1 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”John 13:1-15, 34
I’m sure all of you have seen one of these signs before. It’s the “Employees must wash their hands before returning to work” sign that appears in all restaurant and retailer restrooms. Before what has happened over the last few weeks, what did you think when you saw one of these signs? I hope many of you were thankful for them. I hope you were thankful that the people who handled your food and clothes washed their hands after using the restroom. I also hope that when you saw these signs, you also washed your hands after using the restroom. These signs are mandated; they must be posted, and if employees do not follow this rule, there are consequences. This mandate exists to keep people safe from germs. For many the sign might seem unnecessary because washing one’s hands after using the restroom is a good practice anywhere and for everyone. Yet, the sign exists, and we are thankful for the reminder to all employees to wash their hands before returning to work.
I’m sure you’ve all seen a sign like this one before too. It’s the message of Easter that Jesus has risen from the dead. You and I are thankful every time we see these words, but this year we will not be able to gather together to celebrate the resurrection like we have in the past. Our hearts are broken that we are not able to gather to sing the hymns of Easter and encourage one another in person with the familiar words, “He is risen, he is risen indeed!” We know how important it is to meet together as believers as the writer to the Hebrews encourages us, Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Though we will not be able to meet in person, we will be able to meet through livestream services. And, though we will not be able to recognize who went to church on Sunday by seeing the empty driveways, full church parking lots and pretty Easter dresses, there is another way to recognize those who love Jesus.
Today is Maundy Thursday. Usually on this night, we focus on the Passover or Lord’s Supper, but this year our reading has a different focus. Tonight, our reading from John 13 focuses us on another event that happened the night before Jesus suffered and died. Jesus had also given a command to his disciples the night they shared the Passover meal and Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper. This Thursday is called “Maundy Thursday,” from the Latin word from which we get our English word “mandate.” This is the night of Jesus’ mandate or command to his disciples to 34 … “Love one another.” As the disciples and Jesus gathered together to celebrate the Passover meal, the disciples argued about which of them was the greatest as recorded in Luke 22. With their disagreement still in the air, Jesus rose from the table, took off his outer clothes, wrapped a towel around his waist, filled a basin with water and began to wash the disciples’ feet. Washing feet was the work for servants and slaves, but that night it was Jesus. When Jesus came to Peter, he didn’t understand, and even asked Jesus not to wash his feet. Peter and the other disciples did not understand what Jesus was doing, but Jesus said to them, 7 … “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Jesus had washed their feet to demonstrate his love for them. It was a sign that matched what Jesus had said before in Mark 10, 45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus served you and I by washing away our sins. Jesus washed the disciples’ feet as a way to show them he had come to be their servant. His love for them as their Teacher and Lord was to give them what they needed, not demand what they could not do. Jesus came to do the same for you. After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, he led them to the garden where he was arrested and the next day put to death. These events are the signs that Jesus loves you. His careful planning as God orchestrated his betrayal on the night the Passover was celebrated. The last meal Jesus ate with the disciples recalled God’s powerful deliverance of Israel from slavery in Egypt to freedom, abundance and life in their new homeland of Israel. This night Jesus also gave his disciples the Lord’s Supper or communion. Jesus gave a new meal to his people, a meal of his own body and blood to satisfy the hunger of our hearts for forgiveness. This night Jesus handed himself over to be sacrificed to save you from wondering if you are good enough. Your struggle may be like the disciples against pride, arrogance, judgment and criticizing, or your struggle may be finding worth in who you are, how you look, what you do, what you have done, etc. Tonight, Jesus’ words for you are, 10 … “You are clean.” Whatever struggles with sin you have, Jesus took them to the cross and they are washed away. You are clean, forgiven, and loved.
The way others will recognize your love for Jesus this year will be different. The normal signs of Holy Week and Easter have changed. Now more than ever, Jesus’ command to the disciples and all of us is the way you will be recognized as one of his followers. Jesus said, 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Jesus’ command to love was not new in the sense that God did not want people to love one another before this, but Jesus’ command now had behind it all he had done. Jesus now calls you to love as he did with a love of service and sacrifice. You are now a sign to point others to Jesus, not a sign of words to be read, but an active, serving follower of Jesus. The evidence of what Jesus has done for you will show in your words and actions toward others. Fathers, love your children and spouse by giving up time watching sports reruns and do as Paul wrote in Ephesians 6, 4 “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Make sure your children are so familiar with their Bibles that they can recite the books of the Bible in order, rather than being able to recite every Texas College football team. Wives and all sisters in Christ, when you feel cooped up because your routine is off watching the kids at home or just not able to do your hair, put on makeup and go out, take these words from 1 Peter 3 to heart and be at peace, 3 “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” Children, Jesus loves you, he always tells you the truth and he is always with you, when you are happy, sad or for any situation go to him as in Luke 18, 16-17 “But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”” Your love for one another shows because Jesus has loved you.
I’m sure all of you have seen the “Employees must wash their hands before returning to work” sign. Over the last few weeks, those signs have changed to read, “Employees* must wash their hands before returning to work” (*employees, employers, men, women, children, young, old, students, teachers, tall, short, East, West, North, South, healthy, sick, rich, poor, everyone). Before what has happened over the last few weeks, I hope you were thankful that the people who handled your food and clothes washed their hands after using the restroom. I also hope you were washing your hands. How we show love to one another may be different right now, but the way Jesus showed love to his disciples the night he washed their feet looked different too. Jesus showed the disciples what real love looked like. Real love was service and the next day he gave up his life as the greatest expression of love to give them forgiveness and life. Jesus’ command for you and me has not changed no matter what is going on around us. Now more than ever give thanks for Jesus’ love for you. And, as Jesus loved you, love one another. Amen.