and his followers travelled daily.
No one wore socks because there were none!
It was an act of honour on behalf of a host to wash a guest's feet, and it was a sign of dishonour not to do so.
It was not uncommon for wives to wash their husband's feet and for children to do the same for their parents.
Of course, John’s portrayal of Peter shows Peter wanting Jesus to be above the common everyday things that people lived with, was not at all happy with Jesus becoming the servant of anyone, especially the disciples.
Peter just did not feel that Jesus should act like a servant but especially not as Peter's servant. Unthinkable!
Peter, as usual, speaks what he feels without giving it a whole lot of thought. Jesus tells him to his face that he has to wash Peter's feet. Peter, appears to however, remained sceptical and really is not in line with Jesus' thought process.
Continuing to miss the point, Peter asked Jesus to also wash his hands and his head and his feet. Jesus replied that a person who is already clean doesn't need his whole body washed again but their feet would still need attention.
Then Jesus goes on to say that not everyone who was with him was clean, referring to Judas.
On this Maundy Thursday let me ask you all a question. What would you do if you knew you would die a violent death in about twelve hours?
Would you want to be alone in prayer?
Would you record some final thoughts?
Would you spend time with those you loved?
What would you want to emphasize?
Would you share recipes or gardening tips or would you focus on what's most important in your life?
As was said earlier, the Bible tells us that Jesus knew the time had come for him to leave this world and he took off his cloak, put a towel around his waist, and washed the dirty feet of his disciples.
Who's going to waste time on that when the end is so near?
Because he wanted to show them how important it is to humbly serve one another and,
As Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians
Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don't think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing. Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross.
Jesus showed by his own actions that serving others, demonstrating our love in tangible ways, is of critical importance. Jesus considered it a priority and so should we.
The scripture says that not just in spite of but because he understood who he was.
Jesus washed the disciples' feet.
It takes an understanding of ourselves, who we are, who we serve, to be able to humble ourselves. This is counter cultural to the world that tells us that we need to make ourselves look good in front of others that we need to lift ourselves up and demonstrate how important we are.
I am not about to say the Bible has an answer for everything because technically speaking it does not. What it does tell us on a human level is, "But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted"
I pray that as we approach tomorrow, Good Friday, that we are able to have insight into our own journey alongside Jesus and that our own humbling is the example that he set the disciples in the upper room at the last supper.
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