Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Maundy Thursday (John 13:1-15)

This sermon is based on a sermon series entitled 'Knowing God Perfectly' by Rev. Brent Kuhlman.

“Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.” Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen. The text for our sermon this Maundy Thursday comes from the Gospel lesson read a few moments ago from the thirteenth chapter of the Gospel according to Saint John. Dear friends in Christ, during this Lenten season, we have set out to learn how to know God perfectly. An impossible, even sacrilegious task, it seemed. Who can know the mind of God? Who can understand His ways, who can discern His thoughts? Who could even dare to plumb such depths? Who can know God perfectly? You can; I can. Every Christian can, and indeed, every Christian should, for we know God perfectly when we see Jesus serving us, all the way to the cross. Luther says in the Large Catechism, “The Creed properly follows, which sets forth all that we must expect and receive from God; in short, it teaches us to know God perfectly.” We know God perfectly when we know what to expect and receive from Him, and we know what to expect and receive from God when we look to our Savior, our Servant Jesus. In His Divine Service, we know God perfectly, expecting and receiving from Him the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation, given when Jesus lays down His life for you.

What a Savior we have! Look at what He does in the upper room, washing the feet of His disciples. Look at what He does in the upper room, giving His Body and Blood to eat and to drink. He does this for sinners, for you. Jesus is God for you. The eternal Word, God Himself, who became flesh—He is nothing but a Servant. He is simply for His disciples and He is for you. This is the Divine Service, God in the flesh serving man, making Himself your Servant, fulfilling His own words, “The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

At first, Peter objects, he refuses, he cannot handle having His God as a Servant. He cannot receive this Divine Service. “You shall never wash my feet.” Really? He would reject the Lord’s Divine Service? Would you too? Do you receive Jesus as your Servant, or do you give into the demonic desire to give Him something, to make Him fit your ideas of what a Savior should be? Peter cannot abide Jesus, His Lord, His God, acting as a Servant, but this is the only way to have Him. “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Apart from Christ’s Divine Service, there is no share in the benefits of His suffering and dying that will come with His Good Friday cross. Jesus comes as our Servant, or not at all. That is what today is all about, and that is what tomorrow is all about. “Do you understand what I have done to you?” Do you understand what this Divine Service points to? The foot washing on Maundy Thursday is a preview of what is coming on Good Friday. His self-sacrifice of Himself tonight will climax tomorrow as He gets nailed to the tree. Bearing all your sin. Suffering your hell. Salvation won. Jesus as gift.

“Do you understand what I have done to you?” Do you? He washes your feet as an act of Divine Service, for He is God’s gift to you. But there is more. The free gift of His sacrificial service of love in washing feet on Maundy Thursday, then suffering and dying on Good Friday, hooks you into a life that looks just like your Teacher and Lord, your Servant. Jesus is gift, first and foremost, but He is also example. “I have given you an example that you should also do just I have done to you.” Later on, after our text, Jesus puts it this way: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” Jesus as gift; Jesus as example. It is this new commandment that gives Maundy Thursday its name, the new commandment, or mandatum in Latin, is to love one another in imitation of Christ. In other words, faith in Jesus is very active. Believers are very active in loving self-sacrificial service for the sake of others. His gifts have their way with you. His gifts enliven you. For salvation. And for fruitful service in your daily callings in life. “Do you understand what I have done to you?” We know God perfectly in His love for us and our love for others.

“Love one another, just as I have loved you.” Christ’s love for you is given in the upper room; the love that led Him to get down on the floor and wash the feet of His disciples, the love that led later in the evening to an even greater Divine Service. “The Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also He took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new testament in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’” Maundy Thursday is the night of service, Christ’s Divine Service, all for you. Jesus gives Himself as gift; His own Body; His very Blood. The same Body and Blood sacrificed upon the cross Good Friday for the salvation of all is given into our mouths for the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is the Passover Lamb; His blood marks our doors, death passes over, and we eat the sacrificial meal, which is no mere memorial, but delivers to us all that He won. This Divine Service connects us with the Divine Service of the cross; the two are inseparable acts of love, inseparable deeds of service, together they are Christ’s gift of Himself. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” We know God perfectly in the Lord’s Supper, for in the Supper He is our servant, the host, the meal, He is gift for us.

Today we prayed, “Grant that we may so receive the sacred mystery of your Body and Blood that the fruits of your redemption may continually be manifest in us.” Christ as gift; Christ as example. Jesus extends His love to others through you and your bodily existence. Your redeemed and died for physical life in the body. As Jesus gave His Body to us—into death upon the cross and to eat in the Supper—so you give your body for others. “Do you understand what I have done to you?” Because of Christ’s Divine Service, you no longer live but Christ lives in you. Jesus uses you, His redeemed disciples, to help those around you through self-sacrificial acts of love. Having received Christ as gift, you “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.” You live sacrificially in the body as you love one another with brotherly affection; as you outdo one another in showing honor; not being slothful in zeal, being fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, being patient in tribulation, praying constantly for others, contributing to the needs of the saints and showing hospitality. John preaches it, in His First Epistle: “By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us… And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers… Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” Christ as gift; Christ as example. His love comes first; our love for others flows from the love He has shown to us.

“Do you understand what I have done to you?” You do now! It’s what you expect and receive today and every Sunday: His Divine Service for you in Word and Sacrament, His giving of His Body and Blood for you to eat and to drink; the benefits of His Divine Service on the cross given into your ears and into your mouths. You know God perfectly when you receive Christ’s sacrificial Divine Service, as He serves you. And only when He has connected you with His cross through the Word and Holy Sacraments does He have good use for you in this world as His instruments of love. Jesus your gift. Jesus your example. He sends you forth to love as He has loved you. And oh the love that He has shown to you! Jesus is your servant, He offers to you His Divine Service, giving up His life into death upon the cross for you, and giving to you the same Body that hung upon the tree, the same Blood poured out there for the salvation of the world. In the Divine Service, we know God perfectly, for we know Jesus our servant; God for you, forever. In the Name of Jesus, host and meal, Amen.

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