Today we are at the table with Jesus once more as he celebrates the feast of Passover with his disciples. The gospels record that only Jesus’ disciples were present. But perhaps a few of his family members who had come to Jerusalem for Passover were there with him also. The gospels say that his Mother and Mary were there with him when he died the next day. So perhaps they were already in the city having come for Passover and shared that final meal with him along with his disciples. It was to be the last meal he would have with them before he died. Even if it were only the twelve, this last meal was special, it was a last meal with his friends. It was a family matter.
This morning I somehow turned to the gospel of John to read the account of the Last Supper. What I found there was only the long farewell discourse of Jesus to his disciples and the scene where Jesus washes their feet. [Not St. Paul’s words that Christians say were the words instituting the Eucharist; those sometimes troubling yet perhaps prophet words of Jesus about his body and blood. (1 Cor. 11:23-27).]
Jesus washing the feet of his disciples is one of the most touching scenes from his life. Here is Jesus, Lord, Savior, Messiah, the Christ, before these titles were placed upon him, on his knees washing the feet of his friends. He tells Peter in his exuberance that he is setting an example for them. Tonight our priests will wash the feet of their congregations. I must say having done this every year it is a rather odd experience. Somewhat uncomfortable as you are there in front of everyone having the leader of your church washing your feet. I have to wonder if this isn’t what was getting at Peter when he at first refused Jesus to wash his feet. But Jesus tells Peter he is setting an example so that they might copy what he has done for them.
Then Jesus was deeply disturbed because he knew that he was going to be betrayed by Judas. But after Judas leaves the room, Jesus speaks to his disciples one of the greatest talks of his life. (John 13:31-17:26) These four and half chapters of John’s gospel contains the whole meaning of Jesus’ life. Who he is. What he is about in his own words. All of what he meant when he begins the discourse with I am the Way: I am Truth and Life.
These are the words of transformation. These are the words that change the ordinary substance of our humanity into something sacred, into Christ. These are the words that feed us and sustain us. These are the words that change Jesus’ life into our own. These are the final words of man who has just risen from his knees before his friends, knows one of them will betray him, and then goes on to tell them that he loves them. That he will always be with them. No matter what.
Anyone who loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make a home in him. It is here he calls his disciples and us friends. It is here that we are reassured that we are one with him as he is one with the Father. As he is one with the Father. It is here that he says I have loved you.
Here is an image we can take beyond the cross; one of the last images of Jesus before he died kneeling before those he loved. Asking us only to remain in his love.