Holy Thursday 2006
He Loves Them to the End - John 13:1-15
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Jesus, the Son of David, is near the hour of the purpose of His life among men. He is about to leave the world as He came, in humility. Yet this humility, which is not comfortable to the modern Christian, is His way of loving "His own" to the end. Indeed, His departure includes much more than humility for He will be betrayed by one of His own disciples, He will suffer at the hands of soldiers and religious and civil leaders, and He will be crucified shamefully as a criminal on the cross. Jesus knows that this is His hour. He sees that what is to become of Him is much more than what "His own" can bear. Yet this is the very hour that must come for Him to demonstrate to His disciples and to all people His love for them. That this hour would mean so much pain and suffering and cost Him His life, Jesus "loved them to the end." Jesus' end is not the end but rather it is the necessary hour for Him "to depart from this world to the Father."
So that we do not fall into thinking that Jesus' washing of feet is something required of us for salvation we need to look at what is going on here. God had given all things into Jesus' hands. He came from God and was going to God. That is why how Jesus came into this world is so important and why how He was going to leave is so important. He was born humbly of the Blessed Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit. As He grew in stature before God and men He was shown to be the Son of God at His Baptism and His life from that time on meant conquering the temptations of the devil, preaching the Gospel, healing the sick and walking toward Jerusalem to this point of His departure. Even Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem was in humility as He rode in on a donkey to the shouts of "Hosanna to the Son of David!" Here, as Jesus washes the feet of His disciples, we see real humility, for He is their Lord and Teacher, and He makes Himself their servant. They do not understand this until later, just as they do not understand what Jesus did in His institution of the Holy Supper at the celebration of the Passover until He appeared to them on the road to Emmaus in the flesh risen from the dead.
Peter's reaction to Jesus is our reaction to Him. We are uncomfortable with His humility. Also, we have trouble receiving what He has to give to us. But when Jesus says He must do this so that they have part with Him then Peter is all ears. He wants Jesus to wash more than his feet. Anyone who is washed by Jesus is cleansed. But not all are clean. Though Jesus loves "His own" to the end, the devil had entered the heart of Simon's son, Judas, to betray Jesus. This is not Jesus' idea for Judas to betray Him that is plotted out in secret but that of the devil as is recorded in Holy Scripture. Judas cannot receive Jesus' love so He cannot be cleansed. He will betray Jesus unto death.
Jesus' action of washing His disciples' feet is more than an example for His disciples to follow. Here the Lord teaches them to receive what He is to do for them and receive what He has to give them. He foretells His own death to them for He is the Suffering Servant who humbly gives up all for them and their salvation. This is the hour of the cross, God's love and salvation for the world through His Son, the Son of David, who must die to reconcile the world back to God. So too Christ's Church is to humbly receive what is handed down to her in the Lord's Supper. The Body of Christ given unto death for our sins. The Blood of Christ shed for the forgiveness of our sins. We are given in this Sacrament the testament of Christ's love for us. By God's grace we are saved through faith in Christ. This faith in Christ is not apart from Him but makes us, like His disciples, have a part in Him and His salvation. Therefore, it is necessary to examine oneself and receive these gifts worthily, by faith. At the altar Christ calls us forward to receive Him in humble repentance and faith as He comes dressed humbly for us under bread and wine. We are not to harbor rejection of His love and cleansing for us. In faith we receive His Body and Blood. As Jesus' washing of His disciples' feet was a foretelling of the giving up of His life unto death so is His Last Supper, the New Testament, a proclamation of Christ and His death. We sinners who are called to eternal life in Christ are called to partake of this Sacrament of the Altar often, for as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim His death until He comes. Jesus died and in His death we are given life. Jesus rose and ascended into heaven where He reigns in glory. He who reigns in heaven reigns also on earth in His Church and, especially, here at His altar. He will come again and on that Day you and I and His Church on earth, who proclaim His death on the cross, will go to our God and Father, as our blessed Lord did. After undergoing His hour of suffering and death He loved us to the end. So He loves us to the end of time. To Jesus be all glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.