Maundy Thursday 2015
John 13, 1-17 & 31-end
1 Corinthians 11, 23-26
There are some passages from the gospels that really get to you; and, this is one of them.
The account we have heard of the last supper, from John’s gospel, is a converting story.
Every time I listen to it I am drawn closer to an understanding of Jesus as both fully human and fully Divine. I can’t quite comprehend how, as the epistle puts it, ‘on the night before he was betrayed,’ Jesus not only feeds but, cleanses his apostles. Yet he does. And, the apostles include a friend who is to reject him, Simon Peter, his betrayer Judas Iscariot and ten others who simply go AWOL. In serving his friends he does something utterly remarkable. He shows himself to be both the ends and the means for the possibility of redemption is through the cross and, our destiny if we choose to accept it, is to be with Christ.
But, Jesus also does something even more remarkable: he provides all Christians, with the supreme example of what it means to be heirs to the apostolic tradition. We too are called on to wash the feet of those most in need, to relieve others from the burden of sin and worry, to prove that we care, to bring something of the kingdom of God to earth.
‘By this everyone will know you are my disciples that you have love one for another.’ The Church is called on, commanded to, model love and service, yes to the wider world, but also internally; for Jesus’ audience in this passage is not the wider world but, his inner circle of apostles to whom he says; ‘I give you a new commandment, that you love each other, just I have loved you.’
This is no mere sentimentality for the epitome of love, Jesus, has just proven his love for Peter the rejecter, Judas the betrayer and, the other ten who simply get up and take their leave.
Can we love those who we might think reject, betray or abandon the Church we claim to love?
Maundy Thursday means ‘Commandment Thursday,’ taking its name from the Latin Mandatum. As we learn in the book of Acts (Acts 2, 46 &47) many came to the Lord simply because the Church dared to be the Church; to be a community of love and service. This is one of our modern challenges: to create a community so distinctive, so loving, so infectious, viral even, that many will be attracted.
Love enacted through service is one of our Maundy challenges.
A second challenge is to examine our identity. Look at what John says about Jesus: ‘Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer outer robe, and tied a towel around himself.’
Jesus knew he was both from God and was of God. Confident in his identity he was able to throw off his outer appearances; his robe. As Christians our identity is in Christ. This Easter I hope and pray that we will all gain a fresh appreciation of our identity as followers of Christ; heirs to the apostolic tradition. This will involve throwing off parts of what we might regard as our characteristic identity, in order to love and serve others. Are we up for it? Dare we even look? These are Maundy Thursday questions.
So here we have it, three key concepts: love, service and knowledge and, two audiences: our fellow church members and the rest of the world.
What John seems to be saying through this passage is simply this:
As Christians our vocation is love, actualised through service, and rooted in knowledge.
If we can cling onto these three, grow in these three, reveal Christ through these three, the kingdom of God will grow on here on earth as in heaven. And, that’s a promise!