Kelly’s brother Russ is in California this week, taping and competing on the game show Jeopardy! He won a few games in 2003 and then won a Tournament of Champions a year after that. He’s playing in another tournament, this time against some of the best champions from the 90’s through today. If you’re not familiar, the point of the game show is that “answers” are given to the contestants, and then they have to come up with the correct “question” to that “answer.”
So in the spirit of that……let’s play our own round of Final Jeopardy.
The category: “How well were you listening to the reading of the gospel a minute ago”
Here’s your final answer: “Because I love you.”
So, what would your response be?
Tonight is Maundy Thursday. The meaning of Maundy comes from the Latin word maundatum, which means “commandment.” Jesus gives this new commandment “that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
And things like foot washing, the last supper, they are certainly signs of this new commandment in action, examples for us to follow.
But I think they’re more than that.
It is in these signs, Christ communicates to us: “because I love you.”
Think about it: in the midst of the disciples’ misunderstanding and doubt, knowing that he would be betrayed, abandoned, and denied by those he loved most, in the midst of powerful people coming to interrogate, torture, and eventually kill him….
Jesus washes feet.
Jesus breaks bread.
Jesus shares wine from a common cup.
Let’s go back to our little game of Jeopardy! we were playing earlier. Because when I think of all the stories and things going on around us, if they were “contestants” what kind of responses would they give? Let’s see…..
Why Russia is attacking the Ukraine?
Why political leaders continue to refuse working together on complex issues that affect real people?
Why tolls were imposed on the downtown and midtown tunnels in Hampton Roads?
Why everything happens for a reason – even sudden or difficult illness, injury, and death?Why I insist on controlling things and excluding others?
Why I’m quick to point out the sin and shortcoming of another, but not be honest about my own?
“Because I love you” just doesn’t seem to fit, does it? If that’s the answer, then those responses don’t seem to make any sense.
And I think in a similar way, if we lose the “because I love you” behind Jesus’ commandment tonight, then none of this makes sense. The master washing the disciple’s feet makes no sense. This meal of bread and wine that embodies Christ’s body and blood seems complete strange to us.
But when love is behind it, washing feet becomes a powerful moment of vulnerability and grace. This meal becomes a sacrament – a visible sign of Christ giving himself away so freely and deeply – for us. They become sacrificial acts of self-giving love in which Christ makes the love of the Father known – “For God so loved the world that in this way he gave his only Son, so that all who believe may not perish, but may have eternal life.”
You know that verse…John 3:16. And you know, if you re-phrased that in the form of a question, you’d have the correct response to our “Final Jeopardy!” answer:
“Because I love you.” Your response?
“Why God gave his only Son?” Alex.
Christ’s new commandment tonight is a call to be motivated by sacrificial, self-giving love. It’s to take our actions from being self-serving examples of our own goodness and morality, a way of proving to others we’re being Christian, and to transform them into incredible moments of shared vulnerability, honesty, humility, and grace…..with each other, for each other, so in those moments when we feel so unloved and alone, when we wonder why injustice, tragedy, and suffering are a real part of our world, when we fall short & miss the mark, and when others do the same, we might always know that….
God. loves. us. Full-stop.
“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.” Let us keep that in mind tomorrow, on Good Friday, as we hear the story of Christ’s suffering, crucifixion, and death. Because perhaps the only way to make sense of that story – are Christ’s words tonight. “Because I love you.” Amen.