Printable PDF: 4-1-2021 Maundy Thursday Sermon
Pastor Mark R Jacobson Maundy Thursday Sermon April 1, 2021
THE HANDS OF THE PASSION
1It 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. 2The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him…12When 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. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. – John 13:1-5, 12-17
It was their anniversary. The two of them were seated at a fancy restaurant, and they were hungry. They began to peruse the menu and waited for the server. Ten minutes passed. Then twenty. Nobody even came to offer them a glass of water. Thirty minutes. Finally the man pretended to go to the restroom so he could find out what was going on. Seeing a man who looked like he had some standing in the restaurant, he asked him what was going on. Just as he started, though, he was interrupted. “I’m sorry, sir, but my attention is needed at another table. I’ll be with you in a moment.” That was it! He had been put off for the last time. He returned to the table, gathered up his wife, and left in a huff.
Have you ever had a similar experience? Maybe you saw a retail store clerk wearing an apron that says “Ask me, I’m here to help,” but the clerk made it clear he didn’t want to help. Or you were in the hospital and you pressed the nurse call button, but nobody answered and nobody helped. Or you made that big 8:00 to noon or 1:00 to 5:00 block of time to be home when the repairman said he would come, but he didn’t. You know that good service is hard to find. The Internet has spawned rating systems, presumably so you can discover those merchants who do a good job, but most of them are filled with jilted customers who just want to tell their horror stories.
God created people to depend on each other and their acts of service. Many of us have an expertise in one field or another, but the time will come when we need someone else’s expertise to help us through life: taxes, health care, home or car repair, etc. The world doesn’t work without people serving one another. Serving one another is so crucial to our existence, and good service is so rare that we’re often willing to honor those who do their jobs especially well with handsome tips and enthusiastic referrals.
If that’s the case, then you will certainly be ready to refer your friends and relatives to Jesus when you learn about the kind of service God provides. In tonight’s lesson, Jesus not only provides incomparable service to his disciples, but he does it for free. With no demands of payment, without pulling rank, without excuse-making, or being condescending or patronizing, Jesus serves his disciples with his…
HANDS OF HUMILITY
Jesus had a lot on his mind that night. John repeatedly records the interplay between Jesus’ divine and human nature, especially how Jesus knew ahead of time what was about to happen. “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father” (verse 1). He knew! He knew ahead of time that within 24 hours he would lay down his life for the sins of the world. He knew ahead of time that Satan had baited Judas to betray him (verse 2). He knew that the Father had laid all things at his feet (verse 3), and he entered the evening with complete omnipotence and omniscience. Yet rather than leveraging his full authority in some dazzling display of the divine, Jesus exercised humility.
While Jesus’ mind raced with anticipation of the pain of sin and suffering of hell, his disciples were engaged in a petty argument over which of them was greatest! Their quibbling carried over into the upper room where they realized that there was no servant on duty to wash their stinky feet before the Passover. Then who was going to do it? Which one of the disciples would step up and volunteer? They all just stood there. Not one man even reached for the bucket. Jesus once taught his disciples how to be great. “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave” (Matthew 20:26-27). On this Thursday evening, Jesus didn’t opt for another lecture but chose instead to model for them what humble service looks like. “So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 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” (John 13:4-5). If Jesus would have blown a gasket, we would have understood. But Christ’s love never wavered. Without frustration or exasperation, Jesus handled their pride with perfect patience. The King of creation, the One who has all authority in heaven and earth, bent the knee to serve his disciples with a task so menial that servants jockey to avoid it. Christ came from heaven on a mission from his Father to redeem the world, and he wasn’t about to quit in the 11th hour. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (verse 2).
Most of our Christian service falls short because we base it on the behavior of our neighbor. Doctors are slow to follow up on the patients who are the most belligerent. The wait staff label those who make special orders as difficult. Inside our own families, we tiptoe around the hothead and walk on eggshells around the opinionated in-law. We are tempted to shun people who don’t agree with us. Worse yet, we sinfully justify our poor Christian service by suggesting that they had it coming because they were being obnoxious. If Jesus based his service on the disciples’ behavior, no one would have had their feet washed. No one would have had their sins forgiven because Jesus would have never made it to the cross! Jesus’ humility shines brighter and greater than ours because it’s not based on human behavior. Jesus’ humility is based on God’s love and grace. He serves us because he loves us. His love is unconditional. His love is perfect. Not our behavior, but God’s love moved him to wrap the towel around his waist and wash their feet—and he even washed Judas’ feet, too.
You don’t get the idea that Jesus would ever walk out of a restaurant upset over poor service. He didn’t walk out on his disciples, and he didn’t walk out on you either. He came to serve you. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Christ’s obedient death served you well; it paid the ransom price for our pride and entitled attitude, for our obnoxious rank-pulling, for making people feel smaller and lesser, and for every other shallow and insecure excuse we’ve ever offered God for failure to serve. “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). The disciples had a history of missing the point. After Jesus washed their feet, it would be very natural for them to feel ashamed. Their disgraceful bickering had been laid low by Jesus’ humble hands. Jesus, though, wanted to do much more than shame their pride; he wanted to rewire their attitudes and invite them to use their hands of humility. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:14-15). Jesus was their Lord and Teacher, and by virtue of his office he was their superior. But he didn’t wag his title in their faces or use it to avoid humble service to anyone. “Washing one another’s feet” means to show Jesus’ love toward our fellow man. That’s a kind of love that forgets to feel superior, a love that stoops to the lowliest of service and is blind to what it is doing or who it is serving; it’s a love that serves so freely it pays no attention to what it costs, and a love that is so humble it voluntarily serves, regardless of human behavior; a love so pure it seeks not the recognition of man but only the approval of God. Love and serve your neighbor like Jesus did, with humility. Let Jesus’ humility and servant attitude rework your attitude, too. Jesus closes by saying, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (verse 17). Jesus was blessed to be our Savior. The disciples were blessed to start the New Testament church. We, too, are blessed to be associated with Jesus and his church. And we can show our love for him by how we are willing to serve one another. Amen.