C Cycle – Holy Thursday 22
Jn. 13: 1-15
When individuals seeking to deepen their relationship with Christ seek my advice on how to begin, my response typically if for them to spend time with Christ. This is not wisdom from on high it is how all relationships deepen. When we spend time with one another, we grow in our knowledge of them, and we grow in trust. Once we trust someone or God, we are willing to open ourselves up to reveal our fears, longings, brokenness, and our pain.
But there is a difference between how humans and God responds to our relationships. God’s response is vastly different. We can get good advice from closer friends and good counselors and their advice ban be a tremendous help. But in the end whatever advice they give us is information and it is up to implement it or reject it. However, what Christ offers us by seeking a relationship with him is his transforming power to change how we see ourselves. That is something we can never be on our own. Christ shows us how cherished and loved we are without having to do anything more than open ourselves to allow him to love us into wholeness.
This day we are celebrating the final part of a plan God put into motion thousands of years ago. A plan to restore what we lost due to the sin of Adam. Restore us, to our place as sons and daughters. Restore the glory we lost because of our own sinfulness. Restore the intimate relationship God desired with each of us from the moment God created us in his image and likeness.
This night, following the joyful entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, Christ will begin a journey to take the penalty of our sin upon himself so that we may become the very righteousness of God. Jesus will experience unbelievable pain, humiliation and yes abandonment from God. All the while knowing who would betray him, deny him, and how his followers would not grasp the meaning of his death until Pentecost.
This is our story. We are the deniers. We are the betrayers; we acknowledge him with a kiss all the while knowing we do not acknowledge him before others. We are as conflicted as Judas was as we practice our faith. We fail to grasp the plan of God, the meaning of this night and its importance in our worship. We avoid confronting our failure to understand what God has done by sending us Jesus Christ. We all need to deepen our relationship with Jesus not just worship him. One way to deepen our relationship is by reading the scriptures seeking to know Christ. A good way is to begin by reading John’s gospel starting with chapters thirteen through seventeen. Begin with an encounter with Jesus that happens on this night in the upper room. Read his words to those who wanted to be disciples. Read, digest, and pray about all Jesus says and does before his arrest. This night is critical to our ability to comprehend the next day and the empty tomb three days later.
All the prophesies about the Messiah point us to this night and the days following. We cannot understand them without believing the plan of God to restore us. That is the point of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God so loved us, he did something so we would be able to do his will – he sent us the sacrificial lamb to die for our sins. But before the sacrifice, Jesus wants us to grasp not just our restoration but who we would become and how we would become the people God created us to be.
He begins by washing the feet of the disciples and tells us we must not only do the same thing but do it to our enemies. He goes on to give us a simple one step plan for us to always do God’s will by attaching ourselves to him. The parable of the vine and the branches is critical to our ability to always do God’s will. Not by our will power but by the power of the Spirit that Christ would send us. Following God’s plan for our lives is not an easy thing for us to do or even desire to do.
Remember the words of Jesus as he said to take the road less traveled. Or how he tells us to never look back when we put our hands to the plow. Peter denies knowing Christ this night and it happens at a critical time in his desire to be faithful. It is a lesson for us to grasp how easy it is for us to deny Christ when we are challenged about our belief in him. But let us not get ahead of ourselves, that is part of the story leading up to Good Friday. Today we are dealing with grasping our own challenge to move beyond what we want to surrender to what God desires us to become.
To get there we need to take that same journey the disciples traveled. We need the Jesus in the upper room to speak to our hearts and show us how critical it is for us to allow Jesus to bathe us in righteousness by his death and resurrection.
It is important for us to eat the Passover meal with Jesus and to understand what we are offered when we gather around the table of the Lord. Jesus said to us, unless we eat his flesh and drink his blood, we will have no life within us. We also need to go to that garden with Jesus and pray with him and listen to his own humanity wrestling with an overwhelming desire to avoid the trials of following God’s will.
We want an easy Christianity, one that is without challenges, trials, confusion or one that involves dying to self. We can only say let it be done to me according to your word, by us attaining a deep relationship with the Christ and knowing he will never abandon us.
Today is the beginning of the journey. Tomorrow the scriptures will challenge us to take another step with Jesus and that is to go to the cross with him. It is a journey that will take us to the heart of God and to his embrace.