Eucharistic Readings for Maundy Thursday 18 April 2019: Holy Week
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)
John’s Gospel is written as if the readers already had a deep understanding of the Mathew, Mark and Luke and even Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. So the words of consecration need not be said again. Instead this Gospel tells about the foot washing and the servant-hood of discipleship. It talks about loving one another as Jesus loves us.
This explanation of love differs from the synoptic Gospels in that it commands us to love one another as Jesus loved us, not just, love our neighbors as we love ourselves. With the latter, it could be assumed that we in fact love ourselves. But if we don’t love ourselves, are we off the hook to love others? So John’s Jesus commands us to love others as he loves us, that is, all the way to the cross and a painful death- unconditional love, agape love.
Jesus says that if we love others the way he loves us everyone will know that we are his disciples, his students. People will know that we are trying to follow in the Way, the Jesus movement. This command is simple, love others, not proselytize others, recruit others, convert others or in any way persuade others into your own way of worship or belief. Just love them.
The foot washing is an important lesson in loving humility. One must be committed to serve in order to wash another’s feet. Also, like Simon Peter, we must let go and be served as God intended. We need each other. We will not always be able to care for ourselves. The foot washing is a first step in seeing what it feels like to let a care-provider actually care for you. It is not about being proud, it is about being humble. It is about letting yourself be loved.
The irony of John’s Gospel is that this is the preferred Gospel for Maundy Thursday. This is the night Jesus intentionally established the Lord’s Supper. After this he was arrested. The actual wording used by our Church can be found in one of the selected readings above (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). John’s Gospel however, contains no such wording. But it does reflect Jesus coming down from that table, wrapping a towel around himself, washing the feet of his followers and then returning back to the table. This is reminiscent of his coming down from heaven, wrapping himself in human form, teaching, healing, serving and returning to where he was from the beginning. It is powerful imagery. We truly need all the Gospel visions, all the Gospel words to hear what God is saying.
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying through and to the people of the Creating Word and then let us “Ponder anew what the Almighty is doing.” John Thomas Frazier Sr.