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Love Gives and Serves

March 29, 2018
By Pastor David French

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Love Gives and Serves
John 13:1–5, 13–17

The word Maundy, from Maundy Thursday comes from the Latin word mandatum, which means command or commandment. This word has historically been applied to the words Christ spoke on the night before His death, “A new commandment I give you, love one another; as I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John also gives us a definition of love in his first Epistle where he writes, “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

But the God who is love is also eternal which means His love is eternal. And love by definition is patient and kind and it protects, that is, love gives and serves. It was this eternal love that moved God to create and give the world to our first parents, Adam and Eve. In Psalm 136 we read, “[He] who by his understanding made the heavens …. Who spread out the earth upon the waters …. Who gives food to every creature. His love endures forever. “

This is the God of heaven and earth serving His creation. And this love that endures forever is Christ, the very embodiment of that love.  And so, Christ is literally God’s love in the flesh. Remember, God intended us to be like him when He created us in His image. My friends, this Maundy Thursday commandment is really God calling us back to our original condition, back to what He created us to be.

But, the truth is, what Christ commands from us He will have to perform for us and in us, because we are by nature the opposite of what He intended us to be. By nature, we love only ourselves. By nature, we’re like the black holes in space where the magnetic force is so strong that even light can’t escape. As Luther said, “We are curved in on ourselves, and, try as hard as we will, we cannot be otherwise. It is impossible for us to get outside ourselves to look upward toward God and outward toward our neighbor to love and serve him. We sin against the First Commandment. We want to be God. We grasp at equality with God just like Adam and Eve did.”

Clearly, we have all inherited their sin, which means we’re no different than they were. The same selfish, self-indulgent spirit all too often can be seen in our lives. We behave as if we’re the center of the universe and everyone else should love and serve us. We thanklessly accept all sorts of earthly privileges and honor and continue to demand more. We use people; we try to manipulate and control them for our own benefit. All of this and much more is true of every man, woman, and child born into this sin-cursed world. A holy and just God would have every reason to separate Himself from us forever. Truly, death and condemnation are what we deserve. You see, for sinners like us to change, we would have to die and be born again, become a new person with a new mind and a new spirit.

That a pure and holy God would want to be born and live among such self-seeking, self-serving sinners staggers the imagination. Yet, He who is love, loves us even more. He loved sinners of all times and places enough to send His only begotten son, not just to live, but also to die in our place so that we, by grace through faith, might be born again, become a new creation born of water and the spirit into a new life of love and service.

That’s why Christ came down from heaven … to serve and to give His life for us all.  What man covets, Christ laid aside, taking God’s cup of wrath into Himself that He might offer us a cup that is overflowing with goodness and mercy.

In Luke 17 Jesus says, “Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’? Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink …’? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’”

For selfish sinners who want to be loved and honored, those are tough words to swallow. They highlight the very thing about God’s kingdom that natural man can neither understand nor accept. In one way, it is the “offense of the cross” because it forces the question: “Who can possibly be like that?” The answer to that is found in our text where we read, “… 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.” A little later Jesus will say to His disciples, “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.”

So, according to Jesus, a full and rich life is found not in being served, but in serving and giving to others. That’s how God is by nature.  That’s how He created us to be and why He and only He can change our hearts to care about living the life of service we’re called to, the life we will live when we are finally at home with Him.

Out text began, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” A short time later Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” The hour’s approaching when Jesus will do just that. The defining event in the history of mankind is less than twenty-four hours away. And it will test the faith of all who see it.

To prepare His disciples for this Passover miracle our Lord does something so mysterious that it requires a miracle just to believe it. Matthew’s account goes like this: “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body.’ Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’” This is the God of love, giving and serving us His very body and blood. You see, what Christ is doing in the Upper Room is preparing His disciples for the unimaginable act of love that He is about to show; and they, at that time, simply won’t understand as He allows sinners to nail Him to a cross and so give(s) His life (as) a ransom for many.

As your faith holds to this truth, we have God’s promise that not even death can remove from you the love that payed for your sin. Does that mean life will be smooth sailing until we reach those pearly gates? No.  In fact, Jesus still reminds us: “In this world you will have trouble; but take heart! I have overcome the world.” May the blessed gift of Himself that He offers to us again this night keep you strong as we hold to the truth that in Him … so have you.  

In His Name, Amen.