March 24, 2016
St. Timothy’s United Methodist Church
Rev. Mark Vickers
John 13:1-17: 13 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. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
John 13:31-35: 31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him,[a] God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once. 33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come. 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
We begin our final journey to the Cross this evening. We begin it in a fashion that is often uncomfortable for the people of the 21st Century. We begin it with a practice that makes us truly disciples of the living Christ. We begin it with an act that seems both holy and, at the same time, repulsive because of odor, looks, and the sheer fact of bearing some part of your body to the outside world. Not only is it about revealing your body to the outside world, it’s about doing it at dinner time. Jesus was not shy nor bashful to do this, but according to scripture, “the time had come.” It was a time in the life of Jesus that he had to “drive the point home” that this was the earthly end for Him and this is what I can do for you!
As we approach this service tonight I cannot think of a more appropriate time in the world to do such a service. Jesus washed the hands and feet of His disciples because they were broken and discouraged and needed to be loved. We too come with the same needs, the brokenness, the hurt, the anger, the disappointment that the disciples had but with different circumstances. The irony of being a 21st century Christian is that we know what Jesus ultimately did for us. We, in a way, know the answer to the question. In scriptural times, they were the first participants that received the love and the care of a man who proclaimed to be the Messiah. Now we are called to be the messengers of that claim. Hence, this is one of the reasons we re-enact this wonderful service; to be reminded that we are loved and cared for, not only by one another, but by Christ as well.
We here at St. Timothy’s are a congregation that cares deeply for those who hurt and are in need! We are what I call an activist congregation with an inward and spiritual direction. We are moved to love those here in this place and in the places around us that hurt, are impoverished, and yearn to be loved. We are a giving congregation! Yet, in the depth of scripture, we know without a doubt, that in order to be giving and caring, one must be cared for and receive the gift of love. Sound familiar? Pretty much what Jesus was attempting to get across in this story this evening. He loved His disciples and people so much that He was willing to wash their feet in order that they would wash one another’s feet. Jesus wanted the continuum to flow. He wanted it to be forthcoming in a way that rivaled anything anyone had ever seen.
Yet in the midst of this, Peter rose up and desired that “not only his feet be washed, but all of him,” to which Jesus replied, “one who bathes is already clean all over, though not all of you!” OUCH! Jesus knew that Peter was to betray him and that what Peter asked was not true. You see, even in the midst of our deep Lenten journey we often want to come forward with zeal like Peter, yet Jesus knows the real story. For we all are sinners and need to be washed. Peter was just a little too zealous about the proclamation.
Following Peter’s proclamation, Jesus sets the standard again, that “servants are not greater than their masters nor messenger’s than the one who sent them,” thus putting into perspective that God is the one who is in control. Within that conversation, Jesus again explains to those gathered as He explained to the Jews, that He was to leave and where He was going, no one could come. But the job left behind was the job He intended for us, to love one another in a radical form, a form so radical that we would wash each others feet and hands and prepare them for Kingdom work in the world!
One of my favorite quotes rings loud and clear this time of year and on this Holy Day, and it goes like this, “God doesn’t call us because we are qualified, but because we are able.”
My friends, as you prepare in your hearts to come forward to have your hands or your feet washed, know that you are able to be a servant of the living God by putting into action what Jesus taught us to do, to love one another unconditionally.
Amen and Amen