Love, Love, Love.
Jesus could do this because he knew he had come from God and was going back to God. He had no doubt, no anxiety, no fear, about that.
What would we do, what could we do, if we knew - truly knew, truly believed, truly lived - this? If we truly knew, believed, lived in the surety that we have come from God and are going back to God, could we do the unthinkable? Could we do something daring and uncharacteristic? Could we serve others, touch others, be in relationship with others, even others we might be afraid of, be wary of, be suspicious of? Could we even wash someone like Judas' feet if we knew that we came from God and were going back to God?
For some reason, we have difficulty believing that as it was true for Jesus, so it is true for us. (Oh, but he's JESUS! And we're not.) And yet, we, too, have come from God and will return to God and so we are safe, we are saved, we are free! We are free to risk loving and serving not only our friends but strangers and even our enemies. We are free from self-doubt and anxiety about our salvation and don’t have to spend all of our energy grasping at it as if it were our only possession. God has pursued us through every sort of barrier because God loves us. Salvation is ours if we want it and will receive it. God did not come down from heaven to live among us, to show us how lavish God’s love is, only to pull the rug out from under us. Jesus shows us God, and Jesus loved lepers and beggars and social outcasts. Jesus showed God’s lavish generosity through making hundreds of gallons of wine from plain water and acres of the live-giving bread from a few measley loaves. Jesus was so full of God’s life-giving love that Lazarus could not stay dead in his presence. God loves us and God’s love is never used up. We don’t have to hoard it for ourselves.
And so we are free to love one another as Jesus commanded. We are free to follow the example he set for us here. We will never be condemned for loving and serving in Jesus’ name.
And we are not at all diminished by that love or that service, but rather we are freed to be able to give of ourselves for service in love. Jesus poured himself out for us and asks us to pour ourselves out for others, but that doesn’t mean we come up empty. Instead we come up full, sustained by the Spirit, sustained by the love that names us as God’s own beloved ones. That love makes us free to give and give and give. With God, there is always enough and more than enough.
And so, we are, like Jesus, made free by the knowledge that we came from, and will return to, God. We are made free by the knowledge that God’s overwhelming generosity towards us, if we will have it, knows no bounds. And so perhaps what we would do, could do is to feel free to follow Jesus, who said on this night, after he showed them how to do the uncharacteristic, the daring, the unthinkable, "I give you a new commandment: love one another just as I have loved you. The world will see and know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another."
This is the Maundy, the great commandment. This is it, my friends. This is the last thing that Jesus says to us during this Holy Week, the last word to us before he dies: Love one another as Jesus, as God, loves us. This is why we are here again tonight, to hear these last words of Jesus to us. Love one another as I have loved you, for by this loving one another, by this serving others, even others you have reservations about, is how people will know that you are my disciples. Show me, show God, to the world through your actions that are the fruits of this love.
We are safe, we are God's, we are loved. Jesus loved his disciples who were far from perfect in their understanding and their behavior, he loved even Judas, he loves even us in our failures and despite our flaws. Jesus was able to love so freely because he was secure in the knowledge that he came from God and would return to God.
And so in that knowledge we also can, we also are free to, do something wild and crazy - like love.