Maundy Thursday 2010
John 13:1-35; 18:1-11
On the Thursday night of the last week of Jesus’ life, the Savior sat down with his disciples to eat, and then to pray in the garden before his arrest, and eventual crucifixion on Friday. The Gospel of John gives us an extensive recounting of the things Jesus shared with his disciples that night. One of them was Jesus telling them, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34).
The Latin translation of new commandment is Mandatum novum. Thus, we call tonight Maundy Thursday. And it’s on this new commandment that I want us to dwell tonight. Specifically, I want us to look at two passage from John.
First we read from John 13—
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” 8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. 18I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”
21After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table close to Jesus, 24so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.
31When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Then in chapter 18, we read—
When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 10Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:1-11)
One thing that is not shown in the Passion of the Christ and other movies about the crucifixion is the scene John tells us about here in chapter 18. A couple hundred Roman soldiers come with the Jewish authorities when Jesus is arrested. As Judas identifies him, Jesus asks, ‘Who are you looking for?” And when they answered ‘Jesus of Nazareth,’ Jesus answers, ‘I am he.’ In the original text, it’s the same as in chapter 8 when Jesus says, “Before Abraham was ‘I AM.’”
The people stagger back, but we should think that it’s because they recognized an affirmation of deity on his lips. I don’t think the Romans would have known or cared! Rather, I think it’s that Jesus doesn’t flinch in his response. He doesn’t hesitate, he doesn’t look around first, he doesn’t refuse to say who he is, or feign ignorance—‘Jesus who?’ No, he simply, boldly says ‘I’m the person you’re looking for.’
And yet, in retrospect, for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, we can see more than that. We can see that it wasn’t simply some peasant from Nazareth who stood in the garden that night. It was the eternal I AM who had taken on flesh who stood in that garden that day. And rather than return to dust those he created from the dust, we allowed himself to be taken prisoner, beaten, and be strung up on a cross like the vilest of criminals.
And it’s this commitment to love his disciple—those that were there and those would come for next 2000 year—that becomes the basis for the command he gave: love another as I have loved you. So what does this love look like?
1. This love is humble
Here is the Savior washing the feet of his disciples. Although, he doesn’t understand the implications of what he says, he knows almost instinctively that there is something wrong about Jesus washing his feet. But he’s missed the opportunity to do what he should have done. If his response would have been driven by humility and not pride, Peter would have already washed Jesus feet as well as the feet of the other disciples. But he hasn’t so Jesus continues to humble himself and serves his disciples.
As we seek to obey Jesus’ command to love one another, that love must be marked by humility. It could be something as simple as washing the bathrooms or taking home the garbage without grumbling. It could also be something as profound as not having the last word in an conversation in Bible Study even when you know you’re right.
Whatever it looks like practically, as God’s people, as Christ’s disciples, we are called to love one another as Christ loved us—to love another in a way that is marked by humility.
2. This love is not self-interested
Here I simply want to ask, ‘How could Jesus wash Judas’ feet?’ Here is the man who has been playing a game for the last three years. He’s been filling up his coin purse at the expense of the poor. He’s been acting pious while his heart has grown in wickedness. He’s about to betray Jesus to those who would kill him. And Jesus knows all of this. Yet, he stoops down with the basin and the towel and washes his feet.
Here’s the thing: it is very easy to love people that will love you back. It’s easy to do good to those who are in a position to do something really nice for you one day. It’s easy to love someone with a spirit of self-interest. But it’s very hard to love someone you aren’t going to get anything in return. And that’s exactly what Jesus did. Not just with Judas but with his whole life. The Bible says God is not served with human hands. Even in trusting Christ as Savior and living for him, trying to serving him, he doesn’t need us. He delights to reveal his glory in our lives, but he doesn’t need us to do that. Jesus loved us without any sense of self-interest. And when we love one another, we should follow his example. We need to make sure we aren’t just loving people who can give us something in return, but loving those who can never do anything for us.
3. This love is rooted in the saving effects of the cross
In a moment of passion, Peter intends to go down fighting, believing this was what everything has been building towards—establishing the Messiah’s kingdom on the earth. Yet Jesus says to him: “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:1-11)
The cup that Jesus speaks of is the cup of God’s wrath; the cup that he wrestled to take up earlier that night as he wrestled in prayer in the garden. Yet this was the reason he came. To take up the cup is embrace the outpouring of God’s judgment on sin that would happen on the cross.
John remarks, “having loved his own who were in the world, [Jesus] loved them to the end” (13:1). The central mark of Jesus love for his people is in willingness to go to the cross—to be their substitute before God. It’s the cross that stands at the center of Jesus love for his people.
Thus, in telling his people to love one another, even as he loved them, we must first and always think of the cross as we love one another. That means that we first we one another as worthy of being loved. We are those for whom Christ died. We are those purchased by his blood. We have been adopted as his children. How can we not love one another? How can we say, I don’t really like that person? Christ has loved them to the point of dying for them, and we will spend eternity in the presence of God with them. How we can we not love them?
But more than that, it means we follow Christ’s example in loving one another with a cross-centered attitude. In Jesus, we see One who sacrifices everything out of love for his friends. During his earthly life, Jesus sacrificed his glory, his reputation, his physical needs, his safety – all out of love for his people. Therefore, as we love one another, that love should be marked by sacrifice.
4. This love is part of our witness to the world
Why is loving one another so important? Specifically, why is it so important that we love one another with the kind of other-centered sacrificial love of Christ? The answer is simply this: because no one else does it.
Think about that for a minute. In the world, every other group of friends, every club, every team, and business is based on common interest. That’s it. These things might are based on those we just naturally get along with. You may not know each other well, but you click pretty quickly because you have lots in common. There is a common goal or concern—whether it’s liking the same sport, or TV show, or cause, or just wanting to make money.
Yet that is not what holds the Church together. One scholar reminds us that, “What binds us together [as Christians] is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. Christians come together . . . because they have all been saved by Jesus and owe him a common allegiance.”
If we love one another as Christ loved us, then God abides with us. His presence is palpable in our midst. And a lost world sees that, they can feel it. They might not know what it is, but they can’t stop looking at it in wonder. And when they ask us about why we love this way, we are able to tell them of the One who loved the same way. We can tell them of the One who loved us so much that he gave up his life for us.
Commenting on Jesus’ command to love one another as he loved us, D. A. Carson says, “The new command is simple enough for a toddler to memorize and appreciate, [yet] profound enough that the most mature believers are repeatedly embarrassed at how poorly they comprehend it and put it into practice.”
Tonight as we think about Jesus’ last night with this disciples, the creation of this new covenant meal we call the Lord’s Supper, and the new commandment to love one another as Jesus loved us, we need to think about our own lives both individually and together as a body of believers.
We should spend time in prayer, examining ourselves in light of the cross before us, reminding ourselves that by following Jesus command to partake of communion at his Table we are declaring we believe that Jesus died to save us, and that being raised to life we follow him as our Lord. And if that is true, it has implication for how we live with one another—not least of which is this: we are to love each other as Jesus loved us.