The Last Supper – a different version

Good morning, Friends!

This is the third Sunday we’ve had to cancel face-to-face worship at Springfield, and I really miss seeing you all. Everyone in our area has been advised to stay home for now.

But we’re trying to stay in touch with everyone! We’re reaching out so you can continue to feel connected, and so you can have a little worship time at home while you watch this.

Each week, we’re inching just a little closer to Easter. Ever since New Year, we’ve been reading every week from the Gospel of John.

Now, I know that for some of you, all the Bible readings sound just the same. But they aren’t, really.

For example, did you know that only two of the gospel writers, Matthew and Luke, have anything to say about Christmas? Mark and John never mention the birth of Jesus at all.

Think about that. When you stop and think about all the time and effort that we put into celebrating Christmas each year, that’s interesting. And Matthew and Luke don’t even tell the Christmas story the same way! That’s why we read all four gospels – to get the different perspective.

  • All four gospels say that Jesus chose a small group of people to be his closest friends or disciples.
  • All four of them say that Jesus fed a huge crowd, starting with just a couple of loaves of bread and a few fish. They ate all they could, everybody went home full, and there were baskets full of leftovers.
  • All four gospels say that Jesus drove the money changers out of the Temple in Jerusalem, an act which earned Jesus the hatred of the whole ruling class.
  • All four of them tell the story we heard last week, about how a woman anointed Jesus in preparation for his death.
  • They all say that Jesus was betrayed by Judas, who was one of his inner circle. They all say that Peter, Jesus’ closest friend, denied his Lord three times – denied even knowing him.
  • And finally, all four gospels record the fact that Jesus was arrested, tried by a kangaroo court, was executed and buried, and then three days later, he rose from the dead and is alive forevermore.

That’s where they gospel writers agree. But in some really interesting places, they remember what happened differently. Maybe different things stood out in their memory.

John is like that a lot. John remembers a lot of things about Jesus, that none of the others recorded. Today’s reading is one of them.

I’m going to be reading from John chapter 13, verses 1 through 20.

“It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God

So Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Jesus came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you’re never going to wash my feet!”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” [Peter didn’t really understand.]

Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For Jesus knew who was going to betray him. That was why he said not every one was clean.

When Jesus had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.

Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

I am not referring to all of you;” Jesus said. “I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’ [He was quoting from Psalm 46]

I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I AM WHO I AM. Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

John 13:1-20

This is the Last Supper. This is the meal that no one would ever miss or be away from. It’s the Passover, the meal where everyone remembered that an angel of death had swept through the country, but God passed over the people of Israel and spared them.

In the other three gospels, at the Last Supper, Jesus tells his friends that he is giving his life, body and blood, for their sake. Some people have been arguing ever since about what Jesus meant by those words.

But John tells the story a different way. John doesn’t talk about bread and wine, body and blood, at all.

Instead, John says that in order to show people who he is, in order to demonstrate forever what Jesus expected his followers to do, Jesus stripped down, and dressed himself in the ragged cloth that a slave would wear – the lowest, least worthy slave in the whole house.

This was the slave who stood by the door, and washed people’s feet as they came inside.

So Jesus poured water into a bowl, and one by one, he went around the room, and washed the feet of everyone who was there.

Then he asked them a question. He said, “Do you know what I have done to you? Do you understand what this is all about?” And he looked around at them.

Then he said, “You call me Rabbi. You call me your teacher. You even call me Lord, and Master. And that’s right, because I am all those things. But I, your Lord and Teacher, have just washed your feet. Think about that. This is an example, of what I want you to do, to others.”

In the other gospels, Jesus talked about bread and wine, and he was misunderstood. And people still argue to this day about what he meant.

But in John’s version of the Last Supper, it’s impossible for us to misunderstand what Jesus means. Jesus wants us all to do as he did, to take on the role of the humblest of servants, to be there in that way for other people.

I hear people arguing, all the time, about who’s right, and who’s wrong, on different issues. And I see lots of people, trying to show off that they’re smarter, or wiser, or holier, than everyone else.

Whether it’s people saying, “I have done more,” or saying, “I know better, or I understand the Bible better than you do,” we are still going on with this business of trying to prove ourselves better.

Jesus first disciples did that a lot, too. It says that they were always asking each other, who was going to be greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

And Jesus always said to them, “The greatest is the least. The last will be the first, and the first will be last. The person who gives all they have, gives the most, even if it’s only one or two pennies. The children, and the ones who are simple and pure of heart, come into the kingdom of heaven first, and the know-it-alls are left standing outside. The ones who love most are welcomed, even though they may be sinners, even though they may have much to be forgiven…”

There’s a whole philosophy there. There’s a whole different understanding of what it means to be a part of God’s kingdom. And Jesus didn’t just say it, he demonstrated it, at the Last Supper.

Just a few lines farther on in John’s gospel, Jesus says, “There is no greater love than this, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends, if you do what I command you.”

There’s a lot of important stuff in today’s gospel. Not just important for today, but important for always. Who Jesus is. Who Jesus wants us to be. What Jesus wants us to do. How Jesus wants us to do it.

Jesus was a servant, and we can never be greater than Jesus is. We are messengers, and the message we share can only be the message that Jesus himself told.
And we are all servants. We are servants, if we do what Jesus tells us.

During this time when everyone has to stay at home, let’s remember how much we depend on those who serve:

  • The people who grow our food, and the ones who bring it to the store, and put it on the shelves, and keep the stores open, so that no one will go hungry
  • The people who make sure that we still have water and light, so we can be comfortable in our homes
  • The people who keep our community safe, putting themselves at risk, patrolling the streets and dealing with things that go wrong
  • And especially, the doctors and nurses and medical people who are risking their own health during this time, and often their family’s health as well, to care for us and do their best for us

We have a lot to pray about this week! Let’s pray together now:

Lord, thank you for this word from your good news. May it strengthen our faith and give each one of us courage and love.

We pray for all who are ill. May they recover quickly, with your help.

We pray for everyone who is afraid. May we remember how you passed over your people, and we ask that you protect us again.

We pray for all your servants, Lord, for the people who work to bring us our daily bread, who work to be your hands of healing, who work to help our children to keep learning, and for everyone who gives of themselves for the sake of others.

We pray all this in your name, until we meet again.

Amen.

Take care, Friends. God bless you all.

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