C Cycle – Holy Thursday 19
Jn. 13: 1-15
Jesus knew his hour was near, it was time for Him to suffer and die. His part in God’s plan to remove the barrier of sin between himself and us was hours away. That plan was put into motion the minute Adam and Eve were banished from the garden. The plan was set in motion when Jesus, obedient to the Father, set aside his glory as God and came to earth as a helpless babe born in the squalor of a stable. It will end tomorrow on a dusty hill when Jesus battered, bleeding, abandoned by his followers was being mocked by a hostile crowd. In Luke’s gospel standing before the elders of the Sanhedrin the chief priests and elders said to him, “if you are the Christ tell us.” Jesus responds, “if I tell you, you will not believe me.”
How could they not believe after all the times they listened to him, observing him, had been told about or witnessed themselves his miracles? It begs a question of us on this night. We love to talk about the good things of this night. The institution of the Eucharist, the mission Jesus gave to us to be servants of the word, bringing hope and the good news to those who are desperate to know if Jesus can do all he promised.
Yet there are things that happened in that upper room that night we should talk about but most likely will we avoid the conversation because we know we too have failed to believe salvation is a free gift from God. Do we really understand the significance of Jesus’s death and resurrection and what it achieved for us? Jesus said standing before the tomb of Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in me will live even if he dies.” We profess that declaration by Christ as a core belief of our faith. But do we believe it enough to live our lives knowing eternal life is ours because we believe or do, we believe more is required of us to attain everlasting life?
That night the disciples ate with him, had their feet washed by him and listened to him telling them and us we would do the works he did and far greater. They believing he was the messiah, but their belief faltered that night. One of them betrayed him, one of them denied knowing him and the 9 others abandoned him. What would we have done that night if we had been there? We say we would not because we know Him but most likely we would have, and we are in need of the same kind of revelation they ultimately received on Pentecost?
Jesus gave us the keys to an unshakable faith as He talked to the disciples that night. Jesus demonstrated the job of a believer is to always have the attitude of serving, an attitude of always doing the will of the Father. A believer is always seeking the mind of God before we set out to serve the community we have been called to serve. Jesus gave us more than a clue when he tells us apart from Him, we can do nothing. Yet we rarely seek the mind of God in deciding how we will grow spiritually, how we are to serve, how we are to support others or how much we should tithe.
Jesus that night spoke of the Holy Spirit whom he would send to teach us all he ever did and ever said. This Spirit was the promise of God, given to us in the prophesy of Jeremiah and Ezekiel to change our hearts so we would no longer depend on the law to be righteous before God. Instead of the law we would rely on would be the law written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit so we would automatically live a life pleasing to the Father.
The truth is when you look at the people surrounding Jesus that evening you know they were committed followers, but their faith was shaken that night. Only John, Mary and Mary Magdala were there on Calvary the next day when he died. The rest fled they were disillusioned, bewildered, confused and without hope. They were without the one they put their faith in.
We all need what came next after the death of Jesus. We need an encounter with Jesus to move our faith from our heads to our hearts. We need to experience forgiveness of our sins through the embrace of the Father. We need to be the women at the tomb encountering Jesus. We need to be the disciples on the road to Emmaus. We need to have Jesus come to us and instruct us to put our hand into his hand. We need to be Peter encountering Jesus and hear that same question – do you love me. Without an experience of God’s love and forgiveness our faith is dependent on our ability to believe without experiencing intimacy with God.
God promised us that Spirit he pours into our hearts will give us the ability to know him (Jer. 31:34). That Aramaic word used for “know” in Jeremiah is found in Genesis 4:1 when it says Adam “knew” Eve and she conceived and bore Cain. Wow, knowing God has nothing to do with what we have learned about Jesus. It has to do with us seeking intimacy with God. No wonder the Holy Spirit is critical for us to “know” Him. No wonder Jesus said apart from me you can do nothing – we do not seek intimacy with Jesus. The disciples fled because they did not know him, only the disciple he loved was faithful. Intimacy is a product of love.
So here we are tonight washing feet symbolic of our willingness to serve our community. Here we are focusing on the Eucharist as Jesus with us and feeding us. Here we are listening to God speaking to us through His word. We need to look beyond the splendor of this evening because at the end of the evening the altar will be stripped, the tabernacle will be empty, the sanctuary light will be distinguished. What is left is our faith that He will rise on the third day. Let that faith come from an experience of Him as the Spirit changes our hearts to follow him as disciples.