23When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his clothes and divided them into four parts, one for each soldier. They also took his tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from the top. 24So they said to one another, ‘Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see who will get it.’ This was to fulfil what the scripture says,
‘They divided my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.’
25And that is what the soldiers did.
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ 27Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
28After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfil the scripture), ‘I am thirsty.’ 29A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30When Jesus had received the wine, he said, ‘It is finished.’ Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
There’s the funny one about a father who had won a toy at an office game. He called his three kids together to ask which one should have the present. “Who is the most obedient?” he asked. The children all stared back at him in silence. Then he asked, “Who never talks back to mother?” Again the kids appeared to be mystified by the question. Then the father asked, “Who does everything she says?” With that question, the kids were finally able to come to a conclusion. The three small voices answered in unison, “Okay, dad, you get the toy.”
Oh, how true it is! Fathers, you’d be wise to acknowledge her authority in the household. You might be the head of the household but boy, oh boy, heaven help you if you don’t recognize how important mother is to your household. She holds that household together with her love. A home is built on a mother’s love, nothing more and nothing less. You’d best protect that love of hers!
Tonight we have gathered to set out on our journey through the holy three days of Easter. Typically our reading would have us remember the last supper that Jesus shared with his disciples before being betrayed and arrested. Jesus used the meal to not only establish the ritual we know as holy communion but also to impart one of his two greatest commandments: to love one another as he loves us. First we are to love God above all else but then we are to love each other as he loves us. He illustrated his commandment by stooping down to wash the feet of his disciples. Recall that the act of washing a person’s feet during Jesus’ time was such an act of humble service. It conveyed dominance and lordship of the one receiving the washing. For Jesus to humble himself before his disciples in such a way in effect removed his own lordship and imparted it on them. The disciples were the masters now, not Jesus. Of course, not all the disciples were okay with Jesus performing such a humble gesture. Peter refused Jesus’ offer, saying, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus gently responded, “unless I wash you, you will have no share with me.” Peter exclaimed, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Peter quickly understood the importance of Jesus’ act as a gesture of his love and wanted more of it. But Jesus gave all he had to give.
Jesus not only gave us the words and practices for holy communion but also one of his two greatest commandments, to love one another. This is a command, a mandate…hence, why we label this evening’s gathering as “Maundy Thursday,” “maundy” deriving from the Latin, “mandatum,” or “mandate.” Over the next three days, we will recall just how much Jesus loves us to help us understand how we are to love each other. Jesus didn’t want to go into Jerusalem as we heard last Sunday. But Jesus knew his purpose to love us no matter what. Jesus no doubt didn’t want to go to that Last Supper either. He knew Judas would betray him later that evening. He knew that the supper would be the last time he could sit and enjoy the company of his beloved disciples. He knew all of it: all the heartache, all the disappointment, all the agony, all the suffering. He also knew he loves us, that his purpose is to love us. It is hard to deny our purposes. We have to fulfill our purposes whether we want to or not. A purpose is more than a command. At least with a command we can choose to obey it or not. We can’t choose to fulfill our purposes. But a commandment is a strong suggestion that can either benefit us if we obey it or harm us if we don’t. It benefits us to love each other. We live better, healthier, happier, more satisfying lives when we love each other. Believe it or not, we need each other’s love. We need love to survive and thrive. All the commandments are fulfilled if we but love God and each other.
Jesus washed the feet of his disciples to illustrate his commandment. Jesus went to the cross to illustrate his commandment. On the cross, he told John, his beloved disciples, to take his mother and love her, again to illustrate his commandment. The next three days are nothing more than Jesus illustrating, through his own suffering, how to obey his commandment. Jesus says earlier in the book of John, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments,” (14:15) and “you are my friends if you do what I command you” (15:14). In Luke, Jesus said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” (11:28) God has given us a clear mandate, to love one another as he loves us. We can choose not to obey it but we’re really only hurting ourselves. Let us go through the next few days listening. What is the love of Jesus? How are we to love one another?
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.