Sermons

"A Time to Prepare for a Night of Grief": Sermon for Maundy Thursday, Year B

"A Time to Prepare for a Night of Grief": Sermon for Maundy Thursday, Year B

Apr 02, 2015

Passage:John 13:1-35

Preacher: The Rev. Jo Roberts Craig

Series: Holy Week

Category: Love, Humility

Keywords: foot washing, grace, humility, love, pride

Summary:

The Maundy Thursday liturgy is one of the most poignant and important of Holy Week. We learn that Jesus loves His own and He loves them to the end. To accept that love requires humility and the desire to be vulnerable to Jesus and to others.

Detail:

We are gathered on this most Holy night to wash the feet of one another, to celebrate Holy Eucharist, and to strip the altar as we prepare for a night of grief…

A night when our Lord and Savior is arrested and lead away to be tried and crucified…

A night when we have the privilege of seeing in our minds eye the disciples as they struggle with these events…a night when there is an ominous gap between the desire to be faithful and the impending betrayals.

It is a night when our precious Lord …knowing that His hour to depart has arrived…knowing that what was begun in His conception and infancy was now coming to it fullness. 

Chose to begin and end His farewell to His friends with love…John tells us that “He loves His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” 

In loving them, He does not pass on a mantle of His authority…the mantle of prophecy, but He wraps a towel around His waist and proceeds in great humility to wash the feet of His disciples. 

According to the Mechilta, one of the oldest midrashic commentaries, not even a Hebrew slave was expected to perform such a menial task.

The water would have been brought to the guests to wash their own feet…

But here is our Lord Jesus, kneeling at the feet of the disciples…He does not carry around His shoulders a mantle of authority, but He has a towel around His waist… a symbol of practical, daily, unglamorous work.

And if Jesus’ work is an act of humility and love, then Peter’s work is learning to receive…

I can well understand Peter’s horror…He expects authority…He expects resolute pronouncements…He expects power. 

He is most likely embarrassed for Jesus and Peter’s pride overshadows any vulnerability that he might have… 

I can well imagine him watching the others having their feet washed…condemning them for allowing it; horrified that Jesus is kneeling before them; mystified at what is going on. 

And when Jesus comes to Peter, Peter blurts out, “you will never wash my feet”…no, no, no… 

But Jesus assures him that without the foot washing…without Jesus teaching humility and servant ministry in this most powerful way, Peter will never grasps the love and humility that this ministry for him will require. 

To be a part of Jesus, Peter must learn to accept with grace the foot washing…If he cannot accept that gift…how will he ever accept the humbling cleansing and forgiveness of sin that the humiliating death on the cross represents… 

How will he ever accept the power of the resurrection… 

And so that we might all have the full picture in our mind…remember also that at this moment, Judas still sits at table with the rest… 

He has not yet chosen to leave the light of the world to descend into darkness and death, and Jesus washes Judas’ feet with the same love and humility that He did the others… 

Then Jesus knowing that He is leaving; knowing that His death is near; He once again tells them what he has demonstrated in the foot washing… 

Those who follow Jesus are to love as Jesus does…that will be their identifying mark…that will be the seal on their foreheads…that will be the mantle about their shoulders.

In all of this, Jesus teaches that we are to live in love; in reconciliation; in hope… 

And we are to learn how to accept the gifts that we have been given; we are to learn to receive… 

As the body of Christ, we are to know that because by the power of God, Christ first laid down His life and then picked it up again for us, there is no one beyond our ability to love… 

Amen

 

References:

Word Search Bible 10, The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Fourth Edition