Readings for the day (Maundy Thursday – Thursday, March 24, 2016):
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
On Maundy Thursday, Jesus has one last meal with His disciples before His arrest and crucifixion. During this meal, Jesus not only institutes (or begins) what we know as the Last Supper, but He also washes His disciples’ feet. I feel that we probably would react in a very similar way to Peter. We are a lot like Peter in that we are very prideful, especially in the rural areas. We are prideful of who we are and what we have; our stuff. We don’t want to receive handouts. We don’t want to ask for help. For when we do ask for help we are admitting that we are in need of someone else. We like being independent, not having to depend on others. It is our culture to be independent. We’ve been raised to be independent.
And when we admit that we need help it feels like we are a failure; that we have failed at something. Too many times I have seen people who really are in need of help whether it is for mental illness, depression, bipolar, or addiction to drugs or alcohol, but are too prideful to get the help they need. Many times we don’t want to admit we need help because when we do seek help, it comes across as a failure; that we have failed. I wonder if that is what Peter is thinking when Jesus kneels down at his feet.
Jesus stands up from the table after they have been eating, wraps a towel around his waist, and kneels down like a servant. This was a job of a low-class citizen; not someone of Jesus’ status. And yet Jesus kneels down before the disciples and washes their feet. Peter rejects this; he rejects Jesus washing his feet. Even though his feet do need cleaning he doesn’t want Jesus doing it. He can do it himself or there is someone else of a lower status to do that. But Jesus kneels down anyway, showing Peter just how he truly needs our Lord’s help.
The same thing is true for us. I think that the reason why we are so prideful and not wanting to seek out or accept help is because when we receive help for something, it shows our sin. It acknowledges that we can’t do everything. When I was nearing the age to drive, I was so excited. Oh, the freedom, the independence that I was going to get. When I got my license I could just drive. I was no longer completely dependent on my parents or other people to bring me where I needed to go. I could just go. I think that I take that independence a bit for granted now. If I want to go somewhere I can just grab the car keys and go. Sunday afternoon we decided to go out for pizza in preparation for the Holy Week ahead. We had the night free so we decided to just go. It was a spur the moment thing and we just went. Granted it takes us awhile with two kids and making sure that we have the sippy cups and the diaper bag, but we can just go. We are independent.
Think of a parent or grandparent or yourself. An individual who has to give up that independence and has to once again be reliant on someone else. They can’t just get in the car and drive. Their reaction time or their vision isn’t well enough for them to drive anymore. So their car keys are taken away, their independence is taken away. They have to acknowledge that they are dependent on someone else again. I wonder if the reason why we don’t like this is because when we acknowledge our dependence on someone else that goes completely counter cultural to who we are raised to be in America. Plus being dependent also acknowledges our sin. Because it is our sin that makes us dependent on someone else. We can’t do everything because we aren’t God. There are limits to what we can be and do as human beings.
So Peter, wanting that independence and fighting against his own sin, says, “No Lord, you will not wash my feet because I can do it myself.” And yet it doesn’t take long for Peter to acknowledge that he is truly dependent on God. Likewise we too are truly dependent on God because there is one thing that we cannot do on our own, and that is save ourselves from sin. Our sin will kill us; whether it is a mistake on our part or a mistake on someone else’s part. An accident or an unhealthy choice – we cannot save ourselves. Our sin will kill us. We all will die someday. And the only one that can truly save us is Jesus.
And we see Peter getting it. Jesus says that the only way to truly clean him is to wash his feet. That is the only way to save him. That is the only way to save us – through Jesus. So Jesus does wash us. He washes us with his blood that is poured out on the cross. He washes us clean of our sins, making us right with God once again. And this is the hope that we grab onto in a world full of hopelessness. In a country that is focused on independence and a mentality of “I can do it myself.” Where is room for God? Where is room for God in a very independent world? Where all God asks of us is to be dependent on Him.
So just as Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, He also gives them a meal. A meal that He says will sustain them in this life because they are dependent on Him, we are dependent on Him. There is nothing greater that can physically and spiritually sustain us in this life than this simple meal that we will share tonight; where we come to the table eating and drinking with fellow sinners. We come up kneeling at the altar showing God our dependence on Him. And we eat this meal. We eat this bread and drink this wine, His body and blood to remember what He did for us, to receive His forgiveness, to show our need for a savior, to remind us of our need for a savior. Jesus says to do this in remembrance of Him. Yes we do it to remember what Jesus did for us, but we also do it to remind ourselves that we need God in our lives. We can’t go through life living day to day, week to week, month to month, year to year, without God present in our lives. God gives us hope, God gives us a future. God gives us something to look forward to. I don’t know about you but this world can be really messed up at times, and the recent terror attacks in Belgium certainly remind us of just how troubled this world truly is. And so I look forward to the day when this meal that we have tonight will no longer be just a foretaste of the great feast to come. That we no longer get a little portion of bread and a little half an ounce of wine, but we get a full spread with a big glass of wine. Because heaven is a feast and we will be dining with God and all of those saints. This is what our understanding of this meal truly is; that we will come to the table that our Lord has set before us and we will eat and drink, giving us communion with all of those saints. I believe I have said this before. Traditionally in old country churches, the communion rail is in the shape of a half circle. It is this way because the other half of the circle is on the other side of the wall where the cemetery is, where all of the faithfully departed saints are. So when people come to the half circle communion rail, they are communing with the whole communion of saints in a full circle. That is what we do when we come to this meal. We get just a little glimpse into what our future holds for us. Our future is with Jesus. Our future is sitting at that table with our savior. That’s our future. That’s what we get to look forward to. That’s our hope. Amen.
© 2016 Anthony Christoffels. Used with permission.