Below is the sermon text for Sunday, February 25. The lesson is John 13:1-17, where Jesus washes his disciples feet.
When is the last time someone washed you? Or when was the last time that you washed someone?
Washing someone is an intimate act. If you think of someone washing you, it probably makes you feel uncomfortable. It is a familiarity that is beyond what we are used to. To wash, or to be washed, requires a certain trust. It is done out of a sense of love, or out of duty.
A mother washes her baby or infant, and they bond. A child washes their parent, or grandparent when the ability to do it oneself proves too challenging. We get our hair washed before it is cut and styled to pamper ourselves. A nurse gives us a sponge bath as part of our care in a hospital.
Washing someone isn’t something that happens normally. And it didn’t in Jesus time either. As a sign of hospitality, a host would provide a basin of water and a towel for visitors to use to wash their feet. It was a welcome to someone who had traveled across dusty and dirty roads, clad only in sandals to come to your home. If the hosts were affluent enough, and the guests were worthy, they may have a female servant or slave wash the guest’s feet.
It would only be in extremely rare circumstances that someone other than a female servant would lower themselves to wash someone else’s feet.
One time occurred during the week before Jesus was crucified. A few days after raising Lazarus from the dead, his sisters Martha and Mary had a dinner for Jesus and his disciples. During the meal, Mary took a pound of expensive, pungent nard, and used it do anoint Jesus’ feet, wiping them with her hair. She did this out of love and devotion to Jesus.
And that is the reason that Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. As a sign of love and devotion to them.
It is Thursday of Holy Week, and Jesus and his disciples are gathered for what will be their final meal. In the middle of the meal, Jesus gets up and prepares to wash his disciples feet.
Simon Peter doesn’t understand, first refusing to let Jesus wash his feet, then inviting him to wash his whole body. Simon Peter doesn’t understand what the gesture means.
His teacher, his rabbi, his lord, is showing the degree of servitude, love and devotion that he has. John records this event in this Last Supper, and not the sharing of bread and wine that Mark, Matthew and Luke do. But both events are designed to show, and to remind us, of the sacrifice that Jesus will do in the hours to come.
It is one thing to say, “I will give up my life for you.” It is another to see it acted out in doing an act servants rarely lower themselves to do. It is another to see it shown by being told that bread and wine represent the giving up of one’s life.
For both the sharing of the bread and wine, and for the foot washing, all twelve disciples are there, and all partake. Jesus washes Peter’s feet, and Christ gives him his body and blood. Jesus washes Judas’ feet, and Christ gives him his body and blood.
Later in John’s telling of this Last Supper, Jesus gives his disciples his final, and newest commandment. He tells them, and us, to “Love one another, just as I have loved you.”
The challenge of following that command has troubled Jesus’ followers since he gave it. How do we show love to such a degree that means we would give up our lives for the sake of others? It means putting the importance of others, rather than on ourselves.
Unfortunately, an example came into our world just eleven days ago. During the tragedy of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a coach, the athletic director and several student put themselves between the shooter and students. To protect others, they stepped, or stayed, in the bath of the bullets.
As someone who spent seventeen years in public education, that doesn’t surprise me. After the shooting, I read a message from a teacher who wrote, “My worst fear isn’t that I’ll die in a school shooting. It’s that I won’t be able to jump in front of my students fast enough.”
I read that, I could picture so many people saying that. It is a horrible thought, and an extreme example, but that is the love that Christ calls us to show.
Jesus Christ, the Word that was with God, the Word that IS God, through whom all things came into being, came into the world. The true light which enlightens everyone came into the world to give all who believe in him the power to become the children of God.
And as children of God, he commands us to take the role of servant, to love others the way that he loves us.
How can you show that love to someone who needs to hear it today? Or tomorrow? Or this week? Or for the rest of your life?
“Servants are not greater than their master, nor are those who are sent out greater than the one who sent them. If you understand this, you will be blessed if you do them.” AMEN.
Pastor Brian's Page
Pastor Brian Robert Campbell has served at Our Savior's and Emmanuel since August 1, 2011, and began serving Nazareth on December 1, 2015.
Pastor Brian is originally from Saginaw, Michigan. He graduated from Alma College with a B.A. in Business Administration, and worked for the Saginaw Public Schools' Community Education Department for 17 years before answering the call to ministry. He graduated with a M. Div. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg in 2011. ONE in Christ Lutheran Parish is his first call.
He is the only child of Robert and Charlotte Campbell, both who have entered the Church Eternal.
He is accompanied in ministry by his faithful bulldogge Ananias, who regularly writes for our newsletter. His articles are archived here.
He is a fan of sports teams from his native Michigan, especially the Tigers and the Lions. But we tolerate him despite that.
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