The cross: the single most pivotal moment in all of history. Even the cross by its design, or in thinking of things crossing each other, there’s a moment of impact where things change. Before it everything was one way, after everything was different. The cross is the only thing you’ll encounter that demands all of you. Nothing else — work, sickness, marriage — demands your entire being. This cross is significant only because of the one who bore it. The name that is known above all names. The person by which we tell time, is the same person who created time, is the one who knows all time…
and Jesus knew this time was coming near. He knew his purpose all along, but on this Thursday he knew it was ending tomorrow.
We have moments in our life of significance, ones where we know something huge is about to happen. In the moments before our children were born, I knew I was really excited, but I didn’t want to mess anything up. So I just tried to hover in a “what can I do?” anxiety. The morning of my daughter’s first day of school, she was totally cool about it. No big deal. But something in me wanted it to be a tear-jerker of a movie moment. In either case I don’t remember saying anything poignant or doing anything mind-blowing.
But we have these pivotal moments, these rites of passage, these opportunities for a life lesson. We’ve all had a few, sometimes we can see it coming. Jesus is in his final hours. And John records his words and conversations with the apostles in grand detail. And this is how John prefaces that moments before the cross…
Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God,
This is the pivotal moment. It’s coming down to the hour where the world for all eternity changes. Everything was lined up and ready to go. Jesus has just a few hours left, before Judas betrays him, to spend with his apostles, the ones to carry this legacy. This is where a coach gives the big pep talk before the game. This is kneeling down to give my kid encouragement before the first day at school. This is the foyer before you walk her down the aisle. This is being blessed with a few minutes beside a deathbed. This is all those things…
but infinitely more.
So what does Jesus do…
got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
That’s it. That’s what He chose to do. Now they talked plenty after this moment, it wasn’t like He did a mic drop and left the room. But Peter is obviously confused and doesn’t know what to do about it. “Don’t Wash my feet, No, Wash all of me!” But Jesus knows this and even says, “you don’t understand what I’m doing, but soon you will.”
If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.
He tells them to serve each other. Over in Luke, he doesn’t mention the feet washing, but the apostles are arguing over who’s the greatest (of course they are *sigh*), and Jesus says
For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.
Which do you remember more: words or actions? I can’t think of my own words to use most the time, let alone what other people have said. My parents have said wise things to me I’m sure, couldn’t tell you one of them. But I know they love me and can give you dozens of example when they served. I can tell you story upon story of things people have done for me, and not a word of the conversation.
By doing this act at this time, Jesus elevates servanthood to a new level of importance. But like speaking to toddlers, you can’t just say it, you have to show them. “See? Do like this, yes, be nice…”
This is Maundy Thursday. The word “Maundy” comes from the Latin derivative, which means “commandment.” Jesus says…
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another,
Then the apostles could’ve said “New Commandment? No, this isn’t new. We already know this one! Love one another. That’s old!”
But there’s a world of difference between what was already said and how Jesus phrased it here. If you read the original verse in Leviticus:
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
That’s a really specific law regarding love. We would tend to skim the love part and just remember to not hold grudges.
Well then we also know this from the Greatest commandment story in Matt 22 and Mark 12. “Love God. Love others as yourself. On this hang all the Law and the Prophets.” This sounds like a much broader interpretation, but some would say this simply encompasses the 613 commands in Jewish Law. So still limited in some ways. Whether Jesus intended that to be more than the laws or not, Jesus says it specifically here.
that you love one another. Even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
God in loving us so much, didn’t just tell us to love, but brought a part of Himself down to our level, to show us what true love is. What it looks like, What it does.
But there’s a big difference between loving others as yourself and loving as Christ did.
Loving as yourself is: Well, I would want my feet washed. *snap snap* “Hey Servant, wash my friend’s feet!”. Loving as Jesus, is picking up the towel and doing it yourself.
Loving as yourself would be to send someone a card. Loving as Jesus would be to go to the grave site and mourn.
Loving as yourself is to hand out a dollar. Loving as Jesus would be giving the blind their sight back, maybe not in a miraculous way, but in physically caring for needs.
Loving as yourself is to give an answer. Loving as Jesus is to seek for a better understanding.
Loving as yourself is to not retaliate. Loving as Jesus is forgive indefinitely.
Loving as yourself would be a portion of these proceeds go to feed the hungry. Loving as Jesus feeds the hungry.
Loving as yourself is being nice to others. Loving as Jesus is to recognize the value and worth in children, women, men, widows, and orphans.
This amplifies love. It magnifies love. It encompasses what it truly means to love. To lay down your life for each other, just as Jesus did.
Sunday we’ll Praise the resurrection, Saturday is a day of reflection, Friday a day of mourning, Thursday – might it be a day of Service. I would encourage you to take time today to start, not just a single act, but to begin a life of loving service to others.
Not out of obligation. Not just to fulfill a commandment, but in response to already having been loved yourself.