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Summary: A Maundy Thursday Sermon

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Maundy Thursday Sermon

John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Servanthood

4 rose from supper, laid aside his garments, and girded himself with a towel.

5* Then he poured water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded.

16* Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ

The Lutheran Lectionary for this Holy Week has dwelled on all the texts from the Gospel of John, so it is natural that we have the John’s text for the last supper.

The John’s text differs greatly from the other gospels as he does not have the words of institution, but he does have the only account of the foot washing of the disciples.

It is that act of servanthood that I would like to look at this evening.

Have you ever washed anyone else’s feet? I don’t mean as in washing them in a bath tub or washing a baby’s feet in the sink? But washing someone’s feet as they are sitting as was done in the gospel story.

I have and it is a very moving experience. I did a first person monologue for a Lenten Service many years ago, and I played the character of Peter. He had just had his feet washed by Jesus and being impulsive as Peter was, he wanted to wash someone else’s feet. So, I took a basin of water, a towel and went out into the congregation. I had not asked anyone before if they would allow me to do this, I just did it. I was trembling, shaking all over. The guy I picked, did not protest, but I could see he was very uncomfortable. I took off his boot, his sock, put his foot in the basin, poured water over it with my hand and dried it with a towel. Being on the ground, kneeling before him, I felt like a servant.

I finished, and returned to the chancel and finished the Peter monologue, then we sang a hymn, I went to the little room off the chancel, changed into my vestments from the costume I was wearing, and then finished the service.

That experience moved me throughout the rest of the service. I really could feel what it was like to be a servant, to be humble enough to wash some one’s feet.

After the service, the guy who’s feet I washed, was in tears. He felt humbled, that someone would actually do that for him. It was a moving experience for him and I think both of us could fully appreciate how Jesus might have felt.

Jesus was trying to show the disciples that he came to service. It is interesting that in Raymond Brown’s commentary on John he says the Greek word for laid aside, or laid down, is the same Greek word used in chapter ten for laying down a life.

John was really trying to show that Jesus was a servant who was willing to lay down his life for the sake of humanity.

On the cross, Jesus spread out his arms and welcomed all the sins of humanity as the true servant of God.

Try spreading out your arms like that. What do you feel? Vulnerable, open, accepting. As a servant on the cross that what Jesus was. He opened himself to all the sinfulness of humanity.

And if you open your arms that way, you are also inviting. He is inviting us to come to him, to place our sins on him. That is way today is called Maundy Thursday. For Maundy, means command. He commands us to eat and drink, he commands us to come, he commands us to love as he loves us.

A pastor wrote:

The Cross is the place where grace and sin collide with a crash, but the wreckage is suffered on the heart of God. The sinner walks away free - free from sin’s penalty, free to walk with God, free to live in

His Heaven for all eternity.1

Jesus came as a servant to lay down his life for us. On the cross of Calvary that servanthood was manifested where he opened his arms to sinners and we obtained eternal life.

A closing story says it well:

A story from Scotland tells of a mother’s dramatic rescue of her child. Workmen were blasting rock in a quarry. One day after they had attached the fuse and retired to a safe place and gave the alarm they saw a three year old child wandering across the open space where danger threatened. Every passing second meant death was closing in on the child.

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