Thursday, April 1, 2010

A New Commandment

Holy (Maundy) Thursday        John 13:1-15, 34-35


In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The New Commandment that our Lord gives tonight is really the same as the Old, “Love,” the difference being, of course, that the New Commandment is the Old fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus fulfilled the commandment to Love – to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind; to love your neighbor as your self – when He laid down His life in love and died for the life of the world. Greater love is not possible than that one should lay down His life for His friends, not to mention His enemies.

And, in so doing, Jesus makes all things new. He takes the Old Commandment, the Old Covenant, and He fulfills them, then He transforms them into something new. The Old Commandment to love demanded perfection; it demanded complete, total, unconditional, perfect and holy love, always, in thought, word, and deed. That is to say that the Old Commandment kept us in bondage to sin and death because it always showed us our sins and how we did not keep it. But Jesus kept it for us. Jesus loved the Father perfectly and unconditionally, always; and Jesus loves you perfectly and unconditionally, always, even sacrificing Himself unto death and giving you His life.

So, the New Commandment that Jesus gives is a life-giving and liberating commandment; it is filled with, and it flows from, Jesus’ own love for God and for the world. Jesus loves you with this love and in so doing He has filled you to overflowing with His Divine Love so that it is with the Love of Jesus that you love one another. If you receive Jesus’ love, then you are tapped into an ever-swelling spring of living water; you will never thirst for love and you will always have limitless love to give. For, giving is what Jesus’ love does. Love gives to others, love serves others, not the self, just as Love Incarnate removed His outer garment, tied a towel around His waist, stooped down and washed the filthy feet of His disciples. He had always loved them, loving even those who hated Him, now He loved them to the end.

This is the night before Jesus’ crucifixion and death; this is the night of Jesus’ betrayal at the hands and lips of Judas. Our King who entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to shouts of praise will ascend His throne on the Friday we call Good and He will be named and crowned our King. But tonight He reveals what His Kingship looks like and of what quality His kingdom consists. The very Word of creation bows down to scrub His creatures’ feet. The eternal, only-begotten Son of God, humbles Himself to serve. The King of the Universe displays what true love is by thinking nothing of Himself, but only of others. Jesus has always been the King of the Jews, but His people wanted a different kind of king, another Saul or another David; tonight King Jesus fulfills those imperfect types and makes Kingship something new.

Jesus takes the bread and wine of the Old Covenant, and, having fulfilled them, He makes the Passover into something new: “This is my body which is for you. This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

And so we welcome Him yet again tonight as He comes to us in His holy meal, a king with a bowl and a towel, ready to wash us, to serve us; a king with a feast of His own body and blood, ready to nourish us; a king who is a lamb, slain in our stead that death might finally and forever pass over us. This is our Jesus who loves us, His own, to the end, with a love that never ends. Tomorrow we will stand in awe before that love as it shines forth in glory upon the cross; and the day after that we will shout for joy in that love as it breaks forth from the tomb.

Who could ever have dreamed of love so amazing, so divine? Glory to You, O Lord Jesus! Glory to You, our Lamb, and glory to Your holy blood forever! Amen.

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