John 13:1-17, 31b-35
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 devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then 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. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus 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.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” After 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? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 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 messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little 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.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (NRSV)
Grace to you and peace from God, our creator, and from Jesus Christ, our redeemer and friend, and from the Holy Spirit, our sustainer and guide.
I did not see the move, “The Shape of Water” so I can’t tell you what the conclusion was for what the shape of water might be, but I can tell you, that the shape of love* is defined in the gospel passage we have before us today. Love, for Jesus, is shaped like service. Jesus washes the feet of the disciples to demonstrate that serving one another is the mark of the Church.
In John’s gospel, you might remember, Jesus is associated with the Word that was from the beginning with God. From before creation, he was the Word God spoke that created all things, one with the Spirit, one with the Father. He did not claim his eternal status but took on our human nature, becoming one of us, that he might reveal the Father’s purpose in a way we could receive. He took on our human nature for OUR sake, not his.
Jesus, knowing the final demonstration was upon him, he loved his people to the end, we are told. What does that mean? Jesus loved them by showing them the way, his way, of life. Jesus loved them by making it real to them in the washing of their feet. Love is a verb in Jesus’s lexicon. It is about making life better for those around him. Putting aside his status as Lord as clearly as he took off his robe and set it aside, he approaches the disciples as equals, washing their feet. But Peter couldn’t handle that. The others had let Jesus proceed, but not Peter. He was the bold one. He was not going to let Jesus lower himself to their level. AS IF PETER COULD STOP HIM!
Jesus knew what he was doing. He was giving them an object lesson, as he did so often. He was showing them how he wants them to treat each other. Jesus want them to know, life -real life-the good life- comes from serving one another. It comes from showing hospitality to one another. It comes from living as a community, where the health of one is the health of all, the success of one is the success of all, and likewise, the pain of one is the pain of all. As he washes their feet, he demonstrates that they are all in it together. This is how we are community together. This is not about how we reach out to the world. That is in a different lesson. Tonight it’s how do we be a community, a congregation, if you will. We are taught to do for each other, to be little Christ’s for each other.
Brennan Manning, in the Ragamuffin Gospel, says it this way: “The way we are with each other is the truest test of our faith.” (pg 140) How I treat a brother or sister from day to day, how I react to the tattered man standing on the corner, how I respond to interruptions from people who won’t ever be able to offer me anything, how I deal with normal people in their normal confusion on a normal day may be a better indication of my love for God than the presence of my car in the church parking lot on Sunday morning.
Jesus told them “Where I am going, you cannot come.’ so they clearly have to use this lesson here. And now. In this life. In this place. Their way of being a group, a community, a congregation, is to be so obviously different, so clearly Christ following, that everyone will be able to tell, this is no ordinary group. There is something SPECIAL going on here.
So let me ask you… If we didn’t meet in a church building, with its soaring roof, and big cross, and pretty windows, would anyone be able to tell we were the church by how we treat each other?
It is good when we take care of each other. But we dare not stop there. Because how we treat each other is practice for how we treat our neighbors.
Would anybody be able to tell we are church people by how we treat our neighbors?
Would anybody be able to tell?
I hope the answer is yes. But even if the answer is no, God loves us too much to leave us as we are.
Please join me in prayer.
Holy God, come into our hearts and increase our faith. Inspire us in serving your people and being the church for the good of the world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
And now please join me as we sing “In Christ Alone My Hope Is Found”.
Blessings to you,
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Manning, Brennan. “A Ragamuffin Gospel” Multnomah Books, Colorado Springs, CO, 1990, 2000, 2005.
*Thanks to Brian Hardin of dailyaudiobible.com for the notion of the shape of love, March 29, 2018 recording.