Even if you do not watch it on television, I am supposing that most of you
are familiar with the long-running CBS news magazine, 60 Minutes. It is
easily recognized by the image of the ticking stopwatch, as the timepiece
marks off the episode segments, counting down to the final credits and the
end of the broadcast. The image came to mind as I considered Jesus’
activities during Holy Week, as a proverbial stopwatch is ticking down the
moments to the end of his life and ministry, culminating in his crucifixion
In a sense, on this night, we find Jesus’ life ticking down to the final credits.
The time for miracles and healing is past and done; he now only has a few
final precious hours to complete his ministry. Jesus and the disciples join
together around the table, his favorite place to discuss his ideas. Tonight,
the setting is the Jewish Passover; celebrated as they have for the past few
years. But for Jesus, this night will be different. He knows this will be his
so-called “last lecture”, the final time to converse with is followers. So much
to share with them, and so little time. And so, he focuses on the final, and
most important, point.
And of all the final words he could leave them with, he gives them a new
directive, the command that they show love, love to one other. While Jesus
had upheld and taught the heart of the Shema; that God’s children were to
love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength; and to love their
neighbor as the should love themselves, now he has for them another
commandment, a new commandment. In fact, the word “maundy” (as in
Maundy Thursday)comes from the Latin “mandatum” which is translated
“command”. For on this night, Jesus gave his disciples a new command; that they “Love one another as [he has] loved [them].” He commanded
them to show love for each other in the way that he loved them, and
ultimately, loves us.
But as the greatest teacher, Jesus didn’t just lecture his followers; he
demonstrated his teaching in a vivid and visual way. As we review the
events of that night, Jesus poured out his love for them when he got up
from the table, took off his robe, tied a towel around his waist, and began
to wash the disciples’ feet. Most people walked with minimal foot
coverings in streets filled with dust and manure; washing the feet upon
entering the house was needed, but a nasty job. This was ordinarily the
work of the lowliest of servants. Yet Jesus took on this job willingly, in
order to demonstrate the manner of love he had for them, a love based
on service and humility.
Following that demonstration of sacrificial love, Jesus then predicted his
betrayal to the authorities by Judas, whose feet he had just washed.
Love demonstrated for a friend who would shortly set the events leading
to the crucifixion in motion. And then, once Judas left the room, Jesus
went on to elaborate on his “object lesson”, as he taught them a new way
of being in this new commandment, that they should love one another,
just as he loved them; a love that would soon be made visible on the
This was a love that carried with it the humble and servant nature that he
had demonstrated by washing their feet. But he also made clear that this
was a kind of love that did not flow from feelings. It was not to be an
emotional response, but a love that would be controlled by will. For let’s
face it, Jesus did not want to suffer and die on the cross, but out of love for us and in obedience to the Father, he marched forward to the work of
So, what does that kind of love look like today?
Some years ago, the World Boxing Council awarded Bridger Walker a
well-deserved “full-time World champion belt, in honor of being the best
fighter in the world for a day. But Bridger was not a professional fighter;
he wasn’t even an adult. Bridger Walker was a little boy who saved his
little sister from a German Shepherd Dog. He had 90 stitches all over his
body, but he saved his three-year-old sister from certain death. And he
stated, “If anyone has to die, it’s me, I’m the big brother.”
In his book, Written In Blood, Robert Coleman tells the story of a little boy
whose sister needed a blood transfusion. She had a rare blood type which
she shared with her little brother. The fact that he had recovered from the
same disease two years earlier made the chances of success even greater.
The doctor carefully explained all this to the little boy, pointing out that
without the transfusion his sister would die.
“Would you be brave and give your blood to your sister?” the doctor asked.
Johnny hesitated. His lower lip began to tremble. Then he smiled and said,
“Sure, for my sister.” The two children were wheeled into the hospital room
– Mary, pale and thin; Johnny, robust and healthy. He smiled at his sister,
then watched as the blood traveled out of his body, down the clear plastic
tube. Johnny’s smile faded, and as he lay there feeling weak, he looked up
at the doctor and said, “Doctor, when do I die?’
Johnny thought that giving his blood to his sister meant giving up his life.
Yet because of his great love for her he was prepared to pay the price.
On his last night on earth, Jesus taught his disciples about love. He
showed it in the washing of feet, his blessing in their final meal, and
ultimately in his death on the cross.
Steve Jobs shared the following in a Stanford University commencement
“I [once] read a quote that said, ‘If you live each day as if it were your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.’ Since then, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been, ‘no’ for too many days, I know I need to change
On the last day of his life, Jesus could do so many different things.
However, he shares a meal with his friends and then washes their feet.
Jesus knows these friends will abandon and betray him, but he chooses to
spend the last day of his life showing them selfless and extravagant love.
If today were the last day of your life, what would you do? What would
you not do? How will you embody the simple, yet radical, love of Jesus?
As we come to the table tonight, think about how we might pour out our
love, in the imitation of Christ.