Jesus Walks the Walk of Love

April 14, 2022; Dr. John Stephenson
Maundy Thursday.jfif

HOLY THURSDAY 2022

At the Last Supper Jesus talks the talk about love. Lots of people have talked that talk before and since, but when their deeds didn’t match their words, they were shown to have feet of clay. Now Jesus backs up His words with a powerful gesture; He dresses like a servant, kneels down, and washes a bunch of dirty, smelly feet. And then Jesus leaves the upper room and walks the walk. Bound. Beaten. Mocked. Whipped. Dragged and kicked to a place of execution. Slowly tortured to death. At table that night He already mystically separates His Body from His Blood, giving the one in bread, the other in wine. On the Cross His Blood drains and drips and drops from His Body. …So He speaks of love; He goes on to picture that love as He kneels with a towel around His waist; and then He gives His life in love. No one else before or since has walked that walk.

The food and drink which we receive at the altar are in a ballpark all of their own. The holy meal is in a different category from the pot-luck meals that are such a beneficial feature of church life. Either the blessed bread and wine are what the Lord says they are, or Holy Communion is not worth bothering with. In the most solemn moments of His life on earth, the enfleshed Word put His whole mission and ministry in a nutshell: “This is My Body, given for you; This is My Blood, shed for you.” Once again this evening Heaven comes down to earth as the Lamb that was slain takes His throne upon the altar. I have the privilege of taking the Atonement in my hands and delivering it personally to you. The only Service Jesus founded is, and is meant to be, awesome. What goes on at the altar in the Blessed Sacrament is, and is meant to be, quite out of this world.

Now the apostles were a scrappy bunch, and the pastors who have succeeded them down twenty centuries have been no better. Jealousy, envy, scratching and biting, quite a bit of sheer hatred—all of this has gone on, and alas does go on among those commissioned by Jesus to represent Him to His people. And the same sort of thing goes on among the lay sheep who make up the Lord’s flock. On the first Maundy Thursday Jesus looks ahead to see what His Church would be like, He foresees that we will talk the talk but not walk the walk, and so from His heart He issues an urgent, passionate appeal: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

When you leave the house of God this evening and every Sunday, you take the Real Presence with you. Take Holy Communion blessedly, and the whole of Jesus dwells in the whole of you. Take Holy Communion blessedly, and the whole of you dwells in the whole of each other guest at the Lord’s table. Take Holy Communion blessedly, and you are refreshed and renewed as a member of a fellowship which spans the ages and the continents, a fellowship which exists in heaven and on earth. Jesus indwells you to make you like Him, to have you walk in His footsteps.

So as Jesus founds Holy Communion, He shows what this great mystery means for life. He wants us to be seen to love one another, to come down off our pedestals to serve each other in the lowliest of ways. Jesus wants us to set an example which outsiders might find contagious. He wants every communicant to love as He loves.

“...Even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” Walking this walk is a tall order, but if you take Holy Communion blessedly you do not walk this walk alone. There is great power in the Lord’s Body and Blood, which are a divine treasure and a divine medicine. And a great and powerful message is preached in the closing of this evening’s Service. After the final prayer, we suddenly switch from a joyful celebration to enact a scene of horrid desolation. The celebrant changes from a brocaded chasuble that attests the glory of the Holy Euicharist down into a simple black cassock. The beautiful silver vessels and the colourful paraments are removed. The altar is stripped as you chant the psalm from which the Lord quoted moments before His death. The lights go out to plunge the church in darkness. Jesus’ agony and distress are set before your eyes and ears. What He suffered in love makes an appeal to our heart. Of course, we can love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. After all, the Son of God did these very things, and through this Holy Sacrament He takes up residence in us so that we may walk in His footsteps.