Tonight’s sermon came from John 13:1-12a, 31b-35. This is the traditional Maundy Thursday passage and highlights the last supper when Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment to love one another as he has first loved them.
You can listen to the sermon here:
You can follow along with the text of the sermon here.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
In my house, we watch a lot of animated movies…having two kids 10 and under, I see the vast majority of this genre of movies that come down the pipe. Some are really well done, and some aren’t quite so great…but everyone once in a while, an animated movie comes along that stands the test of time, because its just that good.
One of these great movies…one that stands the test of time actually predates my kids. It came out in the 90’s, while I was still young enough to be living at home on the farm…the movie is the Lion King. (pause)
Now there are all kinds of things that are great about that movie…but in my opinion the best part happens right away…right at the beginning.
The movie starts with a black screen, and the distant sound of birds chirping as you often here just before sunrise…and then out of nowhere…you hear a burst of native song (Sing the opening line)…and at the same instant that this song begins, the sun bursts forth over the horizon, brightening up the screen…then the scene progresses…and we see countless animals making their way through rivers and across the grasslands…all while am uplifting Elton John song plays in the background.
Gradually the animals all make their way towards a large stand of rocks, one of which juts out at an extremely grand angle…then the animals part, and a wise old baboon named Rafiki walks through…up to the king of the sarengeti…where he bows, and then takes a new born lion cub in his arms…walking up the rock to hold the cub…the future king at arm’s length before his future subjects…Now this all makes for a wonderful scene and a great opening to the film…but it also serves a second purpose…this scene at the beginning of the movie, foreshadows something that will happen at the end of the film.
Because following the various events of the movie…the newborn cub…Simba…now fully grown returns to this very same spot…pride rock…where he greets Rafiki, yet again…and the wise old baboon informs him that… “IT IS TIME.” And Simba walks up the rock, once again, before his new subjects and with a mighty roar, declares himself king…credits. (pause)
It is time. I find myself reminded of that very line as I read the gospel story for this evening…and this is a special evening isn’t it? Maundy Thursday…the night of the last supper…the night when Jesus washes the feet of his disciples…the night when Jesus goes to the garden to pray fervently that the cup will pass from his lips…and the night, in which he was betrayed. (pause)
Oh what a night this is…and as we gather here this evening, and as we heard in the opening verses of the passion narrative a moment ago. Jesus knew that finally…It is time. (pause) But time for what? So often through the entire gospel of John we hear that it was not yet time…until now… (pause)
I can only imagine the conversation that must have been going on between Jesus and the Father…one that had started long before tonight…long before the time that Jesus walked the earth…long before the fall of humanity…and long before the creation of the earth…as God the Father and the will of God that would one day become human sat in conversation…
You know…we’re going to make something pretty amazing…Yah we are…but you know, its not going to turn out perfectly at first…yah, that’s true dad…and those beings that we’re gonna make in our image…the humans…they’re gonna mess up, and they’re gonna mess up big…yah Dad they are, big enough to break the relationship that we desire to have with them…That’s right Son, they are…and the time is gonna come that I send you into their reality to do something about it. But it’s gonna be tough. Yah Dad…I know…but its what we need to do…and I’ll do it. (pause)
And now, tonight, finally the time has come…the word has become flesh…the word has dwelled among as one of us…and now…tonight…the final steps of his ministry begin…the steps that will take him from this simple supper with his friends to torture…and death…steps that will take him to the tomb…and beyond. (pause)
Perhaps this seems difficult to wrap our heads around…that God has chosen to do this. What could possibly make him do such a thing for someone else? Love…love is the answer to that question…love for each and every member of the human race across time…and Jesus Christ chose this night to show those closest to him just how deep that love flows for them as individuals.
Jesus Christ, the master…the great teacher…God in human form willingly took the most humble role that he could take, that of a slave who knelt at the feet of his disciples and washed them…make no mistake, this is a very big deal.
Think about it for a moment. In this day and age, people were either barefoot or they wore flimsy sandals…and they walked everywhere…but human beings weren’t the only creatures on the road…they shared it with animals of all shapes and sizes…animals who very likely left little…gifts…on the road to be stepped in…and so as individuals walked from place to place, their feet got pretty dirty.
And so upon entering a house, it was customary for the feet of the visitor to be washed, either by themselves, or by a slave…the master of the house would never be humble enough to do so…but that is exactly what Jesus chose to do for his friends…this is exactly how Jesus chose to show his love for humanity…by stooping down and washing the dirt and the dust and the filth from their sweaty stinky feet.
And the disciples being…well, the disciples…just didn’t get it…Peter especially as he attempted to stop Jesus…and then as he asked Jesus to go above and beyond what was needed…Good old Peter…the prime example of humanity…once more missing the point of just what God was up to.
Because you see, this wasn’t just about cleaning the feet of the men sitting at the table that night…this was about God showing us that there is no length he will not go to for us because of the totality of his love for us.
Washing their feet was just a precursor to what is coming tomorrow…when Jesus willingly goes to the cross…allows himself to be nailed upon it, and raised up in the air…all the while innocent of any crime…innocent of any sin…yet taking the punishment for those that he loves…and our passage tonight tells us that Jesus has loved his own who were in the world and having loved them, he loved them to the end. (pause)
Well you know what…tonight is not the end…and Jesus love for his own in the world continues…and that is a love that is offered to each and every member of the human race…and that…includes…you.
And not only that…but that includes you as you are today…not the perfect you…not the ideal you…but the you with every blemish…with every fault…with every flaw…because you are a beloved child of God…and God seeks to come back into relationship with you…the relationship as it is intended…untarnished…unhindered by sin…but in our condition we CANNOT have this perfect relationship because of the presence of sin in our lives and sin in the world.
But God does not give up on us…and to say that raises an interesting point…think about the word “us.” Not in the context of this particular group of people gathered together tonight…but rather…I want you to think about the word “us” as it applies to you and someone else…I want you to think of us as me and God…God and me…the two of us…in relationship…because when I say that God does not give up on us, that’s what I’m talking about….God will go to any length to create once more, this perfect relationship between Himself and every single individual member of the human race.
And this is true whether we realize it or not…just like Peter…just like the disciples there are times in our lives when we fail to realize the lengths that God’s love reaches on our account…and just as Jesus told his disciples…you do not know now what I am doing, but you later you will understand…The disciples did not realize that in washing their feet he was merely demonstrating the incredible lengths that he himself would go to out of love for them…but a day later, they would see him hanging on that cross…they would see God himself spread out upon that cross…suffering an agony beyond comprehension…and doing it on their account…
And in the same moment, God himself did this on your account…proving for all time that there is NOTHING that he will not do for you because he loves you too much not to. (pause)
This horrific tragedy, done on your account, begins tonight…it continues tomorrow and it ends in death…the death of God himself…a death that he willingly took for you…and so dwell on that, knowing that this has been God’s plan since the beginning…It…Is…Time. Amen.