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Thursday, April 1, 2021

A New Mandate

John 13:1-17, 34-35
1 Before the Passover celebration, Jesus knew that his hour had come to leave this world and return to his Father. He had loved his disciples during his ministry on earth, and now he loved them to the very end. It was time for supper, and the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

When Jesus came to Simon Peter, Peter said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

“No,” Peter protested, “you will never ever wash my feet!”

Jesus replied, “Unless I wash you, you won’t belong to me.”

Simon Peter exclaimed, “Then wash my hands and head as well, Lord, not just my feet!”

10 Jesus replied, “A person who has bathed all over does not need to wash, except for the feet, to be entirely clean. And you disciples are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For Jesus knew who would betray him. That is what he meant when he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing? 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. 16 I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master. Nor is the messenger more important than the one who sends the message. 17 Now that you know these things, God will bless you for doing them.

34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Everyone Struggles
Every disciple had their own personal struggles.  They were ordinary men.  We find they were ignorant, selfish, and argumentative.  While Jesus was beset with bitter foreknowledge of the crucifixion, all the disciples are arguing about who among them was greatest.  Because of their beef about it, not one of them was willing to do the demeaning chore of washing the other’s feet.  It was like a bunch of kids after dinner arguing about who has to put up the food and wash the dishes.  Finally, Jesus says, “Look, I’ll do it,” and he grabs a towel and kneels down and starts washing. 

Peter had his own personal problem.  He was impetuous and full of boastful pride.  He was always opening his big mouth and it usually got him in trouble—like the time he reprimanded Jesus for talking about death and Jesus called Peter Satan and told him “get behind me!”  Then, after bragging he was ready to die for Jesus, Peter denied he even knew Jesus when questioned. 

Thomas was doubter and full of cynical resignation—like in John 11:16 when he assumed they would all die when they went to Jerusalem with Jesus.  Simeon the Zealot identified with a group that supported killing Romans and their Jewish collaborators. James and John were ambitious schemers.  They sent their mom to try and sweet talk Jesus into giving them the best seats of power in God’s Kingdom. (Matthew 20) 

Obviously, Judas had his struggles.  Verse 2 in the NLT says, “the devil had already prompted Judas, son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus.”  I appreciate the way the NLT uses the word “prompted”, because it suggests Judas had a choice.  The Devil can’t “make” you do something.  He can only prompt you and then you must decide for yourself.  A great part of the Christian walk of faith is opening your heart to the Holy Spirit to help you become more self-aware to make conscious decisions instead of unconsciously following your naturally sinful inclinations.  Perhaps during these 40-days of Lent you’ve been intentional to pray and meditate as you walk with the Lord.  Perhaps the Lord has helped discover some things about yourself—attitudes, or behaviors—for which you need to be more aware so that they don’t unconsciously control your life.  Jesus wants us all to be fully awakened people who live for Jesus on purpose. How are you doing in this?  How will you remain purposefully awake in the days ahead? 

Judas walked with Jesus for at least three years—all the while struggling with his own sinful nature.  Greed was certainly part of his flawed character.  John 12 relays how Judas often stole money from the ministry’s treasury.  I’m sure Jesus knew all Judas’ flaws and even about his embezzlement.  Christ still gave Judas a place at the Lord’s Table.  Sadly, when the Devil prompted Judas, he consciously chose to betray his Lord to the chief priests.  Even after that horrendous decision, I am convinced Jesus would have graciously welcomed Judas back into the Kingdom if he had repented.  Sadly, Judas did not repent.  He was full of remorse—to the point he hung himself—but Scripture never indicates Judas repented.  I wish he had.  What a story of Christ’s grace that would have been.  What a testimony.

All the disciples had struggles.  So, when I think of myself as one of Jesus’ disciples, I feel like I fit right in.  I have my own struggles too.  One thing that has been on my mind throughout Lent is how I sometimes struggle with cynicism.  Rather than remaining hopeful about people or situations, I get frustrated and often think the worst.  I may say in my heart (and sometimes even out loud), “They won’t do what they said they would do.  They aren’t really committed to Christ.  Christianity is just a hobby for them.”  I can be judgmental and sarcastic and fatalistic.  I’m a lot like Thomas when he resigned, “Sure!  Why not!  Let’s go to Jerusalem and die with Jesus!” (Paraphrased from John 11:16)

We all have our struggles, but the Lord accepts us all and calls us to follow Him and join Him around the sacred Kingdom table despite our flaws. Thanks be to God.

Mandatum – A Command to Love
We call this night Maundy Thursday because it recalls an essential command Jesus gave His disciples that last night he ate with them.  The word “Maundy” in Maundy Thursday comes from the Latin word Mandatum which means “mandate” because at the Last Supper Christ gave his disciples the command (or mandate) to love one another.  

Jesus doesn’t expect us to be perfect—and that’s a good thing given all our many flaws. However, Jesus does expect all His disciples to love one another the way He loves us.  It’s a command so important, Jesus said it will be the defining element that proves to the world that a person is one of Jesus’ disciples. 

Being perfect doesn’t prove you are a genuine Christian.
Celebrating certain holidays or keeping special traditions doesn’t prove you’re a Christian.
Defending your personal freedoms as an American or supporting certain political candidates or certain agendas doesn’t proves you’re a Christian. 
It’s not going to church or even believing all the right Christian doctrines that proves you’re a Christian. 
Jesus said, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” (John 13:35).  And in verse 24, He mandated, “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”

The Lord took off his robe, lowered himself, and washed his disciples’ feet as a tangible example of the way we are to love one another.  What are some tangible ways you might lower yourself and love one another? Perhaps you could do a random act of kindness without seeking any credit.  I heard today that there is an urgent need for blood donations; maybe you could donate blood to help those who need it.  Maybe you need to swallow your pride and make amends for something you’ve done worng.  Or maybe it’s something else. 

What might you do to fulfill Jesus’ mandate to love one another? 

Christ is here with us now, even as we remember His last meal with the Twelve.

Let us remember Him, and recognize His presence, and find courage and strength to love as He loved.

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