St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Maundy Thursday 2013 Sermon
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Rev. Lorraine Dierick

Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
 
The hours are drawing to a close. The time for Jesus to be with his disciples is at an end.
They had been through a lot together, this carpenter turned rabbi and all these ex-fishermen. They had just experienced some of the most chaotic and exciting days of Jesus' ministry--­the raising of Lazarus from the dead, attempts to kill and arrest Jesus, and then the triumphal entry.
 
With the echoes of "hosanna" probably still ringing in their ears, the disciples have gathered with Jesus in the upper room for the traditional Passover meal. But almost immediately they would realize that this would be unlike any other dinner they had ever shared together.
 
Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
 
Jesus washed their feet.  This was NOT the actions of a rabbi. This was a very dirty and messy job left for the slaves of the house to perform. Jesus, taking on the role of a servant, washed his disciple's feet.  Despite Peter's objection, Jesus accomplishes what he had intended to do--to give them an example of his kind of leadership. He was a leader who was also a servant.
 
This washing of their feet is a foreshadowing of the last hours of Jesus' life.  Here Jesus is not triumphantly entering Jerusalem to shouts of Hosanna, being hailed as a conquering messiah. Here Jesus is stooping to serve, serving them out of love.
 
Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
 
That phrase, "to the end," is not just a measure of time; in Greek the meaning is more like "he loved them to the extreme or to the uttermost”.  In the last hours of Jesus' life, he would be betrayed by one of his disciples, denied by another, abandoned by the rest.  He would be utterly alone.  He would be unjustly tried and convicted on trumped up charges.  Both he and justice would be mocked openly.
 
He would be stripped and beaten, treated as a common criminal.  Yet what did Jesus do, knowing that his hour had come--he showed love to his disciples by serving them.  He did not flee.  He did not arm them to fight those who were coming to arrest him.  Instead, he served them.
 
I believe that this, in the end, is the perfect picture of God.  Jesus was most like his father when he demonstrated acts of love.
 
If we are called to model our lives after his life, we are then called to this servant love.  What does Jesus tell them?  "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this
every one will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
 
In Jesus we see the perfection of this unconditional love.  Should it be up to us to love so completely and unconditionally, I'm afraid we, like the disciples would fail.  
 
Consider the love Jesus had for these companions.  Jesus loved Judas, the one who would betray him in to the hands of those who were going to kill him.  He never stopped loving Judas, even to the end.  Jesus loved Peter, the one who would deny that he ever knew Jesus.  After all they had been through, Peter's love crumbled, his courage was weak.
 
Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
 
Jesus' example of love is perfect and it is this example of love that we celebrate tonight.  We will commemorate his unfailing love in a few minutes when we celebrate the Eucharistic meal together, the very re-enactment of the last supper that they shared.
 
This is the ultimate love Jesus showed to us--laying down his life for ours.  Just as he laid aside his garments to wash his disciple's feet, so he laid aside his power and control in order to be whipped and beaten and killed, offering an example of love to us and to the world for all time.  An example so amazing that we are still talking about it and re-enacting it.  We cannot hope to love like this in our own strength, we can only trust the example of Jesus and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.
 
This Passover night, according to John's Gospel, was the night before Jesus died.  What was the personal cost of Jesus loving so fully, so completely?  Was he angry?  Was he afraid?  Was he lonely?  We don't know, for that is not revealed in scripture.  But what we do know is that Jesus had every reason to feel all of those things, yet he stayed with the community including his betrayer, and he cleansed and cared and forgave and broke bread.
 
Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end, to the extreme, to the uttermost.  AMEN
 
Attribute - The Rev. Scott Russell 




 
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