Jesus’ Final Mandates (Maundy Thursday)

Again, welcome to the Great Three Days of Jesus’ journey from death into life.

It begins with Maundy Thursday.
Maundy is derived from the Latin for mandate (command).

It is on this evening that the church universal reflects on the three final mandates that Jesus the Christ gave to his disciples during their final Passover, final dinner, final evening before his arrest, trial, conviction, passion, crucifixion, and death.

The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) differ from the Gospel of John.
Since our assigned scripture is John and offers two of the mandates, let us begin with it.

Jesus and the disciples gather for the Passover celebration.

Foot washing was a common practice of hospitality in the ancient near east, but it was an extremely dirty task which causes me to physically cringe due to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). It was not merely feet, but rather feet that had walked miles, in sandals, in the hot desert sand and dirt.

Can you envision the dirtiness? the smell? the germs?

Thus, the foot washing was often conducted by the lowliest slave or slaves of the host.

The scriptures do not note it, but I envision the disciples uncomfortably looking around the home, observing no slave present, and internally or verbally questioning who was the lowliest among them to be tasked with the unfortunate foot washing responsibilities.

Jesus, who is literally God in flesh and blood, stands up from the table. He removes his outer robe and ties a towel around his waist. He kneels down at the dirty, smelly, gross feet of each disciple and begins to wash their feet.

Jesus, again God incarnate, humbles himself into the lowliest example of servitude by washing feet.

Afterwards, Jesus mandates that his disciples, including us, follow in his example of humbling ourselves into the lowliest examples of servitude rather than being served, for the master is not of more importance than the servant. Jesus is always and forever the Rabbi, teacher, who does not only instruct in word alone but also demonstrates in his life and deeds.

This action, its teaching, is an embodiment of Jesus as revolutionary, turning the tables on social expectations, and ALWAYS standing with the oppressed, poor, needy, and “least of these” against those who abuse their positions of privilege, authority, and power.

Thus, the first mandate is:
Humble yourself in service of all and do not place yourself above anyone else.

Afterwards, Jesus continues to instruct the disciples in a second mandate, commonly referred to as the ‘New Commandment’. It is to love one another as Jesus first loved his disciples, including us.

It is NOT to love one another as we love ourselves, because that commandment includes a loophole…

We do not always love ourselves or treat ourselves with respect, dignity, compassion and mercy; thus, we do not have to love all people at all times and treat them with respect, dignity, compassion, and mercy.

However, Jesus calls us to a higher standard while closing said loophole. Jesus mandates that we love one another as he first loved his disciples. Again, we are to love one another as Jesus, who is divine unconditional love in flesh and blood, first loved his most beloved and intimate disciples.

Further, Jesus doubles down on this mandate, because we will be identified as his disciples within this world by our LOVE. It is not our worship, or fellowship, or faith formation, or theological tradition. It is our LOVE for the other.

Thus, the second mandate is:
Love one another unconditionally, in word and deed.

The third mandate is not included in the Gospel of John, but it is included in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke).

These Synoptic Gospels describe Jesus departing from the traditional Passover ceremony and instituting our practice of Holy Communion. It is the establishment of a new covenant (or contract) in the body and blood of Jesus, fore-shadowing his impending sacrifice upon the cross. In remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are mandated to do so in the sharing of bread and wine paired with the WORD (scripture). And yet, we receive it as a means of grace that nourishes, encourages, and energizes us for the humbled service and unconditional love of the first two mandates.

Thus, the third mandate is:
Remember the new covenant in Jesus’ body and blood through Holy Communion.

The mandates, again, are:

  1. Humble yourself in service of all and do not place yourself above anyone else.
  2. Love one another unconditionally, in word and deed.
  3. Remember the new covenant in Jesus’ body and blood in Holy Communion.

May we humble ourselves,
reflecting the love of Christ
in the world among and for ALL PEOPLE.

Scripture was John 13: 1-17, 31b-35.
Originally preached digitally 9 April 2020 for Trinity Lutheran (Union City, IN).

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