Maundy Thursday Sermon
What a Savior! Look at what Jesus does in the upper room. What He gives with the Lord’s Supper. For sinners. Jesus is God FOR YOU. This is what you have learned to expect from Jesus this Lent.
Jesus washes their feet! Yes, the eternal Word, God Himself, who became flesh – is nothing but Servant. Jesus is simply FOR THEM. And FOR YOU. As God. John bookends the foot washing with words that hooks the Lord’s divine service with His Passion – His bitter suffering and death, saying: “His hour had come” (13:1) and “Jesus knew who was to betray Him,” (13:11). The washing of the feet, this incredible love, this wonderful service of God fits perfectly with Jesus’ own words about His being the Messiah. Jesus’ actions match His preaching: “The Son of Man did not come to be served BUT TO SERVE and to GIVE HIS LIFE AS A RANSOM FOR MANY,” (Mt 20:28).
At first, Peter objects. Refuses. “You shall never wash my feet.” Really? Peter would reject the Lord’s divine service? You might too? That’s hellaciously dangerous. So Jesus lays it on the line: “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” No share in the benefits of His suffering and dying that will come with His Good Friday cross.
So let me make it clear. The foot washing on Maundy Thursday is a preview of what’s coming on Good Friday tomorrow. Jesus’ self-sacrifice of Himself tonight will climax tomorrow as He gets nailed to the tree. Bearing all your sin. Suffering your hell. Salvation won.
“Do you understand what I (Jesus) have done to you?” Do you? He washes your feet. He gives you His body and blood with the promise of total and complete forgiveness, life and salvation. “Do you understand what I have done to you?”
Just in case you don’t, Jesus tells you. Jesus spills the beans. It’s this: the free gift of His sacrificial service of love in washing feet, dying on the cross and the gifts of His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper hooks you to a life that looks just like your “Teacher and Lord.” In other words, life in Jesus looks like Jesus. Faith in Jesus is very active. Believers are very active in loving self-sacrificial service for the sake of others. Jesus’ gifts have their way with you. Jesus’ gifts enliven you. For salvation. And for fruitful service in your daily callings in life.
Jesus as gift leads naturally to Jesus as example. As it is written, “I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things you are blessed.”
A little later Jesus puts it this way: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you.”
Love. Christ’s FOR YOU – in the upper room, on the cross and in the Sacrament of the Altar. That’s what Jesus servant-ly does for your salvation. His concrete and very physical acts of love through His body.
Love. Jesus extends His love to others through you and your bodily existence. Your redeemed and died for physical life in the body. You no longer live but Christ lives in you (Gal 2:20). Jesus uses you, His redeemed or “cleansed” disciples to help others through your self-sacrificial acts of love for others. In view of God’s mercy in Christ you are given to, “Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.” St. Paul says in Romans 12 that you live sacrificially in the body as you love one another with brotherly affection; as you outdo one another in showing honor; not being slothful in zeal, being fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, being patient in tribulation, praying constantly for others, contributing to the needs of the saints and showing hospitality.
Here’s how the apostle John preaches it. Keep in mind that John learned it from Jesus in the upper room and the Sacrament. “By this we know love, that he [Jesus] laid down his life for us.” That’s Jesus as gift for your salvation – for the next world. Then Jesus gives Himself as example for your living in this world. Listen. “And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers … Beloved let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world so that we might love through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another,” (1 John 3:16; 4:7-11).
No wonder Jesus, after He washes the feet asks, “Do you understand what I have done to you?” You do now! It’s what you expect tonight and every Sunday: His service to you for your salvation in Word and Sacrament. Trusting that His all self-sacrificial service is FOR YOU. In that, you know God perfectly. That’s when Jesus has good use for you in this world as His instruments of love. Jesus as your gift. Jesus as your example.
“Do you understand what I have done to you?” Yes. Yes, you do. “Blessed are you” Jesus promises “if you do them.” Jesus sends you to love as He loved you. Remarkably, Jesus does the loving of others through you. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, receives Jesus.” Blessed are you,
In the Name of Jesus.