Love and Dirty Feet, a Maundy Thursday sermon

Love and Dirty Feet, a Maundy Thursday sermon

Author:
April 09, 2020

He loved them to the end.  The one who would in a couple of hours betray him, he loved to the end.  The one who would deny him three times, he loved to the end.  And so we begin.  Jesus, milking the final couple hours with his disciples still has much to teach.  Don’t believe me?  When you get home tonight, read the 5 chapters in John’s gospel sandwiched between the tonight’s gospel reading and tomorrow’s.  Tonight marks the beginning of the end.  The beginning of his farewell discourse that starts at the table and ends in the garden.  He looked over them with love and probably some fear in his heart.  He knows full well what is coming but he fears the disciples still aren’t ready.  He has so much to say to them, and he will, but he wonders if they are paying attention.  He needs to get their attention.
So he abruptly stands, disrobes, wraps a towel around himself and call his disciples over to wash their feet.  Of all the moments we can imagine ourselves in throughout the whole corpus of the bible, I must admit this is top five for me.  I want to be there when he stands up and looks at them.  I want to be there as each of the disciples slowly recognize something strange is happening.  I want to sit in that uncomfortable silence as they look back and forth at each other, waiting to see who makes the first move.  I know this sounds ridiculous, but I’ve always been fascinated by this moment, I can’t help it.  The more I think about it though, I want to see what happens next.  I know what Jesus says in his farewell discourse, we can all read it.  But where did this simple yet devastatingly profound witness to love register with his disciples?  I guess more importantly, where does it register with us?
Jesus kneeled before his disciples and washed their feet.  A job reserved for a slave.  Peter was incredulous.  Jesus loved him to the end, and washed his feet.  We must assume that Jesus in turn washed Judas’ feet.  He loved him to the end as well.  It’s one thing to talk about love, it’s another thing altogether to show it.  And here we have God’s true Word, the light of the world, the prince of peace, eschewing all honor and pride to do the work of a slave.  And that’s the point.  Jesus shows his disciples that even he is not above real love in the midst of real life.  “Do you know what I have done to you?” he asks.  He has shown them the way.  He has shown us the way as well.  And that is the way of love.  Here is God glorified when we step beyond ourselves and kneel with humility before our friends, our family, and even our enemies daring to wash their feet.  This is the love that Jesus poured out in order for us to draw deeply from that endless draught.  But not for our own edification, but for the benefit of others.  “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
Vast chasms have been forged between our neighbors and ourselves, for what?  We have so divided and insulated ourselves from one another that if we spend even half a minute thinking about Jesus’ radical expression of love we can’t help but be brought to our own knees in light of how far we are from the mark.  But Jesus loves us to the end.  Again Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  
We love because Jesus first loved us.  Plain and simple.  But so so difficult.  Following Jesus’ example, love primarily requires putting others first.  Love is kneeling at the feet of his disciples in preparation of being raised high upon the cross.  Love is not offered with strings attached.  Love is not something that can be coerced or manipulated, only freely offered without any regard or desire for something in return.  True love, as modeled by Jesus, is devoid of pride, condition, expectation of repayment.  All Jesus asks of us is that we go and do likewise.  Love God.  Love your neighbor.  Love your enemy.  Take a few moments and think what it would be like sitting at the table with Jesus and then before you know what’s happening he calls you over to wash your feet.  He loves you to the end.  Now, take another moment to think about how this overwhelming expression love compels you to go and do likewise.  “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."  Who’s feet are you kneeling before?


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