The night before He died, Jesus was very aware of the shame, agony
and humiliation that awaited him. This night on which Jesus shared
Passover meal with His friends, has come to be marked as ‘Maundy
Thursday’ because Jesus commanded his followers to remember Him
and continue His teachings.
The word origin for Maunday means – command.
In total love, Jesus wrapped a slave's towel around his waist, dropped to
his knees and began one of the most menial tasks of the culture at that
time: washing the dirty feet of his friends. It was the humiliating work of
a slave, not the dignified work of a leader, let alone the Son of God.
Jesus knew that he was dining with Judas, who would soon betray him,
and Peter, who would soon deny him three times. Yet he knelt before
them and gently washed their feet, modeling for them and for us a
radical love that goes far beyond one’s worthiness.
William Gladstone, a member of the British parliament in the mid-
1800s, announced the death of Princess Alice to the House of
Commons. With the announcement, he told this story.
The little daughter of Princess Alice was seriously ill with diphtheria.
The doctors told the princess not to kiss her daughter because it would
endanger her own life by breathing in the child’s breath. One night
while the child was struggling to breathe, the mother, forgetting herself
entirely, took her daughter into her arms to keep her from choking to
Gasping and struggling for life, the child said, “Mommy, give me a kiss”.
Only thinking about her dying child and without a thought for herself
the mother tenderly kissed her daughter. She got diphtheria and soon
after Princess Alice died.
Real love forgets self. Real love knows no danger. Real love does not
count the cost.
Our gospel reading tonight is about this kind of love:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just
like I have loved you; that you also love one another.” (John 13:34).
Take note that love is not an option for the followers of Jesus. He says,
“A new commandment I give to you”.
It is not a suggestion, not a recommendation. It’s a COMMANDMENT!
This is not just a command to love our families or those who love us,
not to try to love others, but to love everyone the same way that Jesus
“Love one another, just like I have loved you;”
There is no way around this commandment of Jesus,
Why does Jesus command us to love?
Does he give us this commandment because he knows there is a part of
each of us that rebels against the idea of pure, unconditional love?
Despite the example that we have in Jesus’ total and unconditional love
for us – there is a part of us that says such love is out of place in our
world. There is a part of us that says – “sure, loving others is great – up
to a point….”
But isn’t that what we do all the time?
We draw a line and say, “That’s how much we love that guy, but not that
We draw a line and say, “OK – that’s all the help I’m going to give that
guy. We draw a line and say, “Those are the people we are willing to
We are happy to love in selective ways. We are comfortable with love
that doesn’t make us extend ourselves to strangers, unpleasant, unkind
or uncouth people, mean or vengeful people, people who make us feel
But that is not the commandment! What Jesus says is clear. We should
love others the same way that Jesus loves us. He loved the unclean, the
demented, the social outcast; He loved the righteous and powerful
who, would kill Him, and the weak and fearful who could not defend
Him. His love is a complete giving of Himself. We see that on the cross.
His love is a genuine, honest, compassionate love for everyone, all the
time. His love is not turned on and off by fleeting passions, or
He drew no line and knew no limits.
He loved the lepers, the blind, the sick, the tax collectors, the sinners.
And that is how he commanded us to love – totally and sacrificially.
Do you ever wonder why it is that we find it so difficult to love as Jesus
This kind of love goes against our human nature; it goes against all
human reasoning and logic. It seems unreasonable to love those who
are cruel, mean, arrogant and spiteful, murders and thieves, those who
in no way deserve it. We may pity the poor, the lonely, the deranged,
the unclean, but LOVE them. That’s a bit much!
I think of what this world tells us every day. Just watch TV for a half
hour. Our society rips us apart in every aspect. It is bombarding us with
forms of non- love. It is bombarding us with just the opposite of what
To love totally and unconditionally requires us to become involved in
other people’s lives, to be bound up in their needs and sorrows. It takes
time, it takes commitment, it takes listening, and it interrupts our
It requires us to be open for God’s Holy spirit – to respect and love the
Oh, we might manage it on occasion but loving everyone
unconditionally and sacrificially all the time, that’s a lot to ask.
But that is what we are commanded to do.
To love as Jesus commands us means that, we need to immerse
ourselves in His life’s example and teachings, and to let the love of
Christ enter our lives and empower us to love, serve and work together.
As we come to realize our place in God’s family and cast off things that
are opposed to love – our egos, impatience, selfishness, greed,
indifference, fear and maybe the TV, - we can, instead, be led by the
Holy Spirit in everything we say and do.
I got another story for ya:
There’s a story about a man who had a huge boulder in his front yard.
He got sick of looking at this big, unattractive rock in the center of his
lawn, so he decided to turn it into an object of art.
He went to work on it with hammer and chisel, and chipped away at the
huge boulder until the ugly stone became a beautiful carving of a
running deer. When he finished, it was beautiful - breath-taking.
A neighbor asked, “How did you ever carve such a marvelous likeness of
The man answered, “I just chipped away everything that didn’t look like
Before we come to communion on this Munday Thursday and every
time, we are urged to go and resolve any bad feelings we may have
If you have anything in your life right now that doesn’t look like love,
then, with the help of God, chip it away!
If you have anything in your life that doesn’t look like compassion,
mercy or empathy, then, with the help of God, chip it away!
If you have hatred, prejudice, vengeance or envy in your heart, for the
other person’s sake, and for your sake, chip it away!
If you draw a line of conditions with people, with how much you can
help, love or serve – open your heart to God.
Ask God to chip everything out of your life that doesn’t look like love.
In John, we are told
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love
for one another.”
Do people see the light of Jesus shining through you?
To love as Jesus loves us seems way out of our reach. To let love rule
everything we say and do, may seem impossible. We fail again and
again, but we MUST never give up. Our failures mean that we need the
love of Christ more than ever before.
So, on this “Maunday” - command - Thursday, let us re-dedicate
ourselves to love – to loving one another, those near and far away,
friends and perceived enemies, as Christ has loved us – to love in
sacrifice and service, in joy and in thanksgiving.
Tomorrow, Jesus will die on the cross out of love for us. And thank God,
Sunday is on the way.
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Rev. Dr. Harvey Hill
Third Order Franciscan