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“Questions at the Cross: Do You Understand What I Have Done for You?”
John 13:12


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Maundy Thursday—March 28, 2013

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

We continue our Lenten sermon series “Questions at the Cross” with a question Jesus’ asks his disciples at their Last Supper in the Upper Room on the first Maundy Thursday.  As recorded in this evening’s Gospel Reading, after washing his disciples’ feet Jesus asks them, “Do you understand what I have done for you?”

We will consider this question in three parts:

Do you understand what Jesus has done for you by his sacrifice on the cross?

Do you understand what Jesus has done by washing the disciples’ feet?

Do you understand what Jesus has done for you in the Sacrament of Holy Communion?

“Do you understand what I have done for you?”

In Romans we are sternly warned, “The wages of sin is death.”  Because of our sin, we deserve death here on earth, and eternal damnation in hell.  Because God is holy, he cannot simply overlook our sin.  Because God is just, the punishment for sin must be paid, in full. 

The Lord told Moses, “No one may see me and live.”  It was impossible for us sinful, fallen, humans to ever have communion with the holy, almighty God.  But, God’s love found a way.  For, God is not only holy and just, he is also loving and merciful.  In his love and mercy he gave his only-begotten Son, to suffer the punishment we deserve, to pay for our sin in our place.

“Do you understand what I have done for you?”  Jesus bore for you your sins in his body on the cross.  He himself was perfectly holy, without sin.  But, he took your sins upon himself.  On the cross he suffered and died, executed as a punishment for the sins of the whole world, by his suffering and death paying for you, in your place, the wages of your sin. 

Easter is not just a spring holiday.  Easter means your sins are all forgiven and you will live forever in heaven.  Because, the resurrection of Jesus is God the Father’s way of proclaiming to the world, “I have accepted my Son’s sacrifice, in your place, as payment in full for all your sins.  For his sake I forgive you.  For his sake I will welcome into your heavenly home.”

“Do you understand what I have done for you?”  On the first Maundy Thursday our Lord gave the disciples and us a practical lesson in Christian humility and putting Christian love into action.  It was the custom in those days, when most people traveled by foot and their shoes were only sandals or thongs, for the lowest servant of the household to wash the feet of guests.  But, Jesus is not a lowly servant.  He is the Master, he is the Lord, he is the Christ, the son of the living God!

Yet, like a lowly servant, he wraps a towel around his waist, takes a basin of water, and one-by-one washes the disciples’ feet.  Paul writes in Philippians, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others above yourselves.   Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.”

When Jesus finished he said to the disciples, “You call me Master and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am.   Now that I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.   I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. . .  A new command 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.”

“Do you understand what I have done for you?”  Jesus washing his disciples’ feet is a practical lesson for you in Christian humility and putting Christian love into action.  Just as Christ humbled himself and considered others above himself, we must have the same attitude.  Not selfish or conceited, but serving one another in love, putting Christ’s love into practical action.

That does not necessarily mean literally washing each other’s feet, although I can think of many times when Christ’s love would have us do exactly that: caring for a sick loved one, helping an invalid.  I never imagined the day would come when I would give my own father a bath, but when he was sick and became helpless, I bathed him many times.  I cherish the memory of bathing him for the last time in his life, the morning of the day he died.  “Now that I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.   I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

“Do you understand what I have done for you?”  Do you understand what Jesus has done for you in the Sacrament of Holy Communion?  Actually, that is a trick question.  Because, Holy Communion is something no one on earth can truly understand, if that means comprehending fully the mystery of Christ’s body and blood, in, with, and under the bread and wine.  We cannot comprehend it, but nevertheless we trust our Savior’s promise, “This is my body, which is given for you . . . this is my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

The book of Hebrews puts it this way: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  With our physical senses we do not see, or feel, or taste body and blood, only bead and wine.  Yet, by faith we trust Christ’s promise, and believe his very body and blood are also really, physically present, with the bread and wine.  That’s what faith actually is, being certain of what we do not see, because we trust God’s word.

“This do in remembrance of me.”  This Holy Supper is a remembrance, a reminder of our Lord’s death, his body and blood given and shed on the cross for you, for the forgiveness of all your sins.  As Paul says in 1st Corinthians, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”

In the Old Testament, the Passover festival was a reminder of God’s old covenant—his promise to one day send a Savior.  At the final Passover, Christ the promised Savior transformed for us the Passover meal of the Old Testament into a sacred ordinance of the New Testament, a reminder of God’s new covenant—the Good News that he fulfilled his promise and sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  That’s what Jesus means when he says, “This is the new covenant in my blood.”

Every time you partake of Holy Communion, God is reaffirming to you his pledge of salvation. his covenant to forgive all your sins and bring you into his heavenly kingdom.  Every time you eat and drink at the Lord’s table here, it is a promise from your divine host that you will one day eat and drink at his heavenly table in the hereafter.  As one of our hymns says, “Approach ye then with faithful hearts sincere, and take the pledges of salvation here.”

Do you understand what Jesus has done for you by his sacrifice on the cross? On the cross, Jesus earned your salvation, a place for you in heaven.

Do you understand what Jesus has done by washing the disciples’ feet?  By washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus sets you an example, a practical lesson in Christian humility and putting Christian love into action.

Do you understand what Jesus has done for you in the Sacrament of Holy Communion? In the Sacrament of Holy Communion, Jesus gives you a lasting testament of his love, a reminder of his sacrifice for you, his very body and blood, to strengthen you in the true faith unto life everlasting.

“Do you understand what I have done for you?”

Amen.

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