Join us every sunday at 9:30 AM


March 28, 2024 Preacher: Minister Thomas Houston

Scripture: John 1:31–51, John 1:31–35

March 28, 2024 Maundy Thursday The text is John 13:1-17, 31b-35.


1Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”
31b“Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”


May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

We just heard 22 verses from John’s gospel, and it wasn’t until the 21st verse that we encountered why this night in Holy Week is named what it is.  This is Maundy Thursday and it is thus named for the commandment that Jesus gives to his disciples this night.  Maundy is a word from the Latin and it is the root of the word mandate; thus ‘commandment’, thus Maundy.  After everything that Jesus says and does this night he issues this new commandment to his followers; the twelve and us.  In verse 35, Jesus says: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”  New commandment, new mandate, new Maundy.

“Love one another”; this is Jesus’ new commandment, but this mandate has a caveat.  We are to love one another as Jesus loves us.  That, my friends is a rather tall order.  There are a number of words in Greek that translate as different kinds love.  There is eros; this is romantic love.  Phileos is brotherly love, the type of affection we would show toward a good friend.  But neither of these is used by Jesus as he commands that his disciples, and we are to love one another as he loves us.  For this new mandate Jesus chooses agape.  We encounter this agape-love much earlier in John’s gospel, all the way back in 3:16, undeniably, the most well-known verse in Scripture.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son”.  Agape is God’s perfect, unconditional love; the immeasurable, incomparable love of God for all the world.  Jesus’ new commandment is not that his followers should simply care for one another and each other’s welfare, but that they are mandated to love each other in the same way that Jesus, that God loves them.  And that is a most difficult task, for we mortals are not prone to shower one another in God-like, perfect, unconditional love; it just isn’t in our nature, we don’t come by this naturally and without effort.

We’ll come back to the Maundy part of this evening’s reading in a bit, but first we might want to review what else Jesus has done and said this night, during dinner with his disciples just before the Passover.


Knowing that his time is short and the cross awaits him, and being aware of Judas’ betrayal, Jesus performs the most unlikely action we can imagine.  Rather than railing against the unfairness of Judas’ treachery and his impending execution, and standing tall in defiance of everything, he removes his robe, drops to his knees, and begins to wash the feet of his disciples.  The Son of God drops to his knees in service to others.  This is agape-love, demonstrated by Jesus’ willingness to kneel down and wash the filth off the feet of his disciples.  The cleansing of one’s feet in Jesus’ time did not consist of simply stepping into the bath or shower, soaping up and emerging squeaky clean.

A dinner host would always ensure that the feet of his guests were washed when people gathered to dine in the house.  Beyond being a traditional courtesy, when you think of the condition of the roads in the ancient Middle East, this becomes a necessity.  The streets, if they could really be called streets, were composed of sand, and dirt, and assorted filth.  Everyone wore sandals and their feet would be incredibly grimy after even a short time walking about in these dusty, dirty conditions.  People walked their livestock along the same streets that people trod.  And let’s not forget that even domesticated animals aren’t particular about where they relieve themselves.  It was common that people who entered the home of their host would have their open-sandaled feet covered with a mixture of sand, dirt, and animal soil.  The washing of these feet would certainly be a sign of love and care for the other.  The fact that Jesus Christ, God-Incarnate did this is agape-love!  The Son of God took off his robe, wrapped a towel around himself, dropped to his knees and washed his disciples’ feet.  He knelt down amid the sand, and dust, and dirt, and excrement and washed the feet of those he had called to be his followers.  “Love one another” is Jesus’ new commandment, “as I have loved you”, he commands the disciples, and us.  Be willing to do for one another what I am wiling to do for you.  Show agape-love to one another, as I have shown agape-love to you!  He so desperately wants his disciples, and us to understand the importance of this new mandate that he is willing to assume the role of the household servant.

Peter was appalled at the sight of the Son of God up to his elbows in a basin of filthy water.  “You will never wash my feet”, Peter exclaims to Jesus.

Jesus replies, If I don’t, you will not understand the importance of this new commandment I’m about to proclaim to all of you.  I must resort to such an extreme measure so you will truly know how imperative it is that you follow my new commandment to ‘love one another as I have loved you’.  This is the example I must show you.  This is the love God has for the world; this is the love I have for you; this is the love I command you to shower one another with.  This is agape-love!

So Jesus has expressed the importance of this new mandate in three ways.  First, he specifically states that he is giving a new ‘commandment’, on that he considers to be on par with the original Ten Commandments in the Torah; the Jewish Law that dictates how the Hebrew people are to live.  Secondly, he describes the love we are to have for one another with the word that expresses God’s love for the world.  And finally, to ensure that the disciples, and we fully grasp this importance of this new Maundy, Jesus leads by example, washing his disciples’ feet.  He wants there to be no mistake; this is agape-love!

We are to live our lives in accordance with this new, let’s call it the Eleventh Commandment.  And Jesus commands us to keep this one in the same way we are to keep the others.  We shall have no other gods; we shall not steal, murder, covet;  We shall keep the Sabbath and not bear false witness.  And we shall love one another as Jesus loves us.  This is agape-love!  And we live by this commandment whenever we respond to the needs of our community.  When we feed our hungry neighbor, we show agape-love; when we clothe our shivering neighbor, we show agape-live; when we provide shelter, agape-love is shown.  And when we put the needs of others before our own, this is the true expression of the love that Jesus commands us to show. For he was willing to portray his love for all the world; by the washing of feet this night, by his hanging upon the cross on Good Friday, and ultimately by his rising from the grave to open the way to everlasting life for us all, on the glorious Easter morning!  This is agape-love!    


Will you pray with me?  Good, and gracious, and holy God, you loved the world so much that you gave your Son to redeem it.  Jesus loved the world so much that he was willing to die for it.  Help us to love others in ways that show our thanks for the love we are shown.  And we pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, the One who kneels to bless the world with agape-love.      Amen.

God is Good, all the time.  All the time, God is GoodAmen.