Reformation Lutheran Church A Congregation of the ELCA

Maundy Thursday, March 24 Read John 13:1-20

So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example that you should do as I have done to you. John 13:14-15

Hope Against Hope

Hope takes a different form in hopeless situations.

The concept of hope isn’t immediately apparent in this verse from the Last Supper, but the truth is that, as the story unfolds, everyone in the room has a different set of hopes. Many of those around the table have big hopes that Jesus will overthrow the current social and religious order. They know Jesus has upset local rulers, but the people are beginning to listen to his message – crowds are beginning to swell, the apostles are beginning to perform miracles in his name. Jesus’ admonition to serve one another is a nagging reminder of a message they have heard many times – they believe, but it isn’t their focus.

The first verse in this chapter sets a different context for the conversation: “Now before the festival of the Passover, 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.” The hope Jesus has as he sits down is not that Judas will change his mind or that Pontius Pilate will spare him or even that his death will force the Pharisees and Romans to change their ways – those are hopeless cases. Jesus’ hope this night is in teaching the apostles to love each other as he has loved them.

We all have hopes, every day. In some cases, we can directly affect the outcome (study harder!) but in others, our options feel more limited – what hope do I have of advancing world peace? What hope is left when a terminal disease ravages someone I love?

In one of my favorite plays, A Lion in Winter, Prince Richard says, “When the fall is all there is, it matters.” For Jesus, at the end of his time on earth, the remaining hope and focus of his time was to teach the apostles that the seemingly small act of loving each other was, in the end, the only way to remake the world.

As we move through Maundy Thursday, we move toward the moment that Christ is betrayed by Judas and we, like the apostles, may feel hopeless. We can’t save Jesus from the cross. We can’t change the world. But maybe we can change our little corner of it. We can wash some feet.

Amy Pletcher Borgmeyer

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