Exodus 12:1–4, 11–14
Psalm 116:1–2, 12–19
1 Corinthians 11:23–26
John 13:1–17, 31b–35
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you
from the one who is love and grace. Amen
Law and gospel, love and grace.
This is Jesus’ last evening with the disciples
and he wraps up their time together
with a concise summary of what he is all about,
why he has come
and why he will go to the cross willingly.
It is all Law and gospel, love and grace.
First the law,
Jesus gives the disciples a new commandment,
to love one another.
The law as Jesus gives it
is not a series of prohibitions against this or that
but to treat one another out of love.
It’s deceivingly simple
leaving us with more questions than answers,
chief among them; How do we love one another?
You are to love one another as I have loved you,
Jesus tells the disciples,
the love I’m talking about looks like service
the kind of service I just did by taking off my outer robe
and kneeling before you
washing your feet like a servant,
doing the dirty work of caring for another.
“You’re not better than me” Jesus tells the disciples
knowing that they will be repelled
by the thought of serving in this way,
their upbringing, the culture, their religious beliefs
all tell them that this kind of service is beneath them,
a job for the lower classes, unclean, something to be avoided,
and yet this is Jesus’ new command to them, to us.
Love one another as I have loved you,
This is the mark of my disciples Jesus says
if you have love for one another,
This is the new law by which you will be judged.
Love is now the law.
And even as he gives the new commandment,
Jesus knows that we are incapable of keeping it.
Which is why Jesus follows the giving of the law
with the giving of grace,
the giving of himself on the cross
so that God will look on us as being as holy as Jesus,
even though we fail at loving.
Jesus sets the example of grace this last night too,
though the disciples won’t be able to see the grace
until after the fact,
we get to see the grace of Jesus’ actions,
how even though he knows exactly what is going to happen,
who is going to betray him,
he continues to serve his betrayer.
Did you notice that?
Jesus, knows that Judas is going to betray him
and he still washes his feet,
he knows Judas is on his way out the door
and he still eats the passover meal with him.
When we were preparing for first communion
we talked about how eating a meal with someone
is a sign that you are friends,
Jesus includes Judas in the meal,
eating out of the same bowl even.
This is grace.
And Simon Peter,
he gets the same treatment as everyone else too,
he will betray Jesus,
not as intentionally as Judas,
not for money
but out of fear for his own skin
he will deny that he knew Jesus.
And yet Jesus kneels at Simon Peter’s feet too.
Now Peter has a big mouth,
as a disciple he is often guilty of speaking before thinking
sometimes he accidently speaks the truth
and sometimes he says what the rest of us are thinking
but are too afraid to say.
Jesus is washing the disciple’s feet and he comes to Peter
“Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Peter asks,
though it is completely obvious that that is what Jesus is doing.
“You will never wash my feet” Peter says to Jesus,
he refuses to give up his set understanding
of what is the proper relationship between a teacher a master and his followers,
a master serving a follower, that’s just not done!
We get squeamish when it comes to grace,
when it comes to being served
by someone we respect or anyone really,
we back away, we protest,
we can do this, don’t trouble yourself,
we get squeamish because accepting grace
means that someone else is doing our dirty work,
that they will see what we like to hide,
the imperfections of our feet,
the imperfections of our lives.
Jesus responds to Peter the big mouth,
the stubborn independent disciple
who one minute says he will follow Jesus all the way to death
and another minute denies that he knows him
“unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Jesus says
There are some things we can’t do for ourselves,
there are some things that Jesus has to do,
only Jesus can do
and joining us to him through washing is one of those things,
in our baptisms we are joined to Christ,
God does that it
is a pure gift, it is grace.
Christ comes to us in the breaking of the bread
and pouring of the wine,
God does that,
it is a pure gift, it is grace,
Jesus goes to the cross for us,
it is a pure gift
it is grace.
Law and gospel, love and grace.
In remembering Jesus’ last night with his disciples
We are reminded that we have been commanded to love one another,
self-giving, getting dirty footwashing love
that includes even those we know are going to betray us,
and we are reminded of the good news of grace,
the gift of the cross
which means that we will not be condemned
when we fail to love
but in the water, word, bread and wine
are forgiven and set free to live lives of service,
lives of love and grace. Amen
Pastor Emily Johnson preaches weekly at Christ Lutheran. These are manuscripts of her sermons given at Christ Lutheran. Feel free to engage with them in the comments section of the blog.