We most often hear our second scripture lesson in reference to Maundy Thursday... pre-Easter... as Jesus shocked his disciples by taking on the role of a servant, as he washed their feet. The word “maundy” comes from the Latin word “mandatum” - mandate, or command.
Jesus knew his time on Earth, in the flesh, was short. He knew one of his closest friends would betray him (Judas), another would deny even knowing him (Peter)... and he was fully aware, that he would be crucified.
Jesus also knew that he had one final chance to teach, to encourage, to instruct his disciples before the cross, and the nails, and the grief that followed.
What would he say? Would he comfort his disciples by once again teaching them of his resurrection and the hope to come? Would he offer them a parable that reinforced their faith in God’s ultimate, eternal sovereignty? Would he reveal some hidden secret of God’s plan for the end of time?
Of all the things he could have said, he said... “Love one another.” Think about that! Of all the untold knowledge Jesus could have revealed to his disciples, of all the spiritual depths he could have sounded, he chose to remind them, to love.
That’s profoundly telling, isn’t it! It’s about as basic and fundamental to our faith as Jesus, the Cross, and the Empty Tomb! It just doesn’t get any more foundational than that! “Love one another.”
And maybe we need to hear that, from time to time. Maybe we need to get back to investing in and living the foundational elements of our faith. Maybe we need to strip away all the complexities and additions, and traditions and expectations... and simply be reminded of what’s most important.
Sometimes the church needs to hear that, and be reminded of that. We have so much going on in our everyday lives... we’re stretched pretty thin at time. Every time you turn around there’s another meeting... a committee or group doing this or that. Important stuff... needed stuff... but sometimes the stuff takes priority. Even our prayer life and worship can become more ritual than relational, if we’re not careful.
So maybe we need to stop and remind ourselves what matters most. Jesus himself said it’s all about loving God and our neighbor. When all work and programs and rituals are stripped away... what really matters is love. Because without love, none of the other things we do matter.
Of course, the Bible has a lot to say about love...
"God is love."
"And this is love that a man lay down his live for his friends."
"Love is patient love is kind it is not boastful or self seeking."
"These three abide: Faith Hope and Love. But the greatest of these is Love."
There are so many different understandings of love and we had better decide which one is ours. The “world’s” idea of love is vastly different than God’s.
The world says “All We Need is Love” - and “what the world needs now, is love sweet love... it’s the only thing that there just too little of!” But what does that even mean? It’s all “open ended” and has no logical end. It’s sentimentalism and lacks substance.
Love is expressed in God’s Word as having purpose and meaning and value. There’s brotherly love... the kind of love we’re called to express to one another. There’s love that’s expressed between a husband and wife. There’s love for our children and grandchildren. And then there’s my love for ice cream! And they’re all VASTLY different! If I have to explain that, I’m not the one with the problem!
Jesus said, "Love one another..." - calling this his new commandment, as he gave it to his disciples. If we ever hope to obey that mandate, we had better decide what love really is. Is it the world’s understanding of a “many splendored thing that’s like a warm puppy and never needs to apologize?” Or is it the Bible's mighty gift that is patient and kind? That’s not rude or self-seeking. That always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres. That never fails.
What does that kind of love look like in real life?
I think Jesus knew his followers would be faced with this question. In a sense he answered it in the commandment itself. Jesus said we, are to love one another, with a HUGE caveat! “Love one another... as I have loved you.”
And how did Jesus love his disciples? By serving them! He stooped to his knees and washed their feet. He became their servant.
I belong to the generation of men who actually changed their children’s diapers. Now don't misunderstand me... I’ve never sought out the opportunity to change any diaper. But when it had to be done I did it. Before I had my own children I didn’t change diapers. But when my children came along, it was my responsibility to help with that rather disgusting task.
Could it be that love made the difference? Because I loved them I would take on a task I would never sought out otherwise.
I think in a very real way, that’s what Jesus did for us. He took it upon himself to do the dirty work. Not because there was anything in it for him. He did it... simply because he loves us.
In our broken, lost and depraved state, Jesus stepped in to clean us up... to wash our dirty feet. To pay the price for our forgiveness.
That’s love... and that’s what it looks like.
Jesus calls us to "Love one another." We can do that! Everyone here today has the capacity to be perfectly lovable people. That is easy. No problem.
Jesus said, "Love your neighbor" OK, that’s not too hard... I get along with most of my neighbors, and some are easier to love than others. But I can look past that and love them. It's a little harder but I can love my neighbor.
Jesus said, "Love your enemy." Really... I mean, now we have a problem. You see it is hard to love someone who has hurt you. But (with a lot of help from God’s Spirit and prayer) it can be done. It is difficult, but with God's help, I can handle that.
Jesus said, "As I have loved you." Uh-Oh! Jesus loved his disciples by washing their feet and dying because of their sins. Am I willing to wash my enemies' feet, to stoop and be vulnerable to them?
This "Love" commandment of Jesus', to love one another as I have loved you, is not the sugar coated saying we often think it is. It’s a hard saying. It’s a difficult commandment to follow. But it is why we are here.
We are here because Jesus loved us enough to humble himself, and to pour out this very life for us. And that’s how we are to love one another. To follow his lead in love.