.Blessed Maundy Thursday, the 1,981st anniversary of the night in which our Lord was betrayed, the night on which His trial began, the night of His prayer in the garden, of His washing the disciples’ feet, of His prayer for His disciples and us, of the last true celebration of the Passover feast.
Of all the events of this night there are two that I would like to consider tonight, two things that Jesus calls new, the “new commandment,” and the “new testament.”
First, the new commandment, this is where the night gets its name, “Maundy Thursday” from the Latin mandatum, commandment. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” He had begun to show them this love.
They had finished the Passover meal when Jesus stood up from the table, and laid aside His garments, took a towel and wrapped it around Himself, and then, on His knees, began to wash the disciples’ feet. This is a stunning display of humility and service. Can you imagine the disciples’ faces, covered in tears, as Jesus comes to each of them, and takes of their sandals and washes their feet? They must have wanted to protest, “No, Jesus. Stand up. Get dressed. You’re the Lord, the Messiah. What are you doing?” Peter actually says it, “Lord, you will never wash my feet.” It is too much humility.
But if you think that this is too low for Jesus, just wait. In a few hours He will be sweating blood in agony in the garden. Just wait, this night will see Him mocked, stricken, accused of crimes He didn’t commit. Just wait. Tomorrow morning He will be striped, beaten, condemned, whipped, spat upon, crucified, with nails through His hands and feet and a spear through His heart. Just wait, Peter, disciples, Christians, if this washing of feet seems like it is too humiliating for Jesus, it is only the beginning.
And then, after washing the feet of Peter and Judas and the other disciples, Jesus returns to the table and says, “You see how I love you, that is how you are to love one another, and this is the new commandment I am giving to you.”
We have the commandment to love our neighbor already, from Moses. But Jesus makes all things new, even the law, even love. Jesus has a love that holds nothing back, that gives everything. And He says to Peter, to Judas, to the disciples, to you: you should do the same.
And this is why the disciples’ wept, why Peter protested, while the entire world, with shame, looks on while Jesus washes these filthy feet, while a love that knows no limit, no selfishness, no pride, is put on display before us, we realize that we are sinners, that we do not love God or our neighbor as we should, that we think of ourselves, of our pain, our of wants, and Jesus sees right past all of this to His neighbor’s need, to you need. And we should too.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”
And you don’t. You should. You might try, but you don’t. Your love and my love has failed, has fallen short, has barely begun.
And this is bad. How bad, you might wonder? That question will be answered tomorrow as we see Jesus writhing on the cross, being crushed by the wrath of God for your sins. That is how bad your sin is, your lack of love. And this new commandment condemns us just as fully and completely as the old commandments do.
But the commandment is not the only new thing that is instituted on this night. When Jesus sits back down at the table He takes some bread, and broke it, and gave thanks to the Father, and gave it to the disciples saying, “Take and eat, this is My body, given for you.” And then, when they had eaten, He took the cup, the chalice of wine, and said, “Take and drink, this cup is the new testament in my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
This is the last will and testament of Jesus. We know what a will does, it gives out the estate to the desired recipients upon the death of the testator.
And this is a new testament. With this ‘new’ Jesus brings everything ‘old’ to an end, the temple, the priesthood, the sacrifices, the clean and unclean food, the feasts, circumcision, all of this is finished on this night, and something new has begun: the Lord’s Supper.
And this Supper is bringing to the church of the New Testament what the sacrifices brought to the church of the old covenant: the forgiveness of sins.
But look how wonderful: Jesus is telling the disciples what He wants them to have after He dies, what He wants them to inherit from Him: the forgiveness of their sins. And more, so sure and certain does Jesus want them to be that they are forgiven, that you are forgiven, that He puts His body and blood into their hands, into their mouth.
The same body of Jesus that put to the cross to win your forgiveness is put to your mouth to grant you forgiveness. The same blood that pours out of the hands and feet and side of Jesus to atone for your sins is poured into your mouth to cover your sins. The same promise that Jesus speaks after the six hours of agony on the cross is spoken to you hear, at this Supper: “It is finished.”
This New Testament, this supper, means the end of your sin, the end of your condemnation, the end of your death, the end of your fear
This New Testament, this supper, is nothing less than Jesus Himself bringing to you His cross and blood and all its benefits.
So, dear saints, it is good for use to be here, at the Lord’s altar, because Jesus loves you, and He loves to forgive you, and because He has gifts for you. For His meal, and His cross, and His love, are for you.
The peace of God which passes all understanding guard your heart and mind through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller | Hope Lutheran Church | Aurora, CO