Today’s Gospel: John 17:1-26
The man was on death row, and this was his last evening with friends. He could have spent the whole night in anger, in fear. He could have saved his nastiest words for Pilate, that Governor who was more concerned with protecting his political fortunes than with the administration of justice. He could have raved against the religious establishment, so bent on preserving itself that leaders would miss God’s truth in their midst.
At table with his friends, Christ Jesus broke bread and gave us that commandment from which Maundy Thursday takes is name. “That you love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). Then he broke bread and shared supper. He poured wine and offered it to everyone, including those who would deny him, betray him, or hide when the mob arrived.
And then in a gesture of deep humility he washed their feet.
Indeed, John’s Gospel meditates on the Maundy Thursday story. After washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus shares another four chapters of wisdom before, finally, praying for his friends. “For the hour has come…Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one” (17:1, 11). I find this passage passionate, heart-wrenching, and amazing. Knowing what he was about to face, Jesus prays for his friends with divine love. He says, “I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves” (v. 13). How beautiful! What would it look like for Jesus’ joy to be made complete in us? Facing moments of personal tragedy, how might we find his strength to pray for those we love, or even for those who wound us? Indeed, this is the way of love, and it is the way of the cross.
Of all the stories we will tell this year, this is the one that stands out, to me, as the essence of discipleship: “That you love one another as I have loved you.”
Blessings to you as we observe these three holiest days of the Christian year.
When I survey the wondrous cross where the young Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.
Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
(When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, text by Isaac Watts, Stanzas 1 and 4)
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