Do you know what I have done to you? Jesus asks. May Christ open our eyes and hearts and transform us both to know and to do as Christ does.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
Text: John 13:1-17, 31b-35
“Do you know what I have done to you?” Jesus asked the disciples Thursday night.
What Jesus did is more than just what happened that night, with the meal and the footwashing. “Do you know what I have done to you?” can be asked of every step the Son of God took in these Three Days.
And now on this night, Jesus asks you the same question. Everything rests on your answer. And mine. And that of all who wish to follow Christ.
After washing their feet, Jesus asked: Do you know what I have done to you?
His disciples knew in their guts that what Jesus did was profoundly shocking. Our translation unwisely cleaned up the word John uses here. Jesus took the place of a slave, not a servant, John says. Paul likewise told the Philippians that Christ Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.
And we wince. We don’t want to hear ugly talk of slavery because we carry as a nation and a people the ugly stain of racism built for hundreds of years on dehumanizing millions of our siblings from Africa and other places, and committing genocide on millions of our siblings who were native to this land.
But Jesus doesn’t talk about it, either. Jesus, God-with-us, lives it, not identifying with the leaders and the privileged and the wealthy, or even his followers’ status, but taking the lowest place in his society, the place of a slave. Stripping down to his underclothes and taking a towel and bowl to the feet of the women and men gathered with him for supper.
Do you know what I have done to you? Do you know yet what it means that the God of all creation took on all human oppression and prejudice and stands with the lowest?
After the meal, Jesus could have asked: Do you know what I have done to you?
Jesus took the Passover bread and called it his body. He shared wine and called it his blood. Do you see what he’s doing? Again, we’ve watered down the language, this time by over familiarity. “The body of Christ, given for you. The blood of Christ, shed for you.”
But Jesus is hours from having his body nailed to a cross, his blood poured out on the dusty stones of Jerusalem. All for love of you and all the creation. Jesus says that’s what you eat and drink here.
Eat his body, chew on Jesus’ vulnerable love, let it enter all your cells, change your DNA. Drink his blood, take his sacrificial love into your bloodstream and let it bathe your lungs for breathing and feed your limbs for moving. You are what you eat. So eat me, Jesus says. Drink me, Jesus says.
Do you know what I have done to you? Do you know yet what it means for the God of all creation to pour out love like this, to be wounded and tortured and killed out of love for you and all God’s children?
In the Garden, Jesus could have asked: Do you know what I have done to you?
Go to Gethsemane and see Jesus – God-with-us, the Word who created all things – set aside all power and dominance and allow himself to be taken, betrayed, arrested.
Once more, we’ve domesticated the language. We easily recite, “Not my will but yours be done.” But do you know what that means?
Jesus, the Son of God, says once and for all that God will not use power over people. Manipulation and force and violence and getting what you want might be tools you’re encouraged to use, but the Triune God who made the creation and you will have none of it. Ever. God’s will is to resist all evil and hatred through non-violent love, not through power and might.
Do you know what I have done to you? Do you know yet what it means that the God of all creation will not fight you, force you, overpower you, or anyone else?
If you understand the bowl and towel, the bread and wine, the agony in Gethsemane, the death on the cross, you will realize there are inevitable consequences for all who follow Christ.
You cannot be an oppressor, benefiting from a racist, sexist, elitist system, if you follow Christ Jesus. The ruler of creation became a slave, the oppressed one. That is where God’s love always is.
So, hear this: on this very night, Jesus commanded his followers, do what I did. Be slaves to each other and the world. Only then will systems that oppress and marginalize and crush be dismantled.
You cannot eat and drink the vulnerable love of God and separate that from following Christ wholly with your life. God’s sacrificial love flows in your veins and transforms your cells because God wants to make you into that love.
So, hear this: on this very night, Jesus commanded his followers, love as I love. Be vulnerable to each other, offering your lives for each other and the world. Only then will hatred and abuse and destruction be ended.
And you cannot use the power and privilege of this world for yourself if you follow Christ Jesus. The One who by will and desire created the universe does not will that your life be built on the backs of others, enforced by your weapons or anyone else’s, or by violence, or threats.
So, hear this: on this very night, Jesus commanded his followers, put away your swords. Find your power in your non-violent love. Only then can evil and violent structures and societies be broken down and all people live in justice and peace.
Do you know what I have done to you?
You know the stories. But if you struggle with this deeper understanding that transforms the world, perhaps you could pray with me this night:
Christ Jesus, open my eyes to see you kneeling in subservience at my feet and bend my back to offer myself wholly and fully in service to all others as you did.
Loving Christ, open my heart to receive your suffering love in this Meal and widen my arms to offer myself wholly and fully in vulnerable love to all others as you did.
Prince of Peace, break my pride and insecurity so I recognize you setting aside power and violence to heal this world, and mold my will that I might offer myself wholly and fully and nonviolently as an agent of your peace and justice to all others as you did.
On this very night you said to us, “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” Blessed Jesus, give us the grace to know and to do, and, with you, to bring your healing to all.