Maundy Thursday Reflection
The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor
West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches
April 13, 2017
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.
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “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.”
Why is today called Maundy Thursday?
What is a Maundy, anyway?
I’m glad you asked.
Over the course of 2,000 years,
Christianity has developed some interesting traditions.
Maundy is derived through Middle English and Old French
From Jerome’s original Latin word: Mandatum.
This is also the origin of the modern English word: mandate.
Mandatum is the first word of the statement by Jesus
In the Gospel of John 13:34.
“Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos”
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
There you have it:
Maundy equates with Mandatum,
Our Lord’s new commandment
To love one another,
Just as Jesus loved his original disciples.
But, I must ask, what gives?
The Gospel of John explicitly reports
Jesus is giving his disciples in the Upper Room
A NEW commandment.
The Latin “novum,” meaning “new” is right there for all to see.
We all know Leviticus 19:18 which states
“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
The command by God
To love your neighbor had existed from the time of Moses,
Born in 1,592 BCE, according to Jerome.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself
Had been taught faithfully in Rabbinical schools,
In Temples and Synagogues,
To the people of Israel
For more than 1,500 years.
What’s new about that?
What was new for Jesus
To love your neighbor as yourself,
How to love your neighbor.
The events of the Upper Room and the Last Supper
Were a demonstration in
How to love your neighbor.
How we are to love our neighbors.
You’ll notice our Gospel of John reading is split into two sections,
John 13:1-17 and John 13:31b-35.
I don’t know about you, but
I’m always curious about what is being left out.
In today’s Gospel,
After Jesus washes his disciples’ feet,
He tells everyone at the table that one of them will betray him.
One of them,
Who we know was Judas,
Will turn him over to be arrested, tried, and killed.
“The one who ate my bread has lifted his heal against me.”
And “I tell you, one of you will betray me.”
After Jesus identifies Judas as the one who will betray him,
By first placing the piece of bread into his hand,
Judas immediately went out.
And it was night, John reported.
This is how you love.
Jesus washed the feet of the one who would betray him
Jesus fed the one who would turn him over to the authorities
For arrest, torture, and crucifixion.
Jesus would love that one man
Even though he fled into the night,
Forever separating himself from Jesus and the other disciples.
Jesus would serve him.
Jesus would feed him.
Jesus would forever love him.
There was nothing that could separate Judas from the love of Jesus.
Not for nothing,
But for Peter, too.
Jesus washed Peter’s feet
And fed him
Even though the hour was drawing neigh
When Peter and the rest of the disciples would flee for their lives
And Peter would deny ever knowing Jesus.
But three times.
Jesus served Peter,
And fed him, too.
That’s how you love your neighbor as yourself.
This is what’s new.
All the neighbors you have in your life
With whom you have unresolved differences.
Think of the people
Where darkness has come
Between you and them,
Where sin has shoved you apart
yours or theirs,
Has prevented forgiveness, repentance, and healing from taking place.
These are the people Jesus calls us to love,
On this Maundy Thursday
With his mandatum:
Love one another.
Love through service.
Before, during and after breaking bread together.
Even if the one with whom you are at impasse with
Might have a tongue of venom and is quick to spread lies about you.
Even if the one you are serving
Might be harboring violence against you in their heart.
Even those like Peter,
Who would deny ever knowing you if they were caught in a jam.
Serve and feed the world,
Even if the world has turned against you.
Serve and feed the world,
By your service
And by your generosity,
Everyone will know
That you are Christ’s disciples.