John 13: 1-17, 31b-35
13 April 2017
In the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” The Gospel According to John presents a somewhat different picture of the Last Supper compared with the other three gospels. Let’s take a look at the story we heard tonight. It occurs to me that one important characteristic of Jesus is the way he establishes relationships that are characterized by a strong and active love that reaches out to others in God’s name. I think it fair to say that knitting people together in relationship is pretty central to Jesus’ ministry. So, we hear of Jesus’ love for the people he knew best. Those he taught and encouraged while they worked together day to day.
“He loved his own” is what the gospel says. Imagine yourself around that table with Jesus. As you sit there can you comprehend just how much you are loved by the One who gave of God’s self so freely, so completely for you, and you, and, well, all of us? I wonder if you feel as I do? The fact of God’s love is the bedrock of my life. It makes all the difference day to day. What does such deep love looks like in action? Again, enter the scene around that table in your imagination. Jesus takes the role of the lowest of body-servants, washing the feet of his disciples. Understand, this was a very, very, strange thing for a host to do. In Jesus’ time the feet were very private, very intimate and, of course, in those days, very dirty as well. Certainly, a good host would provide a place and the water so guests could wash themselves but washing one another’s feet was simply not done. It would have just horrified the disciples to have Jesus take this role. We heard Peter’s honest exclamation, “you will never wash my feet!” Can you relate? Isn’t it just hard for us to let someone else provide such intimate service? And yet we heard Jesus’ reply; “unless I was you, you have no share with me.” Then Jesus goes on to say: “I have set you an example, that you should also do as I have done to you.” It sounds to me as though Jesus asks that we allow others to serve us just as much as he asks that we reach out to serve others. Remember, Jesus has already, earlier in the Gospel, taught us to love God with all our heart and mind and will and to love our neighbor as ourselves. That’s hard enough, I think. Now Jesus asks a harder thing, that we love others as he loved us and as he loved them too. It’s not easy is it, to love your annoying neighbor or the nephew that persists in ignoring his mother. It’s not easy to love the one who rejected you
or something you believe deeply in. It’s not easy to love the person whose lie broke a deep friendship and left you lonely. No, it is not easy at all to love as Jesus loves, or as God loves. And yet we have that commandment: “As I have loved you, you also should love one another.” One thing I know for sure. It was from those relationships that Jesus built and nurtured that the church grew and spread after his resurrection. And I suspect that our failure to do what Jesus commands just may be an inevitable part of our walk as Christian persons, part of our discipleship so to speak. Jesus knew that about his disciples, his friends. He knows that about us. It’s the beauty of the incarnation. Jesus knows what it is to be human, to be so self-centered as to be limited in our vision of what God intends for us at our best. It’s hard to imagine Jesus loving us, God loving us, enough to provide just what we need to do the things God asks us to do. It’s hard to hold onto the fact that after all the times, and all the ways, we have fallen short God still reaches out for us. God never stops reaching out to us. God never will stop reaching out for us. God would even stoop to wash our dirty feet. Kate Mooorehead, in her book of meditations, “Get over yourself; God’s here”, reminds me of something important. She notes, in her meditation for today, that in the Garden of Eden, after we ate of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, the very first thing God did was to come looking for us.
God reached out with a question. “Where are you?” Then God clothed us before sending us out of the garden. Moorehead goes on to observe that the entire story of scripture, flowing on from that point, is the story of God reaching out to find us. Amazing isn’t it?
No matter what we do, or don’t do, God goes right on loving us and reaching out to us.
God continues to call us into relationship and, as we let God nurture and sustain us, we will grow in that blessed relationship until the love of God will flow from us like a river in flood. Until that river of God’s love flowing through us will touch other lives and bring those lives within reach of God’s saving embrace. Amen