John 12:12-16, 13:1-17, 31b-35
Deserving to be “given a serve, we were served”.
When I was 25 years old, basically against my desires-I was talked into coaching the senior football team. This team had very little success over the previous years-but now there was great expectation and excitement.
In the first game, we played the arch rivals and lost by more than fifteen goals and boy did I know their disappointment and disillusionment. Because I was the subject of that disappointment and disillusionment.
Misguided or unrealistic expectations.
Being a Christian: never have any more worries, life will be good, and if its not, it means your faith is not strong enough. Even, according to the odd late night evangelist, send in money and you will be rewarded tenfold.
Misguided, unrealistic and even sinister crap.
Becoming a Christian is like becoming a husband or wife and then a mother or father. Absolutely the joy increases, but so does the hurt-because their hurts and sadness’s become yours.
Having faith in Christ-in being a Christian we share with Christ, the injustices and hurts of this world and its people. We may get sick or we may not, we may struggle financially or we may not-so be it, that’s life. Jesus never promised either way, he promised that he would be with us through it all, to serve us and get us over the line.
Jesus enters Jerusalem and is welcomed as the great king. “Hosanna, Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. The King of Israel”.
Absolutely true. Albeit misguided-those welcoming Jesus expected a warrior type of king to release them from the bondage of the Romans. To drive them out of town and when this doesn’t eventuate-we know the story.
But as we know, Jesus had a bigger fish to fry. Yes Jesus would release them, release from the bondage of sin. To bring true freedom, not as the warrior king, but as the servant king.
Jesus didn’t come to run the bad guys out of town, but to bring the bad guys, Jews, Gentiles, Greeks, Romans and Australians-you and me into town-into his kingdom.
Jesus did not come to give people a serve, he came to serve. Let’s fast forward to Maundy Thursday. It is the night in which Jesus was to be betrayed and he has gathered with his disciples in the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover meal for the last time. It was during this meal that he instituted the Lord’s Supper.
He took some of the bread, gave thanks, and broke it; he gave it to his disciples saying “This is my blood”. Then he took the cup and said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” and added, “Do this in remembrance of me”.
The Word Maundy means command and in verse 34 Jesus tells his disciples “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”.
Jesus giving his body and blood for our forgiveness of sins certainly demonstrated his love for us. But also that night Jesus demonstrated his love in washing his disciples’ feet.
These days, foot washing is not all that prevalent-and when it is it is done in only a symbolic manner. In fact I remember attending a chapel where it was announced that they would conduct foot washing during the up and coming Maundy Thursday worship, and then finished with the instruction that it would be preferred if you would present your feet were in a reasonable hygienic fashion.
Which as we will see is rather like telling a homeless person we won’t help them until they get their act together, because in Jesus day there was a logical purpose for foot washing. The common practice was to wash the guests’ feet as they entered the house. Since most people wore sandals, and because there were no foot paths or paved roads, the visitor’s feet would be dirty from travelling. Also, in a hot climate like Israel to have your feet washed was very refreshing. A jug of water, basin and towel at the door were marks of genuine hospitality.
But it was still considered a menial, if not even a demeaning task, it was the responsibility of the household slave to conduct the said feet washing and make them refreshed and comfortable.
In the Upper Room that night, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, not only to make them comfortable, but to also as a demonstration of his purpose in life. As well what their purpose in life should be.
Earlier in his ministry Jesus told his followers in Matthew chapter 20: “Whoever wants to be first must be your slave-Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”, and later that evening “love one another as I have loved you”.
On that night, just hours before he would suffer for them, for us-Jesus acted out what the purpose of what his life was and still is: to serve, both you and me.
I remember several years ago I went to watch the Port Adelaide Magpies; the most successful semi-professional/professional Aussie Rules football club in Australia play arch-rival Norwood. There was not a big crowd there, but none the less two Port guys sat right next to me. Initially I thought this is good because in Adelaide, if you go for Port every one’s your arch rival except for fellow Port supporters. So I was thinking along the safety in numbers scenario. Then he started. One of the guys was the Pavarotti of football fans. Just before the first bounce he started, and he never abated until the final siren. Port that day lost, but on the way, this guy constantly in a booming voice-for every second of the 80 minutes never shouted ridicule, only encouragement to the players. He displayed if nothing else, a voice box made of granite, loyalty to his club and courage under fire to continue with the opposition supporters giving it to him as Port went steadily backwards.
Halfway through the third quarter, his quieter mate, maybe sensing that even I would like him to tone down a touch-turned around and said “he’s a barracking machine”.
Jesus is a foot washing machine.
Like that Port guy to his club, when we aren’t performing, when we are losing the battles-Jesus doesn’t take a backward step: he just keeps on keeping on. That’s why we are here tonight. We just didn’t wake one morning and say-I have decided that I believe this Christ stuff. It may seem like that, but it is really only from Christ presenting himself in our lives again, again and again. In our daily lives, in hearing the Word of God, in Baptism and Holy Communion. The Father, Son and the Holy Spirit bring us to faith, retain us in faith and strengthen our faith.
That is why Christianity gets such a hard time. It’s illogical. No different from when the Jews were expecting a war type king or messiah to rescue them from being impoverished by the Romans-only to receive a man of peace, totally the opposite to how general society would deal with the issue.
(and) we ask ourselves what’s changed.
Jesus serves us and we are too serve others. Both these are counter cultural, not just too general society, but to us.
Jesus serves us. Yes we know that. We know he died on the cross for our sins and we know he’s with us everyday day. But then, do good works-but no amount of good works, even the Mother Theresa type of give your life to poverty and service in the India slums won’t save you one iota: “only faith in Jesus can save you” may start to get us a little edgy. But the piece of résistance, we who know our sin and our own darkest places are not only forgiven in Christ-but he loves us how we are: when you get your head around that one let me know.
But it’s all true. How do we know-because Jesus has told us. Of course in our minds it is illogical-as is faith in Christ to a non-Christian. But having been brought to faith, to believe Christ died for our sins-you can’t have it both ways: Jesus Christ, the only person that walked on this earth sinless, perfect-the person who raised people from the dead, cured blindness, leprosy and so forth-LOVES YOU AS YOU ARE NOW.
(and) what does Jesus ask for all this. Accept it. Accept it and pass it on-because see that CEO making 8 million dollars per year, see that office worker, see that outlaw motorcycle gang member, see that mother and father that use their welfare payments to buy drugs instead of food, and see that prostitute who is funding her family with the only asset she has-I love them too, not later but now, this minute-I know them and I know their hurt.
Deep down, they know there is a better way-but from sin, being beaten battered and scared by Satan and his evil temptations they are imprisoned.
But you are my workers in the field. With you, I will sow the seed, work the ground and reap the crop.
Yes, in humility we are to accept forgiveness in Christ alone, and yes, in humility we are to serve his people-for him, for Christ and not for ourselves.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, they saw him as the coming king, cheering and honouring him-only to fall away in his hour of need when he was beaten, bruised, ridiculed and slain.
When our neighbour enters our life in their hour of need, beaten, bruised, ridiculed and lost-in that person we see the loved child of God. We see Jesus serving them, washing their feet in the hope that he can cheer and greet them in his eternal home.
Imagine, that person who comes into our lives in whatever disguise: rich or poor: who is in need in this world-hungry, starving, wandering, looking for “something”, alone and scared. Imagine on our last day seeing that person smiling with no hurt or tears and glowing in the light of Christ.
I cannot think of a better day, except for the day that, that person was given hope, peace and came to know the true love of Christ while here amongst the storm.
Our Father in Heaven, your will be done- on earth as in heaven, for the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever. Amen.