(John 13:1-17, 31b-35)
Rev. Dr. Sergio E. Arevalo, Jr.
Eagle Rock Lutheran Church
Los Angeles, CA
Traditionally in the Christian Church, this day is known as Maundy Thursday. The term Maundy comes from the Latin word mandatum (from which we get our English word “mandate”), from a verb that means “to give,” “to entrust,” or “to order.” The term is usually translated “commandment,” from John’s account of this Thursday night.
In our lectionary passage, in the Gospel of John 13:1-17, 31b-35, we can read at least three (3) important teachings of Jesus during the event of feet washing and supper.
These teachings are not new in his teachings since we already encountered them in the past teachings of Jesus, but what is observable is that he repeated here solely with his disciples.
We know that once he repeated a teaching or lesson it has urgency, and it is highly important. It is also showed the intimacy of the speaker to the listeners. In the Bible, when the names of the persons are repeated it shows the expression of intimacy of the speaker to his listeners (Genesis 22:11, 46:2; Exodus 3:4; 1 Sam 3:10; 2 Samuel 18:33; Matt 27:46).
I. Feet Washing: A Symbol of Humility and Servanthood (vv.15-17).
The Gospel of John narrated that as Jesus and his disciples were eating their final meal together before Jesus’ arrest, he washed the disciples’ feet to illustrate humility and the spirit of servanthood.
So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you must also wash one another’s feet. I have set an example for you, so that you may do as I have done to you. Truly, I say to you with certainty, a servant is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. If you understand these things, how blessed you are if you put them into practice!”(vv.15-17).
Jesus used the practice of foot washing to show the practicality of humility. Humility is not verbal, it is practical, we must show it through our actions, through our virtues and actions daily, humility should be seen in servanthood.
Before the fight of Pacquiao with Bradley last Saturday, they were both interviewed on a TV show, and addressing to all boxers Manny said this: “Those (he) who humble himself will be exalted. Those (he) who exalt himself will be humbled.” This sounds the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 23:12.
Humility is not racist thing (some people show humility only to their own color), it does not discriminate (some people show their humility only to their kind), it is not business thing (some people apply humility to their customers because they see their money in their pockets.)
Jesus says, “… you must also wash one another’s feet” (v.14). “You” here is not only referring to his disciples but also to all peoples. Since this kind of humility has love flavor, we should be humble with others even though there is no reciprocal humility, even they don’t show humility to us. Our humility is not to show off alone, our humility must be with love of Jesus, the Son of Man.
II. Glorification: A Completion of the Son of Man’s Mission (vv.31-33).
“The Son of Man is now glorified, and God has been glorified by him. If God has been glorified by him, God himself also will glorify the Son of Man, and he will do so quickly. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me, but what I told the Jews I now tell you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’” (vv.31-33).
John Wesley explains this in simple words,
“Being fully entered into his glorious work of redemption. This evidently relates to the glory which belongs to his suffering in so holy and victorious a manner.”
John Gill explains this,
“It was also glorious in the eyes of his Father, because hereby his purposes were accomplished, his covenant transactions brought about, his law and justice were satisfied, and the salvation of his people finished.”
Indeed, Jesus was glorified when he completed his mission from the Father—to save us from sins. When we pursue the mission of the Son of Man here on earth, we also glorify the Father.
III. Love One Another: A New Commandment (vv.34-35).
If I show you the logos of Coca Cola, KFC, Jollibee and other popular products you might easily recognize them. Simply because they have popular brands, and usually they bought their patents, they registered to Security and Exchange Commission, registered to domain names and fictitious names for their products. Nobody can use their logos and brands since they are legally theirs.
We as Christians have also a brand: LOVE. We do not pay for it, somebody got it for us—We got it through Jesus Christ and the Father. The Father showed his love by giving his begotten Son (John 3:16), and for sacrificing Jesus’ life for our salvation. Thus, love is a grace to all of us. We do not ask for it, we don’t deserve it, it is indeed unmerited favor coming from God!
This love is not for show off like our beautiful cross or new shoes. Love should be seen by people through our loving actions. Jesus says:
“I am giving you a new commandment to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (vv.34-35).
William Gladstone, in announcing the death of Princess Alice to the House of Commons, told a touching story.
The little daughter of the Princess was seriously ill with diphtheria. The doctors told the princess not to kiss her little daughter and endanger her life by breathing the child’s breath.
Once when the child was struggling to breathe, the mother, forgetting herself entirely, took the little one into her arms to keep her from choking to death. Rasping and struggling for her life, the child said, “Momma, kiss me!”
Without thinking of herself the mother tenderly kissed her daughter. She got diphtheria and some days thereafter she went to be forever with the Lord.
Real love forgets self. Real love knows no danger. Real love doesn’t count the cost (sermonillustrations.com).
That’s the kind of love Jesus has showed us, love that we experience, it is a sacrificial love. A love that is giving oneself for the sake of others.