April 2, 2015
(Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14; Psalm 116:1-2, 11-18; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35)
Do the disciples really do know what Jesus has done for them?
Two-thousand years later do we really understand?
The act of a teacher embracing the place of the common slave is clearly disconcerting for Simon Peter (and no doubt the other disciples). He is left off-balance – struggling to decide whether to reject or accept – moving in this brief account from insisting this will never happen to wanting to entirely immerse himself in the opportunity. Peter’s wrestle reminds us just how out-of-the-box all this is.
Jesus’ service is so unexpected.
Of course, Jesus is only continuing to hold out his invitation to embrace the upside-down kingdom of God. Perhaps the edgy nature of this vision has not – so far – ever been demonstrated quite so clearly. Loving like this makes him dirty and wet. It is undignified: that sweaty towel; bent knees shuffling across the floor; his guiding of the bowl from one set of filthy feet to another.
Yet even now Jesus insists that he remains their ‘Teacher and Lord’. His stooping is not one of resignation. It is, rather, a continuation of his equipping them for God’s strange kingdom.
This is an example of the way God loves and the lengths they are to go to as they learn to love one another. The promise: it will be a source of blessing for any who imitate.
This is the path to freedom.
Perhaps eventually the disciples will see this not simply as a blessing to be conducted behind closed doors. It may start there, but somehow the message – the reputation – must find a path beyond their small gatherings. This is a love to characterise the Christ-following community as they go ‘into all the world’. It is to become their call-card. Love: the kingdom’s call-card.
To say the least this story, this perspective, is a needed one. Our society now locks away refugees and their children out of fear and anxiety; we respond to the needs of a dying earth by hoarding more and more for ourselves; we seem distanced from the systematic dismantling of indigenous communities.
Tonight we will act out this drama. We will rehearse Jesus’ act of love in the face of his own terror. We will symbolise our desire to join with such courage.
And as with all our dramatisations and our symbols – no matter how holy and Godly they may be – they will only be filled, become weighty with content – as we leave this place and make them real.
What if we could act out of a love like this?
What would happen to our mission if people expected us to love like this?
What blessings might our cross-bearing, death-defying Christ, bestow on us if we were to obey?