No more words from Jesus: tonight Jesus shows you the depth of God’s love for you and the shape of your life in Christ.
Pr. Joseph G. Crippen
Texts: John 13:1-17, 31b-35; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Beloved in Christ, grace to you, and peace in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Jesus washed Judas’ feet.
He knelt before the person whom he knew would betray him, and gently washed his feet. Looked with love into his eyes. Carefully dried his feet with the towel.
Judas also tasted the bread and wine that night, when his beloved Lord and Master said, “take and eat, this is my body, given for you, take and drink, this cup is the new promise in my blood.”
Paul reminds us tonight what we remember at each Eucharist, “that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread . . .”
On the night he was betrayed, Jesus washed the feet of all those who would soon betray him. On the night he was betrayed, Jesus joined his body and blood he would soon sacrifice for them and for all, to ordinary bread and wine, and gave this to those so unsure of their own faithfulness that each of them asked, “Lord, is it I who will betray you?”
While on sabbatical, surprisingly, in a number of places I worshipped, “the night he was betrayed” wasn’t said in the Eucharistic narrative. Instead, “on the night of his suffering,” or “on the night of his arrest,” was said.
But it is a matter of life and death to you, to me, to the world, that Jesus did all this on the night of his betrayal and rejection. And that he was fully aware of it.
You see, tonight Jesus’ teaching moves beyond words.
Now, John includes a long discourse on this night, full of teaching dear to our hearts, some of which we heard tonight. But from tonight through Sunday, Jesus mostly teaches by doing. Showing.
He had taught them again and again to love their neighbors, even their enemies. To pray for those who persecute them. Tonight, he strips down, brings bowl and towel, and washes the feet of those already on the verge of betrayal. Here is the servant life, he showed. No more words from Jesus. Just doing. Showing.
He’d called them again and again to life of self-sacrifice, losing for the sake of the other, finding new life through the death of the old life. Tonight, he breaks bread and shares wine and calls that his body and blood, body and blood he’ll shed as they witness in horror tomorrow. Here is what true love looks like, he showed. No more words from Jesus. Just doing. Showing.
Jesus did all this, showed all this, on the night he was betrayed, because that’s the love God dreams from all of us.
Being a servant to each other is easy if they love you. But Jesus serves those who will betray, deny, and abandon him. That’s how hard this path is, he shows. Living as a servant can mean you are taken advantage of, even mistreated. But if you watch and follow me, this is your way.
Being vulnerable and sacrificial in love to those who love you is easy. But here Jesus shows his vulnerability unto death not only for these who will betray him, but even for those who are actively plotting to kill him. That’s how hard this path is, he shows. Living in Christly love can hurt you. But if you watch and follow me, this is your way.
But there is more to all this. Judas got his feet washed. Ate and drank.
Do you see? Christ isn’t just showing you your path if you follow, revealing how hard it will be. He’s doing so much more.
Listen: Jesus loved Judas. And Jesus knew Judas. What he was capable of. What he would do. And still he lovingly washed his feet.
Jesus loved Judas. And Jesus knew Judas. Knew that Judas’ actions would directly lead to Jesus’ death. And still he lovingly shared a Meal of his body and blood with Judas, gave him God’s life to take into his body and spirit.
Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. That’s what Jesus shows you tonight. Your failings, your betrayal of Christ with your life, your sins, your brokenness, all this Christ knows. And none of it matters, because God’s love for you in Christ is so great, nothing you can do or not do can stop it. Do you think, Christ asks, that God loves you so little that your betrayal can make any difference?
Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
I wish Judas could have risked staying through the weekend to know this.
The others who betrayed, denied, abandoned, all got to see the risen Jesus, and be loved and welcomed. They were blessed to learn that nothing could separate them from God’s love in Christ. Not even their worst days. And yes, they were sent out again, called again to the path of Christ, the path of love of God and neighbor, the path of servanthood and vulnerability.
I wish Judas could have stayed long enough to find that love. To hear that call again.
But you, you’re still here. It’s not too late. Watch the love Christ shows you on his knees, his eyes looking into yours, seeing all and loving even more. And then take your bowl and towel to your neighbor and your enemy.
Watch the love Christ shows you in this Meal, his sacrifice embodied in bread and wine, knowing all you’ve done and loving you even more. Take God’s body and blood into your heart, your life, and be transformed into vulnerable love for your neighbor and your enemy.
No more words. Jesus says, see what I do, and go and do likewise. Because nothing can separate you from God’s love.
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen