The Foot-washing God
Maundy Thursday 2019
In a series, “The Shadow of the Cross”
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our sermon text is the first reading, from John 13. “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.”
This is how the meal starts, with Jesus washing their feet. Then Jesus says, “If the Lord of the universe decides that it is the supreme act of the One Who Is Love to wash your feet, you go and do likewise.
Just as I do, so you do.
I had a friend, his name was and is Kurt. His children are all grown up now. But when he was younger, he was a little bit rough around the edges. He told me a story of when his son was 2 years old, when he was working on the plumbing in the bathroom. It was a Saturday afternoon. It was hot. He had been drinking a few beers. He hit a roadblock. He got frustrated.
So, he started yelling at the toilet. He threw his drink. He gave the toilet a few good whacks with the wrench, and then he sat down.
Then his little son John comes into the bathroom. And what do you think he did? He started yelling at the toilet. He threw his drink. And he picks up his little toy wrench and gives the toilet a few good whacks before he sits down.
Kurt stopped. Wait, is that what I do? Is that who I am? Wait, he is hearing and seeing everything that I do.
Just as I do, so should you.
I can tell you that these days in the Muther household, Benjamin likes being around me. I can tell you that because I very well know that there will be a day when he can’t stand being around me, but still in this moment, he’ll say every once in a while, “Papa, one day when I’m big and you’re little, I’ll be the one putting on tall socks like yours.” “Papa, one day when I’m big and you’re little, I can drive the fast car like you.” “Papa, one day when I’m big and you’re little, I can help people like you do.”
Just as I do, so should you.
Today we consider Jesus as the one who serves his disciples. We hear the story on the night when he was betrayed. We hear how he serves them his body and blood in the bread and wine for the forgiveness of their sins.
But before that, he takes off his outer robe; he puts a towel around his waist. He stoops down before them, and he washes their feet. Why does he do that? Now, know this, he was doing the work that was so low that Jewish households wouldn’t even allow their Jewish servants to do it. It was beneath them. They asked their Gentiles servants to do it.
Why does he do that? And yet here is the Lord of the universe, stooping down at his disciples’ feet, washing them, and then he says... Just as I do, so should you.
The meaning is clear. “A servant is not greater than his master. Nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If I, whom you have confessed to be Lord and God, master and teacher, if I have washed your feet,” what do you think you’re supposed to do?
Chad Bird says it like this. “Jesus’s greatest delight is in serving us, washing us, feeding us, cleansing us. His power is cloaked in weakness, for in these acts of love he opens our eyes to see his heart...” Today, “we see what kind of God we have: the one who goes as low as it takes to lift us up to the Father’s throne.”
He served his disciples by washing their feet, and more than that, he served them by opening up to them the Word of God, and more than that he served them by dying for their sins on a cross, by being laid to rest in their tomb, by rising from the grave on Easter morning in glorious fashion as the first fruits of the foretaste of an even greater heavenly banquet feast.
And it doesn’t end there.
In your baptism, Jesus has washed you from your head to your toes. In the Lord’s Supper, he gives you strength for the week.
In Baptism, he has scrubbed you clean in body and soul. In the Lord’s Supper, he who has already washed you clean scrubs the dust off of your feet.
In Baptism, God has once for all called you his beloved son and daughter, bought by the very precious blood of Christ, given the new birth into the kingdom of God. In the Lord’s Supper, he feeds you. He grows you up. He leads you on. He gives you an unearthly peace and a godly strength so that as he has done, so should you do.
So, a few questions to conclude this sermon for tonight. Would you find delight in the meal that God delights to give you? Do you see the God who goes as low as it takes to lift us up to the Father’s throne? If Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, whose feet is he calling you to wash?
One last question. If Jesus picked up his cross and laid down his life for you, for who, are you called to lay down your life?
Come. The feast is set, for your strength and hope.
Amen and amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters