Summary: This sermon can be used during Maundy Thursday or connected with the Lord Supper.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13, 34-35
When the public contest for the design of the Czech National Library building was issued in Prague, several Czech and foreign architects developed projects that surprised specialists as well as lay public by their look, way of construction and materials used. Many of them stirred up intense discussion. The specialists agreed that even though some of the projects looked impressive and interesting, they were impossible to construct in reality because they contradicted the laws of physics of this world. - It reminded me again of the fact that essentially anything can be created in the virtual world. The computer programs do not impose basically any limits on us in this area. They let us create things that could not exist in real life, things we only dreamed of or thought out in our fantasy.
Imagine that a similar contest was issued for the project of realization of love. I believe that each one of us would be able to put together some plan after a shorter or longer time for reflection, since anyone who had ever touched love and experienced its beauty has at least some idea about the content of this word. Yet even here it is possible to imagine that our dreams, wishes or ideas coming from pure fantasy appear in our designs or projects. This type of virtual love – if carried over into the real world – could turn into something rather dangerous for our neighbors. By its construction based on selfish principles and one’s own gain or advantage. It could hurt other people and cause them life-long spiritual harm.
Yet, if we acknowledge God as the highest form of being, and actually the only and perfect Being in the true sense of the word, it will be worthwhile to look at his project of love as it comes from Him. Jesus made a very clear presentation of it in our Bible text.
Jesus, God in human body, called his disciples together just before the Passover night to eat the Passover lamb with them. By doing it He indicated one important element of love to them: sharing. The Passover dinner was not only a special feast or a nice gathering for the Jews. It was also a ritual meal when the whole family got together once a year. The father as the head of the family, figuratively speaking, invited the other family members to his fellowship to share not only the prepared meal with them but, most importantly, to pass the spiritual wealth to them by reminding them of the extremely important and miraculous act of God’s love - the rescue of their ancestors. It is probable that even the disciples used to go back to their families for Passover in the beginning to share this fellowship of love with them. So when Jesus announced to the disciples that he wanted to spend this Passover night with them it had to be an honour as well as obligation for them. They knew Jesus would share some spiritual nutrition with them besides the regular Passover meal, to strengthen their faith. He gave them much more, though.
Jesus, as the head of the family, took the bread in his hand first and then the wine. He gave thanks to God for the gift of life over them - and not only for giving life but for sustaining it as well. He passed the bread and then the wine to the other men present, saying that this time it was not only a meal to sustain their biological life and a mere reminder of God’s acts, even though great, but that this meal would have an even deeper spiritual dimension from that moment on. It would turn into a source of spiritual strength for them because anytime they commemorate Him in this way He will be present among them, with them and in them. He confirmed it by his words: “Take and eat; this is my body given for you… This is my blood ... which is poured out for you... do this in remembrance of me.”
There was yet another dimension to this sacred meal with Jesus. In the passages where the Evangelists Mark, Matthew and Luke speak about receiving the body and the blood of Jesus, with the bread and the wine, the fourth Evangelist, John, focuses on one more event that took place that night. He mentions the washing of feet. In this way he focuses our attention not only on the internal experience of the disciples during the meal but he fills the content of this important event with a practical act fulfilling everything Jesus ever told them to the last point. The truthfulness of the words of Jesus has been proven only when he put an apron on and kneeled down to them to wash their feet. Peter expressed the sentiment of all the disciples then: “No, Lord, it is not right. You cannot wash the feet of your audience.” In that moment they had to deal with the fact that Jesus had served them in a way that would have gone far beyond the usual even in the opposite position. The disciples would never debase themselves to serve their master in this way since washing of feet was the task performed exclusively by the home servant, a slave. So it was not just a case of switched roles but a complete craziness to them: Jesus, the Master, the Son of God and Savior had not shrunk from performing the work of the person in the lowest position.