Wicker Park Lutheran Church
Rev. Jason S. Glombicki
Tonight’s readings are iconic. First, we heard of Passover as a meal of liberation and salvation. Next, we heard of a similar meal that Jesus had with his disciples – a meal that we partake in at this table. And finally, the gospel reading recalled Jesus’ command to the disciples during another meal.
The meal in the gospel was not the Passover seder. Nevertheless, much like the Passover lamb is slaughtered, Jesus knew his hours were numbered. And, he knew that Judas was about to play a role in his final moments. The way John’s gospel described it was that “the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas to betray [Jesus].” And, just to be clear, the devil isn’t an other-worldly creature with a pitchfork and horns; rather, “the devil” is the personification of evil which can help us understand that evil sometimes seems to have a mind of its own. You see, in today’s reading, in tomorrow’s Passion story, in the moments of Resurrection, in the early church, in this moment, and in the time after our lives, all those experiences will underscore Jesus’s response to the personification of evil. Everything in John’s gospel will return to this moment, this meal, this night gathered around with Jesus’ disciples.
For a moment, let’s enter into tonight’s scene. Imagine that you are in the room with the person who started a train that will be your death. Now, there is nothing that can be done to prevent what is about to happen–you cannot stop the roaring train that will be your demise. (Depressing, right?) In that moment, since the outcome is set, some of us might seek revenge. After all, right there in that room is that S.O.B. that is going ruin me. Some of us might begin thinking about how we could make that nark pay so as to enact some sense of justice. We might begin to think about how we might make Judas suffer, even just a little bit, so he can pay for what he is about to do.
While, we may not ever find ourselves in a situation where our lives are at stake, it’s likely that we’ll desire to seek revenge at some point. Even if it’s wanting to get even with that person who wants to make us look like a fool at work. Or, to force some respect from a family member who always seems to undermine your thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Or to really show that neighbor who cannot seem to follow the rules parking their car, or throwing away their trash, or keeping it down at 2 a.m. In these situations, and so many more, we can easily find ourselves seeking a little revenge.
Yet, tonight, we see Jesus who has every right to inflict some kind of pain on Judas respond differently. Instead, Jesus took on the role of the lowliest of slaves. There, he washed the disciples’ feet. Jesus took that traitor’s feet into his hands, he washed them, and he dried them. Instead of getting even, Jesus upended the social order of his time. Jesus flattened the social hierarchy, and he preached egalitarianism. He taught us how to respond when our human nature leans toward revenge. It’s almost as though Jesus said, “when they go low, we go high.” For, Jesus showed that love is the answer. So too, Jesus said, “do as I have done.”
Friends, tonight we are told to love one another without exception, even if it feels uncomfortable or even self-sacrificing. Tomorrow we will hear how the world responds to threats, how it treats those who disagree, and how it silences dissent. Yet, Jesus’s message of love will remain the same tonight, tomorrow, and far into the future. For while the world tells us that loving and serving are for the weak, the truth is that serving frees us to live and that loving is the pathway to resurrection. So, as we continue our three-day journey and beyond, I pray that we might learn to serve, learn to love, and learn to live the way of Christ. Amen.