Second Sunday of Lent – February 25, 2018
John 13:1-17 and Psalm 51:7-12
Our scripture reading today, takes us to the eve of the day Jesus takes his final journey to the cross. We all know what is coming next and it is vile and extremely upsetting and very, very sad—Jesus’ crucifixion. We won’t focus on that right now. Instead, let’s go to the scene of his last night, one we are all too familiar with. He is surrounded by his very closest friends, his confidants, his students, his soon-to-be messengers. Can you picture this scene? There is celebration and laughter, no one really knows what is coming. Jesus removes his robes, wraps a towel around Himself and bends slowly down. One-by-one He washes the feet of his disciples. Their reactions are varied, many are confused. It’s a simple act. But it’s overflowing with imagery and emotion and lessons for all listeners. And finally, one simple question accompanies Jesus actions. “Do you understand what I have done?”
When we meet Jesus in this episode of foot washing, there is a whole deal of tenderness to Jesus’ approach throughout. We find Jesus to be at his very most pastoral self as He shares this night with his disciples.
Loving them to the end, indicates a completeness similar to Jesus’ words “it is finished” as He will soon breathe out his last breath on the cross. It has a sense of arriving at its goal, to completion, to the end, the uttermost end. This act of love is of such a magnitude. Preachers often get the urge to say to their audience “go and do likewise.” But it might be advisable rather to think twice before saying so. This is an intense moment of love that doesn’t easily find its equal in human capacity.
When John tells his version of the gospel of Jesus Christ he is actually helping and nudging us along in our faith in the new reality of love, unconditional love, that God brought through Jesus.
John has a delightfully artful way, of describing a fuller meaning of the Word that became flesh. It doesn’t happen in obvious ways. That’s why we might not “get” it immediately.
The foot washing, as with so many of Jesus’ deeds, gets misinterpreted too, this is an opportunity for learning. Symbolically the washing here is more complicated than we tend to imagine. We are challenged. We have to ask, washed from what, for what? Can one really be washed clean? Is that really what Jesus is doing here? Imagine too, at the same time as this almost ritualistic washing, there is an extremely palpable presence of evil in the room. Judas will soon betray Jesus and turn his back on Him. Peter too, doesn’t believe it, but he is about to deny Jesus three times.
It appears that the foot washing is a way of making clean and washing away the inability to fully recognise Jesus for who He is. It seems to wash and bring into focus that which is about to happen. Think of it, it exposes Judas. The washing makes it possible to become part of Jesus’ community.
Only when we look closer, we see something of Jesus pointing out how his entire ministry on earth is meant to work. Jesus, we see in chapter one, is the Word made flesh. He came to establish a pattern of being, displaying God’s full presence in this world. This will become what the disciples are called to take on. Aren’t we also shaped in this fashion? The foot washing is a mini demonstration of what it means when we say that God – the Word – became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.
Will it ever be possible to live up to this model that Jesus holds before us? Be believers, live up to His example, get mobilised and not be still, we too are sent by God. We get to go out and live a life of demonstrating this same love that was demonstrated in Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. We are asked to wash the feet of our betrayers. This happens, not through our own strength, but through the Holy Spirit of God, as we will see, who works within our lives.
When we go about our daily routines and challenges, ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?” “How would Jesus act and include and treat others.”
Before you speak, listen.
Before you judge, act.
Before you criticize, wait
Before you hate, love.
Before you write, think.
Before you pray, believe
Before you quit, try.
Before you ask, count blessings
Before you die, live
Copyright 2018 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church
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