We started the week talking about how Jesus came into Jerusalem in an upside-down fashion on a donkey instead of a horse. Palm branches were waved. Shouts of ‘Hosanna’ were said. Day one ended by going to Bethany to see Mary and Martha, which I bet included an incredible meal from our gal-pal-Martha.
The next day Jesus took it easy and hung out with his buddies. Just kidding. He cursed a fig tree and overturned tables. Uh, that doesn’t quite jive with the palm-branch-vibe, right? Way to make a scene!
Thursday came around and the infamous last supper happened. I bet the scene was tense because he had already told the disciples one of them was a betrayer. So, I kindof doubt this was a no-stress-zone as the disciples probably tried to figure out who it was. “Well, remember that time Peter did so-and-so? Or what about Matthew? He was a tax collector from the get-go. Or…”
In typical upside-down Jesus fashion, Jesus redefined a tradition for his real-life neighbors. During the Passover meal, he redefined the normal bread and wine as his body and blood, broken for them. Then he did two things that, to me, are some of the most important parts of the story. He gave thanks. In the midst of anxious hearts around the table, remembrances of previous discussions about the temple being torn down, and before Jesus was handed over to authorities, he gave thanks. Eucharisteo. In the moments where you expect calm (like in the temple), Jesus overturned tables. In the moments that are tense (like in the last supper), Jesus gave thanks.
Then, perhaps the greatest part of all. He washed their feet.
Now, I know this only in John’s Gospel so we will look at those verses.
John 13: 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
Jesus knew (in verse 3) so he got up and served (in verses 4 and 5). Jesus knew…so he served. Why? He could have just said it. He could have just told them, “Serve one another. Go and serve.” But, He chose to show them.
John 13: 12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
He chose to show them an example of what true authority, kingship, priest and prophet, servant and sacrifice, and love was. And, then went one step further and told them to go and do likewise. He wanted to show them how to go beyond simply calling him ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’ (see verse 14), to what we should do because of it.
Do you see the upside-down nature of that? Jesus could have chosen to do 1,000 different things that night to display his power, glory, and position. And, I think he did that. Just in a different way than expected, perhaps. In an upside down way. The true definition of that power, glory, and position were on full display by redefining what that meant.
Sacrificial service. Putting others above ourselves because we call Him ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’.
Jesus knew so he acted as the humble servant like Paul talks about in Philippians.
Philippians 2: 6-7 – Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness.
So, today on Maundy Thursday, may we remember the example set before us of serving one another. We know the Knower. He showed us a better way of serving others in humility in his final week. Loving our neighbors. Not only in proclaiming ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’ (which amen to that!). But, doing the “so he” part of John 13.
The ‘Teacher/Lord’ part is the faith part. We say ‘yes and amen’ to that all day long! The ‘so he’ part is the action. This is a both/and story of faith and action – not an either/or. Of the faith moving us to action. Do you see it? I hope so. For many during the pandemic, the false belief has been that we have to choose one or the other. We have to choose to have faith or wear a mask and love our neighbors. No, friends. We do both.
We wear our masks and love our neighbors because of our faith.
We know faith…so we love our neighbors. Both/and not either/or. That’s what Jesus showed us at the last supper. Servant actions expressed because of our faith.
Jesus knew…so he.
I know…so I.
***I had many of you church leaders that I’ve worked with during this pandemic in mind while writing this post. I know it’s been a hard year with the decisions you have made to keep this servant-attitude first and foremost with masks, virtual services, and going against what others in your town might be doing. I just want to say thank you for living out the “knowing…so he/she” part of this post. Bless you!