"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35).
As arrangements are being made about where to observe the Passover something of an awkward confrontation erupts among the disciples. They are arguing about who is to be called the greatest in the kingdom. But when you get down to it they were really just trying to figure out who would have the rather awkward task of washing feet for the Passover, a duty typically reserved for slaves and servants.
If one of the disciples had grabbed the basin of water and towel, and gotten on his knees for service, his name would surely be remembered. Perhaps our church would be named St. Peter or St. James if they had done this. But no one was willing to bring himself to such a lowly position. In the middle of the dispute about who would be greatest Our Lord took the opportunity to show them what greatness means in the Kingdom of God.
Our Lord rose from supper. He took off his outer garments, and taking a towel tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin, took the form of a lowly servant, and began to do what servants do.
Nobody was more upset than St. Peter who objected vociferously, “You shall never wash my feet.” Lord how dare you stoop so low…it is not fitting…it is beneath your dignity and honor!
Yet blushing and shamed Peter gave in and let His Lord stoop down on his hands and knees and wash the dirt between his toes. You have a wonderful painting of this on the cover of your bulletin tonight. God steps down from heavens throne to perform the service of a slave. On his knees, he removes the dust of human feet, and dries those feet with a towel, an apron around his waist.
After he washes the feet of the disciples he gives them all a question: Do you understand what I have done to you? If I then, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
It’s unfortunate that so many Christians miss out on the joy of this holy day because tomorrow our Lord is ridiculed by his enemies, but tonight we see his contract of love with his friends. Friends who would betray him, deny him, and scatter.
Tonight you have a portrait of divine love and Jesus puts to you the same question: Do you understand what I have done to you?
Do not be like Judas resisting his love. Peter wept bitterly when he denied his Lord, saw His sin, and beheld His Lord, loving Him all the way to the cross. By this we know love that he laid down his life for us.
There is an important message that we cannot miss tonight. Jesus friends fall away, scatter, deny, and betray him when the going gets tough, and let’s face it, your loyalty to Jesus is questionable too. Love does not always prevail in our homes and in our congregation. Love is not a given. Sin is a given.
Who among us does not suffer with a guilty conscience and crushing sense of inadequacy? Who is not tired, overworked, and burdened with the cares of this life. Who does not suffer anxiety. Who is not spared from the gloomy haze of depression or hopelessness.
But of all the joys in life. For all the reasons to be filled with gratitude and thanks – whether it be good food or drink, a healthy body, beautiful spring weather, chocolate, and singing birds. There is nothing so glorious as to be a friend of Christ. There is nothing so sublime as to hear from the mouth of God that all your sins are forgiven.
If you are still doubting, doubt no more. How can you? He stoops down – all the way from heaven to your pit of despair. He sets a table before you. A feast of love. His holy body is given to you. His blood covers you. You are washed clean by the Lord of Love and receive His divine approval and the birds don’t just chirp but all the angels sing.
And we sing too because not even the angry bloodthirsty crowds can stop his love for you tomorrow. Those who wanted him dead repeatedly accused him of receiving sinners and eating with them and praise be to God it’s true. In the name of Jesus. Amen.