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04.02.15 Maundy Thursday Meditation Summary John 13:1-17, 34-35

by on April 6, 2015

Jesus wants so much to love us, but there are two things in the way. One we can do nothing about, and one we can.

The most famous verse in the Bible says that, “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” It’s popular to say that “Jesus was born to die,” especially in Lenten devotionals. “Really” I have to ask. Is this more true of Jesus than of any creature? “Well,” some might respond, “The point of Jesus’ life, his purpose, was to die on the Cross.”

I understand the impulse of this thinking comes from the truth of the first thing that makes it hard for God to love us—the reality of sin. Sin describes the fact that we don’t measure up, that we are weak, that sometimes we deliberately rebel against God. The Bible also describes sin as a force, a power too great for us to overcome.

If sin is an obstacle to God’s love, we are hopeless unless God finds a way around it. When conceived as a sacrifice for sin, Jesus’ death—given its singularity—provides God’s way around sin. In this way, Jesus’ death has assured the church of God’s love for centuries, beginning as far back as the New Testament Scriptures themselves, for example, Romans 5:8 which says, “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”

Jesus’ death cleanses us from sin. It removes the first obstacle to God’s love, the one over which we have no control. And baptism reminds us of this. In baptism we find the cleansing of sin and the dying of the old self with Jesus.

But if sin was the only obstacle, Jesus’ death alone would have been sufficient. But he didn’t just die. He was also resurrected, and more, he lives on to this day. He was not born just to die—just to remove sin. If that were the case, we wouldn’t need his teaching, and we wouldn’t need his resurrection. But Jesus did teach, and lives even now, to help us overcome the second thing that makes it hard for God to love us, which is our pride.

When Jesus washes the disciples’ feet and makes his way to Peter, Peter says, “You will never wash my feet.” The Jesus says, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Then Peter wants to go back to sin and cleansing—“Then wash not only my feet, but my hands as well—and also my head!” Jesus says that isn’t necessary, that Peter is already clean, that only his feet need to be washed.

A venerable interpretation of this scene teaches that the reason the feet alone have to be washed is because they are the part of our body—our lives—which has continual contact with the earth. Our feet keep us grounded in worldly concerns. “The problem is pride,” Jesus is saying. “Let me help you with it.”

All this occurs during a meal. The Gospel of John is famous for replacing the Lord’s Supper, which we find in the other Gospels, with the foot washing episode. Maybe his point is this. Jesus died to save us from our sins; but lives to save us from our pride. And Jesus does that by serving us, but serving us still at this Table.

Two things make it difficult for God to love us—one we have no control over, namely sin. And God has taken it away. The other we have some control over—and that is our pride. Pride decreases when we let Jesus serve us. It decreases further when we turn around and serve others.

“As I have loved you, so should you love one another” Jesus said. Later in the Bible it says, “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are.” (1 John 3:1) May we put aside our pride and receive the love of God through Jesus’ service at his Table, and may we share that love by serving others in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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