Thursday, April 05, 2007

Holy Thursday Homily: John 13:1-17; 31a-35

Dear God, take our minds and think through them; take our hands and feet and work through them; take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire for you. Amen

If you are a fan of movies or television shows then you are familiar with the sneak preview. These are little snippets of the upcoming movie or episode that wet our whistles and creates in use a need to hear the rest of the story. This teasers might show the main character of a show in a perilous situation or making a particularly funny joke and we just have to put our money down or tune in next week in order to see the whole story and to know what happens in the end. The Gospel is full of these sneak previews. Jesus mentions many times what his mission is on earth and what he must endure to fulfill it. Our story today contains one such preview.

Jesus and his disciples have gathered into a room in Jerusalem in order to eat the Passover meal or the Seder as it is know in the Jewish tradition. The begin to eat the meal and nothing seems to be out of the ordinary, they are hanging out, eating the special food of the Passover when all of the sudden Jesus gets up, takes off his outer robe and ties a towel around his waist. The disciples are looking around very puzzled at one another and then Jesus takes a basin and pours water into it and begins to wash one of their feet. Their feet are dirty and dusty from all the traveling they have done and they are stunned at this move by Jesus. The job of washing feet was usually left for the servants or the lesser members of the household. Jesus was their leader and not only this, but they had proclaimed him the Son of the Most High God and now here he was half-naked, on bended knee doing the job of a slave.

This is the first sneak preview. Jesus lowers himself from the status of their leader to that of a slave or servant. The next day, Jesus would lower himself from the Son of God and true King of kings and Lord of lords to a beaten, broken, tortured, sacrificed Lamb of God. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross becomes the ultimate act of servanthood and it begins with the washing of the feet of the disciples. The disciples of course do not understand this at the moment when Jesus is kneeling before them and washing their feet. They think it is the strangest thing they had every seen, we understand it because we know how the story ends, but they were living it out and although Jesus had told them time after time that this trip to Jerusalem would be his last, but they did not understand it. They thought that Jesus could not be any more of a servant than what he was doing right then, and that he could not lower himself any further, but that was before Friday afternoon.

Then Jesus comes to Peter and Peter has already decided that Jesus WILL NOT wash his feet. He will not allow such a thing to occur. Jesus comes over to him and Peter asks him, are you going to wash my feet, Jesus tells him that he might not understand it now, but soon he will. Peter vehemently refuses saying “You will never wash my feet”, in other words he is saying, “I know my place and I know your place and I know that this isn’t right.” It wasn’t right socially, it wasn’t proper. Peter has the older mindset, the pre-Friday mindset. Jesus then tells him that if he does not allow the washing then he would not longer be a part of Jesus’ group.

Why does Jesus say this to Peter? I think in one way Jesus was pulling Peter out of his comfort zone. Jesus knew that the commission that Jesus was charging the disciples with would put them all out of their comfort zones. We too must be willing to get out of our comfort zones to talk to people even if we are shy, to travel to far off places to do missions, to step out of our boxes for the kingdom.

Jesus tells them that since he is the teacher, the leader, the Son of God and that he has humbled himself to was their feet that none of them are too good to wash another person’s feet. Jesus is trying to change their mindsets. Remember no long before then the disciples were bickering back and forth about who the greatest among them was, who was the second in command after Jesus. Jesus told them that if they wanted to be truly great that they had to be the servant of all. This action that Jesus performs the night before he was to die reaffirms the lesson that Jesus was teaching them. If they wanted to be disciples, if WE want to be disciples of Christ we have to get out and serve everyone that we come across. There is not job too dirty, no person to lowly that we cannot help them. Remember in the ultimate act of servitude Jesus took up the cross, not just for the rich, or the middle class, but for all people and we have to, just as he did, serve all people.

Finally, Jesus tells them that the final commandment, the final order from on High is this to love one another, to love the world, just as he has loved them and they will be know by their love. Are you known by your love? Can someone tell that you are a Christian by your actions and words? Let’s leave from this place with a renewed since of purpose and that purpose is to love and serve all people, just has Jesus has loved and served us. “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Let us pray…

Grant, O Lord,

that what has been said with our lips we may believe in our hearts,

and that what we believe in our hearts we may practice in our lives;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen


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