St. Thomas’ Church, Whitemarsh
Easter 5, Year C, 2016
In this Easter season it is a bit of a shock to find ourselves in this passage thrown back to the events of the Last Supper. The disciples have gathered together around a table one last time, and on this special occasion Jesus has washed his disciples’ feet. Judas, at Jesus’ suggestion, leaves the group to go and betray Jesus. In a few short hours, Jesus will be arrested, the disciples will scatter, and Peter will deny Jesus three times.
Rather than preach against Judas (or Peter, for that matter), Jesus speaks of glorification and love. To glorify God means to acknowledge God’s true character. And God’s true character is love, personified in Jesus Christ.
Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment, to love one another. What does it mean to love in this way? I’m not talking about romantic love or the cheesy kind of love that you might find in movies or on a motivational poster with a large mountain or field of flowers in the background. I’m not talking about a reciprocal love, where each person contributes to the relationship. I’m talking about the kind of love that does not seek to be repaid.
Jesus demonstrated this love throughout his life, but nowhere more simply than in the events of the last few days of his life. On his last night with his friends, Jesus washes their dirty, smelly feet and shares a final meal with them. Just before Judas leaves, Jesus gives him a piece of bread. How hard must it have been to look one of your friends in the eye and feed him, knowing he was going to betray you for a few coins? And to wash the dirty feet of one of your closest friends, foreseeing that he was going to not only abandon but even deny that he knew you? They will never have the opportunity to repay Jesus in person for his kindness, his selfless love. And yet he does it anyway, right before giving his life for all of us.
So how can we imitate Jesus’ self-giving love? Jesus never promises that it will be simple. Loving in this way comes with a price, and is not always very rewarding, but it is the clearest way to demonstrate to others the love of God.
After Hurricane Katrina hit the shores of the gulf in September of 2005, a few of the people in my campus ministry group went down to D’Iberville, Mississippi, near Biloxi, to assist in cleanup efforts. Katrina had decimated the region; we drove past bridges that looked like carefully stacked dominoes that had been knocked over and flattened houses with only staircases remaining, stairs now leading nowhere. Our mission was to help clean up a local grocery store that had been converted into a donation storage site, and to organize the donated materials coming in to the store. As we worked we met a couple from Alabama. When this couple had heard how badly the hurricane had affected the people of Mississippi, they jumped into their truck and made their way there to offer their help. As the week passed and we got to know the couple better, it became clear that they did not have much money themselves. In fact, later that week they received calls that their water was being shut off back home. We asked them why they stayed here and helped when they had things they needed to attend to at home; without hesitation they replied that they were not so bad off, but the people here had lost everything, so they wanted to stay and make a difference. Needless to say, their selfless act of love made an impression on me.
Ultimately, to love in this way is a choice. Just as we confess that we sin “in thought, word, and deed,” we can demonstrate the love of God “in thought, word, and deed” (BCP 360). God will be known through acts of love. Jesus will be known through acts of love. This is how we live out the resurrection. Each time we participate in acts of love, Jesus is made known to us once again.
How will Jesus—how will God—be known through you?
members of our campus ministry taking a break
bridge stacked like fallen dominoes
house destroyed by Hurricane Katrina