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Lessons

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

 2022 Maundy Thursday          John 13: 1-17; 31b-35   Grace and peace to you from Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.  Amen. This passage from the Gospel of John is a passage of love. Jesus loved his own and he loved them to the end. In the three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, the focus of the last supper is on the bread and wine—the cross. In John’s gospel the focus is on the washing of feet. Communion, the cross and foot washing are all acts of love. The cross, though, is a little more daunting than foot washing. There are times when Jesus’s call to discipleship seems beyond our abilities. Jesus says, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it” (Mark 8:34-35). Who among us can take ups a cross? We will hear a little later in the service tonight, Jesus telling His disciples, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The love that Jesus had for his friends meant that he was willing to humble himself so as to serve them. In John 15:13—just a few chapters later in John’s gospel, Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.” Most of us can’t imagine giving up our lives for someone else unless it is a member of our family. Perhaps we are seeing some of that self-sacrificial love in the acts of many people in Ukraine who put themselves at risk to keep others, sometimes complete strangers, out of the line of fire, out of danger. In this passage, though, the emphasis is placed on the small, humble acts of love. The early Christians understood this path of love to be the new life that Jesus invited them to travel. They expressed their love by selling their possessions and making sure that no one had a need. Early Christians cared for the sick and dying. One Roman official was heard to remark, “See how they love one another.” All of us have been the recipients of love. Most of us have been changed by that love. It could be our parents packing us lunches every day, or staying with us through a stormy night. A high school friend may have stood up for us, a college buddy may have made sure that we got home safely after a party. Friends may have prayed for us during a tough time in life, or provided our family with a meal during a time of grief. These are all little things, but they are acts of love that make a difference. Love is redefined by Jesus as “service,” helping another person in need. As followers of Jesus the question that is always before us is “How can I serve?” This will answer the question, “How can I love.” In the middle of Jesus’ loving act of washing feet, Peter objects. Jesus tells Peter that Peter must allow Jesus to wash his feet, or Peter will have no part of Jesus. At first glance, this may seem to be a troubling verse. It seems to indicate, though, that we must be recipients of God’s love and grace, and experience the reconciled and renewed relationship with God. Peter than says that Jesus should give him a bath, but Jesus replies that Peter has already been bathed. All Peter now needs is to have his feet washed. We travel the dusty roads of life. Along those roads we will have many opportunities to love. There are times, however, when we will not love. The dust, dirt, and hate of the world will accumulate on our feet. We will need to come to Jesus and have our feet washed. We will come before him to confess, repent and receive God’s forgiveness. We will be invited to put our shoes back on and continue our journey. We do not need to be heavily burdened by shame and guilt. Forgiveness frees us for further service. There is a world of hate surrounding us. There are also people who are hurting and in need. Some of them may be quite different from us. Remembering that Jesus washed the disciples’ feet and he has washed ours through forgiveness, we step out into the world to serve. Let it be so. Amen.