Holy Thursday 2012

John 13.1-17, 31-35

1Now 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. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples??? feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ???Lord, are you going to wash my feet???? 7Jesus answered, ???You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.??? 8Peter said to him, ???You will never wash my feet.??? Jesus answered, ???Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.??? 9Simon Peter said to him, ???Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!??? 10Jesus said to him, ???One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.??? 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, ???Not all of you are clean.??? 12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, ???Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord???and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another???s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.

31When he had gone out, Jesus said, ???Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ???Where I am going, you cannot come.??? 34I 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.???

How does footwashing fit into the Last Supper of Christ?  In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we read of Jesus sharing in the Passover meal with his disciples, where he takes the bread and the wine and declares them symbols of a new covenant that associates us with grace and forgiveness.  Yet, John decides in his Gospel to focus on this amazing and seemingly odd act of washing feet.  But there???s a lot of depth to this image and in the message that Christ is leaving to us as he prepares to face the Cross.

In this scene, everything is fine until we get to Peter.  As usual, he speaks up, claiming to understand Jesus??? role and purpose better than Jesus does.  He sees the washing of his feet by Jesus as something Jesus shouldn???t do, mainly because this is servants??? work, done for guests whose feet are dirty from walking in sandals all day.  But Jesus tells Peter in v.8, ???Unless I wash you, you have no share with me,??? which moves Peter to interpret this washing as a sort of baptism and requests that he wash the rest of him.  Jesus tells him that he is already ???clean,??? in the sense that he has been bathed or baptized already.  Peter fails to see the washing of the feet as meaning something different.  You see, this word for ???bathing??? implies a thorough, deeper, long-lasting spiritual cleaning, whereas ???washing??? here is meant to symbolize a more regular and temporal cleaning.  

Jesus??? statement that Peter is already ???clean??? is understood further in John 15.3 when he says to his disciples, ???You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you.???  The disciples have believed Jesus and by grace through faith have been saved, as Paul tells us in Ephesians 2.8.  We can be confident about this with what Jesus said in John 8.51 ???Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.???  Peter wanted to focus on the water and it???s possible power to clean, whereas Jesus simply was asking Peter to submit to the act.  It wasn???t the water that cleansed him but the acceptance of the relationship of service Jesus was offering.

The point of all this is that we ???share??? in Jesus gift of love and service to us, that we are made a part of who Jesus is and what Jesus is doing through relationship with him.  The washing of the feet is simply a gesture that points to that relationship.  Jesus??? example of hospitality leaves the disciples with a way of life, an attitude that is to be carried out daily, because, even though we are saved and baptized, we still gather sin in our lives, like dust that gathers on the feet of those who walk about daily.  That sin, that dust, dirt, and grime must be washed off if we are to be in relationship with Jesus.  Those that are committed to Jesus, who would follow after him will wash their feet, their lives, and be holy as he is holy (Leviticus 19.2 / Matthew 5.48).

Now, Jesus does say that not all of those with him that night were clean, referring to Judas.  Though Judas was one of those who had his feet washed, he was not in relationship with Jesus, refusing to accept the love, not the washing.  Remember that it wasn???t the water that made anyone clean but the acceptance of the relationship Jesus was offering in the act.  Allowing Jesus to serve them meant surrendering their idea of who Jesus was and what he was supposed to do and to let him serve them the way God desired.  Judas wouldn’t do that.   

When we lay down ourselves and our own understanding, we remove ourselves from out of God???s way and we simply let God be God.  As Proverbs 3.5 says, ???Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.???

Remember: God will never fit our mold.  His actions will not always make sense at first, as v.7 reminds us, ???You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand,??? but we are commanded to let Jesus do the work that he must do.  If we can do that, then we are ready to accept the love that he has for us, a love that is seen most perfectly in his death for us on the Cross.

This offer of hospitable-relationship is seen best in Jesus??? command to love one another, that we follow his example, as we read in v.14???17, ???So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another???s feet.  For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.  Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messen
gers greater than the one who sent them.  If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.??? 
This statement holds us accountable to humility and humble service.  It reminds us of our place, that we are not greater than Jesus our master, and that we are not greater than others since we are called to wash their feet in service to them.  In a way, we are charged with washing off the daily sins of others through our service to them.  Know what Jesus said in John 20.23, ???If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.???  Understand that Christ has forgiven you through his sacrifice on the Cross.  He has taken care of the sin that runs deep???the abiding sin that only he can forgive.  But for those sins that continue to dirty-up the lives of others, we are instructed to wipe away those burdens by loving one another, to stoop down and love them where they are, just as they are.

And so, as we turn toward the Table of Communion, we have before us grace and forgiveness.  Christ our Lord invites to his table all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin and seek to live in peace with one another.  Therefore, you are welcome here; welcome to come and recognize God???s favor toward you, that he has so willingly given himself up for you and for the world.  Taste and see that the Lord is good and when you do, know that you are charged with loving the world, forgiving their sins, and washing their lives clean through your service to them.  Be one with Christ in this meal and may God bless us as we commune together.  Amen.

Rev. Whit R. Martin
Pastor, New Liberty United Methodist Church

Devotional Blog ??? devoblog.posterous.com

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