Exodus 12:1-14 / 1 Cor. 11:23-32 / John 13:1-15, 34-35
Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. Such is His life. A life that loves to the end. And so a life that serves.
He wanted them to understand this. He showed His almighty power with a bowl of water and a towel. He showed them that this is who God is: the one who came not to be served, but to serve. The one who serves with a bowl of water and a washing that gives a share with Him in His life.
It was to fill the water with life-giving power that He was preparing to go to His cross. There His love would reach out to the end: loving all, even His enemies, especially His enemies, to destroy the power of Satan over their lives. Love is His power. Love is His indestructible weapon. Love is His might. Love that can never be conquered by bitterness, hatred, or anger. Love that triumphs over all.
And Love dies in the place of all, bearing the sins of all in His own body, pouring out His blood to blot out forever the accusations that were against us.
Such Love would live in us. “I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” And this is what is new in His commandment tonight: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
What’s new is the “just as I have.” Love has always been the summary of the Law. Love the Lord your God with your all. Love your neighbor as yourself. It had always been about love. But who would ever have dreamt such love as He showed us? “Love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be.” Who would have guessed that Love could be so strong as to die in utter weakness, so mighty as to give up life itself so that we might be pardoned, forgiven, restored and healed? “He loved them to the end.” And because His life was love all the way to the end, it could not and did not end. But more on that on Sunday.
Tonight we think instead of how Love in our flesh loved us so much as to establish a memorial that would be ours for all our days. A memorial of His great love. A memorial that would NOT have us remember an absent Lord, but taste and see the goodness of a present one. Has anyone ever been so remembered as Jesus of Nazareth? At His table Sunday by Sunday, week by week, decade by decade, century by century, millennium by millennium, His people have gathered to Him as He yields to them His body under the bread, His blood under the wine, and whispers to them that He did it for them, for the forgiveness of sins. Such a Lord of love we have!
And it is by His gift of love that He would change us, set us free from the chains of our sinful fears, worries, hatreds and angers, and let His washing cleanse us through and through of them. It is by His gift of the Eucharist that Love Himself would live in us, would heal us with His peace, would honor us with His life, would transform us with His joy.
And whenever we would say: “But I can’t.” I can’t break with this sin. I can’t overcome this bitterness. I can’t stop this worry. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. He comes to us in such gentleness and says: “I know you can’t. That’s why you need Me. Because I have, I can, and I will. And if you let me, I will do so also in you. I will be in you a Love that loves to the end. I will be in you forgiveness for your sin and healing for your hurts. I will be in you strength in your temptations and hope for all your despair. I come to you as I have always come, to serve you, you whom I loved so much as to go the way of sorrows, shouldering your sin, bearing your curse, loving you all the while without fail. All the way to my cross. Love forever and love for always. That’s who I would be in you.”
And so we welcome Him yet again tonight as He comes to us in His holy meal. A king with a bowl and a towel, ready to wash us, to serve us. A king with a feast of His own body and blood, ready to nourish us. A king who is a lamb, slain in our stead that death might finally and forever passover us. This is our Jesus who loves His own to the end with a love that never ends. Tomorrow we will stand in awe before that love as it shines on a cross, and the day after we will shout for joy in that love as it breaks forth from the tomb.
Who could ever have dreamed of love so amazing, so divine? Glory to You, O Lord Jesus! Glory to You, our Lamb, and glory to Your holy blood forever! Amen.