John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 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 robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you." For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean."
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord--and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
"Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, `Where I am going, you cannot come.' I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
Today is Maundy Thursday. Another name for this day is Holy Thursday. Maundy is a Middle English word which means mandate or command. It's Latin origin is the word 'mandatum'. In John 13: 34-35 Jesus is participating in his last supper with his disciples and he says to them, “A new command I give to you. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Love is a powerful, deeply emotional word. Jesus knew that if this one mandate, to love one another, was fulfilled it would change the world. What was true two thousand years ago is still true today. I often hear people say that they don't know what this world is coming to. If you are one of them please don't despair. The world still has many examples of our love for one another.
I have no doubt there will always be good and bad in our society. Yes, wars will take place and innocent people will die. I also know that when disaster strikes, people come forward to help. In our own community people volunteer at churches, the hospital, the schools, the food pantry, and so many other places. All over the world families and friends gather to express their love for each other through the celebration of weddings, birthdays and in many other ways.
Unfortunately, Holy Thursday is a day in which we remember humanity at it's worst. Jesus, a man who did only good and nothing wrong, was arrested. He was whipped and beaten. And finally, he was hung on a cross to die. At St. Andrew's, after the Thursday evening service, members of our congregation silently strip the altar of everything. We place a black shroud over the cross and we leave the church in silence. It is an emotional service.
On Good Friday we reflect on Christ's suffering and death on the cross. There is no music. No hymns are sung. We simply pray. The final prayer is this: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we pray you to set your passion, cross, and death between your judgment and our souls, now and in the hour of our death. Give mercy and grace to the living; pardon and rest to the dead; to your holy Church peace and concord; and to us sinners everlasting life and glory; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen
Today we remember Christ's suffering and death. We also remember his mandate to love one another. On Easter Sunday we will celebrate his resurrection and sing alleluia!
Fr. Fred Steinbach
St. Andrew's Episcopal Church