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The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb.
In this manner you shall eat it: with your belt fastened, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand. And you shall eat it in haste. It is the Lord’s Passover. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt. “This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.
The Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell all the congregation of Israel that on the tenth day of this month every man shall take a lamb according to their fathers’ houses, a lamb for a household. And if the household is too small for a lamb, then he and his nearest neighbor shall take according to the number of persons; according to what each can eat you shall make your count for the lamb. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male a year old. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats, and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight. “Then they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the flesh that night, roasted on the fire; with unleavened bread and bitter herbs they shall eat it. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted, its head with its legs and its inner parts. And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn.
I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.
What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord, I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your maidservant. You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the Lord!
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.” When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.
When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
At the end of the gospel passage we just read, Jesus says that he’s giving the disciples a new commandment. It recently struck me what a funny thing that is for Jesus to say. It’s odd because the commandment that he gives sounds a great deal like another one he recently cited from Deuteronomy, which even back in Jesus’ day was nothing new. Jesus says here at the Last Supper to “love one another.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Jesus was asked by local religious leaders to tell them what the greatest commandment was and Jesus said, “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your strength.” And then Jesus went on to say that the second greatest commandment was to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
So what’s new about loving one another that Jesus says he’s leaving a new commandment with them? Clearly, Jesus has told the disciples on at least one occasion that loving others is an important mandate from God. What’s the difference between this one and “love your neighbor as yourself?” Why does Jesus say this is something new?
This time, Jesus changes the model after which they are to love one another. Before, he quoted scripture – a long-standing commandment of loving neighbor as you love yourself – but this time, Jesus is asking them to take it a step further. Now, he says, you aren’t just to love one another as you love yourselves, but love one another as I have loved you.
Love one another like the one who just knelt to wash your feet, dear disciples.
Love one another like the one whose body was broken like the bread at the meal for the sake of others, dear disciples.
Love one another like the one whose blood was spilled like wine for your sake, dear disciples.
And when you do these things. . . they will not go unnoticed.
We celebrate communion as a community to remember, to seal, to experience the love that Jesus showed us and in turn, we take that remembrance, that seal, that experience of love out into the world. That is how people will notice.
The difference that makes this new commandment new is that this is love that has Jesus as the model. We can’t really know God without Jesus Christ. There is only so close to real love we can get by our own effort. By our own effort, we might be able to often love our neighbors as ourselves, but to love one another as Christ loved us requires us to participate in the life of Jesus. The one who washed feet, who died for the sake of others.
We tend to prefer the “old” love commandment. The one where we love one another as we love ourselves. Human love is more comfortable. Human love says to make sure the other person has water with which to wash their feet. The love of Christ washes their feet for them. Human love says to go to great lengths for the well-being of other. Jesus’ love says to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of others. Human love gets a pat on the back for doing a noble thing. The love of Christ gets noticed as being something completely different. And this, says Jesus, is the mark of a true disciple – a mark visible to all of the people around you.
We will celebrate communion in just a few moments. This is not something that we do because it saves us. This is not something we do to be good Christians. This is something that we do as a sign and a seal of God’s grace – the grace that offered us wild, unfettered love – humble, serving love that went to the cross for us.
Love one another. Just as Jesus has loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are Jesus’ disciples, if you have love for one another.