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Love One Another

Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet John 13:1-7, 31-35

13 It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

31 When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him,[a] God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.

33 “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”


Tonight is Maundy Thursday, one of those titles that no-one understands and just excepts. Maundy comes from the Latin word Mandatum, meaning command. It was the night that we received the new commandment to love one another.

It was a night of commissioning for the disciples. This was job training, as Jesus was sending them out (and there is lots of quite clearly spelled-out “sending out” language involved here.)

Jesus was sending them out into their new role, in what he knew would be his absence.

He had prayed, as we have recorded in John 17 that they might be one as you (the Father) and I are one.

Now he was sending them out in that unity of love to do for others what Jesus has done for them, in serving them in a radical way, breaking down the barriers of convention that say that a servant or student washes his master’s feet. No, love breaks down these barriers.

So when Jesus said to them that what I have done for you , you also ought to do for each other, was he literally telling them that he needed them to wash each other’s feet? If they had grabbed a towel and run around looking to see if one of the other 11 would let them wash their feet they would have missed the point.

No, it was a command to love, not just your own family, or your own race, your own kind, but to love in a way that breaks down barriers, to include others from that which they are excluded because of anything really, their gender, age, race, sexuality, anything. Because they did that, others have become one with God the Father as that unity was passed on, and more and more have joined the kingdom of God. That is how WE came to believe.

And this love that breaks down barriers and includes and practices unity, we have a word for this. It is: Hospitality. It is different to just keeping the faith to your own kind, for example, only passing the message to Jews before the great revelation that the gospel was for all people.

Barrier-breaking hospitality can involve uncomfortable things, like inviting people into your home, sharing with them, serving them. Talking to people to whom you would not normally speak. Getting outside of your comfort zone for the sake of someone else. It can be uncomfortable. But this Holy Week shows us that sometimes the greatest acts of love require a sacrifice.

Hospitality a purpose, and that is to open up that unity that we have with the Father through Jesus to other people.

And it lets us off the hook a little because hospitality I think is just as important as evangelism, maybe more important, because it is the first step in the process of evangelism. And you don’t need to know fancy words or great speeches. You don’t need skill in debating or arguing or convincing: You just need love. And that is something that we have, wellin gup and overflowing in us because of Jesus.

So, we have some questions to think about tonight, as we consider Jesus call to hospitality, unity and love:

What stands in the way of my own unity with God?

I want you to imagine Jesus washing your feet, and be comforted that whatever barriers you put up to god, he knows, and that in this ritual of washing your feet, he reminds you that you share in his unity.

Now, the next question: Who is currently being kept away from our community?

What keeps them away?

And as you are challenged, or commissioned tonight to take up the tools of hospitality, (they ay not be a towel and a basin, they may be a bbq, or a mop and bucket, or something else completely, ask yourself these questions:

How can I tangibly reach out to practice radical inclusion?

What are my tools of hospitality?

There are a lot of people out there who need the light of Christ in their lives, who feel no unity with anyone, and we have such a gift here in the love of God.

For Christians, what is important is not what they know, but what they love. Or, to put it another way, it is not about what you do with the knowledge you have, but what you do with the love you have. If nothing else, Jesus’ symbolic practice ought to remind Christ-followers to link the sacred traditions of the church to love and vice versa.

Jesus never said: “Little children, have better doctrine than each other”, or little children, know more than each other.

If you read your bible for any other reason than to find God in there, remembering that God is love, then you are reading it for the wrong reason. It is not a law-book for us, it is a love letter from God. It is not the basis for trivia nights and facts, or being able to yell in arguments louder and longer and quote more verses than anyone who disagrees with you, it is the love of God for us, manifest in the life and death of Jesus Christ, and exhorting us to pass that love on to one another.

Prayer: God make us humble and willing to do the dirty and the dusty things, the embarrassing and the undignified things, to take up Jesus commissioning to us to love as he has loved us, and not to count the cost to ourselves. Keep us ever one, as you and Jesus are one. Amen.

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