Home > Holy Week > Jesus Serves Us Because He Loves Us. Maundy Thursday 2015

Jesus Serves Us Because He Loves Us. Maundy Thursday 2015

el greco the-last-supperMaundy Thursday

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 13:1-15

April 2, 2015

“Jesus Serves us Because He Loves Us”

Iesu Iuva

When Jesus came to Peter, Peter said, “Lord, you’re not going to wash my feet, are you?” And Jesus said something pregnant with meaning for us tonight. “What I am doing you do not know now, but you will know afterwards.”

Peter did not understand why Jesus was putting himself in the lowest position at the Passover table, the position of washing feet.

We understand why Jesus was doing it. Or do we? It seems more like we are always learning to understand what Jesus did that night, but never fully comprehending it. Just as Peter must have thought back on that night many times and wept, trying to comprehend it.

What was Jesus doing by washing feet? He was serving. Hospitality dictated at that time when you had a dinner, the guests had to have their feet washed so they could stretch out on cushions, recline at the table without getting dust on everything. And good hospitality required that you didn’t just give guests water to wash their own feet. You had somebody wash their feet for them. But this was not something an honorable man would stoop down to do for his guests. He would have a servant do it.

But Jesus wants to make it very clear that at this meal, the disciples are not servants. They are honored guests. Jesus is the host of the meal but He also takes the role of the servant of His disciples. He does the servant’s tasks. John lingers on the details.

Without telling anyone what He is doing the Lord pours water into a bowl, takes off His outer garment, and wraps a towel around His waist. He is dressing Himself for service. Then, one by one, He waits on His disciples. He takes each one of their dusty feet in His hands, washes them, dries them with the towel. He is the servant, kneeling before His disciples. And when Peter tries to get out of it and refuse to let Jesus be his servant, Jesus stays on His knees and quietly informs Peter that he has no share, no part with Jesus, unless Jesus washes him. Unless Jesus serves him.

Why is Jesus doing this? It is a visual sermon to drive home a point. The point is that Jesus, the Lord our God, must serve us. And that in everything that happens from this point forward in His passion, Jesus is serving us.

Why does Jesus serve us? The simple answer is that He loves us. Love is almost not a strong enough word to describe Jesus’ heart towards you, though. We use the word love for many things, but in the end we almost always mean something that has to do with serving ourselves. Jesus’ love is something else. It is love that is not selfish. And it is not an incomplete, wavering love, but a perfect, absolutely full love. “Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”

How did He love His own? First of all, He washed their feet in preparation for the Passover. It was a very simple, very human, very lowly act of service and love that showed that though He is the Lord and the teacher, at this meal He was the host and the servant and they were the honored guests.

This was very important, because at this Passover they were not only going to remember how the Lord had delivered Israel from slavery long ago. At this Passover Jesus was instituting His last will and testament.

“The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and giving thanks, broke it and said, ‘This is my body which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’ Likewise also the cup after they had supped, saying, ‘This cup is the New Testament in my blood; this do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

The disciples needed to know that they did not prepare themselves to receive this meal. Jesus invited them. Jesus prepared them. Jesus served them the holy food and drink. And He Himself was the meal.

Peter and the others needed to be washed to receive a share or a portion in Jesus. Jesus washed them and then gave them their share of Him as He also gives us a share in Him. He gives the bread which is His body and the cup which is the new testament in His blood, and we participate in Him. We commune in Him. We share in Him, together.

Jesus served the disciples because He loved them. He serves us because He loves us. He took the lowest place and washed their feet. He takes the lowest place and cleanses our filth away by the suffering He is about to undergo. And He gives us His flesh to eat and His blood to drink that we may have a clean conscience and the assurance of the forgiveness of sins.

The washing of the feet is kind of like the knockout punch in Jesus’ overwhelming display of love and service. As if He wasn’t preaching this sermon clearly enough by what would follow, Jesus added to it all that He also washed their feet.

Tonight, liturgically, we remember Jesus’ service to us by the ritual of stripping the altar. AS all the adornments of the altar are carried away—the paraments, the linens, the candelabras, the candlesticks, the banners, Psalm 22 will be sung. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest…” What is being pictured before us then is the costliness of Jesus’ service to us and the depth of His love. In order for us to receive the forgiveness of sins, in order for us to be absolved of our sins as we were earlier, in order for us to receive a share of Jesus’ body and blood for our justification, an exchange had to be made.

Jesus had to be betrayed and led off in chains from the garden of Gethsemane. He had to sweat blood there, pleading with the Father for another solution but receiving no answer. He had to be robbed of His dignity, to be falsely accused, punched and spit on. He had to be beaten until His back was crossed by bloody stripes, had to be crowned with piercing thorns and mocked by the soldiers. He had to be led away under the cross, stripped naked, crucified, hung bare and bloody between heaven and earth. And there in great agony He had to be forsaken by God. Left alone, barren, destitute, and finally dead on the cross, bearing the wrath of God alone.

He, the eternal Son of God, had to suffer this in order that we might be served with the forgiveness of sins.

He, the most High, had to descend into the lowest place, into the pit, to lift us up to be honored guests at His table.

He had to do this because He loved us with a love that we can only begin to comprehend by the power of God the Holy Spirit.

Yes, Jesus really loves you that much. That’s what He tells you, offers to you, every time He offers you His body to eat and His blood to drink.

Yes, you are really cleansed of all your sins and impurity. Jesus washes it all off you by plunging you into His death in Baptism. And when you find your conscience soiled He absolves you, pronounces you clean and free, as though He were sprinkling you with His blood.

Yes, you are really Jesus’ honored guest at His table. He serves you with life so that you may live in His kingdom in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.

And in showing us this great undeserved love He also sets an example for us to follow. Not something to feel guilty about. He serves us to take away our guilt. But He loves and serves us out of love so that we might walk in the example of our Lord and Teacher and wash one another’s feet. That is, out of love take the lowest place with Jesus and serve one another. Welcome one another in His name, not cast one another out.

And so as you come as Jesus’ honored guest tonight to His table, rejoice in His great love for you, and welcome one another as fellow sharers, participants together in Jesus.

The peace of God, that passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria

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