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Love One Another

Updated: Apr 14


Sermon for Maundy Thursday by Pastor Joel Pukallus.

The only one of the apostles not to be die a martyrs death, but to live to a ripe old age, was John, commonly known as John the elder.

When he was an old man, as a patriarch and the only surviving apostle he was carried on a stretcher from his home to wherever the Christian people gathered for worship.

While he was being carried along he would say continually

Little children; love one another, little children; love one another.

He was asked why he spoke these words over and over, and he replied like this:

“Because it was the word of the Master, and when that is done, all is done.”

In our text tonight Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. In a country where people wore sandals, and walked dusty roads, and the sweat would stick the dust to the feet like mud, this would be a dirty job, the height of menial tasks.

It was considered such a dirty job that under Jewish law, Jewish slaves were not required to do it. Washing the feet was a task reserved for Gentile slaves, women or children. It was that distasteful.

But instead Jesus, the master, the host of the meal, got up and did it himself. Peter objected, and he and Jesus had the most remarkable conversation.

This conversation ended in a word from Jesus to his disciples, and a challenge to them: “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Jesus did not tell his disciples that they should wash each other’s feet as a lasting remembrance. That was a symbolic act. What he did tell them is that they should likewise serve each other in love. Do as he had done to them. Why? As John said:

“Because it is the word of the master”.

He did tell his disciples that they should “do this in remembrance of me”, when he spoke of the Eucharist, the Lord’s supper, Holy Communion.

People ask us, “Why do you do communion in a certain way? Why do you have communion at all?

And we answer:

“Because it is the word of the master.”

We baptize with water and the word of God, we sprinkle or pour water on the heads of children and adults, and we believe that their old, sinful self dies, and a new person is raised to life with Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Why do we do this? Well, we give the same answer. Read Matthew chapter 28: verses 19 and 20, and you will see why:

“Because it is the word of the master.” Jesus said to do it.

Jesus said that unless he washes us we have no part with him. The waters of baptism do not cleanse us much. They cover a small part of the head. This is not a hygienic cleansing. But it is enough. It is how we come to God.

When Jewish people go to worship, they must go through ritual washing. When Muslims go into their mosque, they must wash their feet, hands, faces, arms up to the elbow, in order to be clean.

Why do we only baptize once, and with only a little water?

“Because it is the word of the master.” In fact, that is the reason that we don’t have to completely cover or wash the whole person, because the water isn’t the important thing, but the word of the master, the word of God. It washes us for all time.

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What upset Peter that night was that what Jesus was doing was not the act of a master, it was the act of a slave. When Jesus put the apron around his waist, and a towel over his shoulder, he looked like a slave. John the Baptist had said that he was not worthy even to untie Jesus’ sandals and here was Jesus washing their feet.

He was demonstrating his love for them, a love that was stronger than laws or regulations about who should do what, and to whom.

Jesus was leaving them, and he wanted to leave them his love. All the commandments, Jesus had said, could be summed up in one:

“Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and love your neighbour as yourself.

But now he gave them a new commandment, the one that John never ceased repeating to the Christian people:

Love one another as I have loved you.

Love one another with a love that humbles itself for the good of the other. Love one another with a love that gives of itself.

Love one another with a love that does not care about its standing or its position, or its dignity.

These days as a church, we are told that there are better ways to do things, that we don’t need certain things in worship, or that we should be adding more things, that our baptism might not be good enough, and needs to be done again, and people ask: “Why do you do things the way you do?” and the answer: (Have you worked it out yet?)

“Because it is the word of the master”

Who can you trust these days, when there is so much confusion and difference of opinion? We go right to the top and say, well we can trust Jesus. Our worship, after Luther reformed the mass, involves those things which we were commanded to do by Jesus. To meet, to break bread, to teach what he taught us, to pray as he taught us.

We celebrate tonight the fact that Jesus instituted his Holy Supper for us, where, just as he did by washing the feet of the disciples, he comes to serve us again. The host of the meal invites us to come, and then he serves us his own body and blood.

We receive the true body and blood of our Lord in that Holy meal, and quite frankly, that doesn’t make any sense at all.

What we have is obviously thin wafers of flour and water, not human flesh, and we have fortified wine, port, not human blood. The logical mind baulks at the idea that it can really be flesh and blood.

And if it was, how disgusting would that be?

One of the reasons that the early church was persecuted by the Romans was because the Romans were repulsed, when they heard rumours that these “Christians” ate human flesh, and drank human blood.

Also, just think about the volume of bread and wine that must have been consumed over the last 2000 years all over the world.

How can these many megalitres of wine, and tonnes of bread be the blood and body of one person? Again, it doesn’t make any sense at all.

How is it then that we believe that Christ’s body and blood is really present here in this bread and wine?

“Because it is the word of the master.”

We even trust the words of Christ over our own logic and intellect. When he says: “This is my body, and this is my blood.”, we take him at his word.

Even though we cannot come to Holy Communion tonight, we are united with millions, billions of Christians around the world: Those who live now, as well as all the saints in heaven, who have lived their lives in faith.

We also stand with the angels, and the archangels and all the company of heaven.

And the time will come, and we look forward to that time, when we will do join in that Holy Supper together again.

Until that time, there is one thing that our Lord, and the Apostle, John, ask us to do.

Little children, love one another.” Why?

“Because it was the word of the Master, and when that is done, all is done.”

Heavenly Father, let your will be done among us.

Amen.


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