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First Reading = John 13:1-17, 31-35
13Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” 9Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” 12After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. 17If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
31When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. 32If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. 33Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
This is the last in our series about good grief. Here’s a recap of where we’ve been in this series since March 2. Carol started it with a discussion on wrestling with God. Keep coming back to God as you process your grief – especially if you’re mad at God or don’t understand.
Then we talked about whether everything happens for a reason. We said not to ask “Why did this happen to me?” Instead, ask “Now that this has happened to me, how will I respond?”
Next we talked about how Jesus gives us hope right now, not just after we die. We can cry out to Jesus, who knows our pain personally.
After that, Blakeley shared that God knew you weren’t strong enough to handle this, which is why Jesus is always with us to carry us when we have nothing left.
And on Palm Sunday we talked about how time does not heal all wounds. When the situation is here to stay, we can ask, “how will I respond for the long term.”
Tonight we’re going to talk about our feelings. Some common cliches are, “I know how you feel.” Or “Don’t be sad when there’s so much to be grateful for.” Or even, “Who are you to be angry at God?” Let’s chat about those within the context of Maundy Thursday and Jesus’ journey to the cross.
Sermon Text = Matthew 26:36-46
36Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and agitated. 38Then he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” 39And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.” 40Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? 41Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. 45Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
This will come as no surprise to you, but I am a fan of science fiction. And one of the absolute best is The Expanse. One of the characters is named Amos, and he has very little sense of right and wrong. But he wants to be on the good guys’ side. And he tells the captain, Holden, “You know, you’ve made some really terrible decisions. But you’re always trying to do what’s right. And you’re always trying to be a good man. I appreciate not having to worry about what side I’m on.” In other words, if Holden was doing it, it was good enough for Amos. Holden’s conscience was a guiding star for Amos.
What or who is a guiding star for you? There are some obvious answers, considering that we’re in a church on Maundy Thursday. Some might say that the Bible is their guiding star. That’s good. But it can be difficult, because there are a lot of things in the Bible that aren’t condoned in the Bible – you have to check the context! Especially in the Old Testament – a lot of what’s listed in the Bible is what not to do. So check the context!
But we don’t have to worry about that when it comes to Jesus. If Jesus did it or said it and we copy it, we’re on the right track.
And that’s my response to anyone who says we shouldn’t be sad because there’s so much to be grateful for, or so much to look forward to. Jesus knew he was going to rise again from the dead, and yet here in the Garden of Gethsemane he was “grieved and agitated…even to death.” In other places in the Gospels, Jesus weeps at his friend Lazarus’ tomb – even though he was about to raise him from the dead. Jesus looks over Jerusalem and weeps over the city that would turn on him soon. Jesus knew the bigger picture, the greater blessing, more than anyone. And yet he grieved. We can, too.
He could have ignored his emotions. He could have put on a brave face. He could have put on a mask because sons of God don’t cry. But he didn’t. He felt fully and openly. We can, too.
Jesus Kept Going
I was born with very little sentimentality. So of course the universe gave my son a double dose to keep up the average. He has all the feels. And he communicates them freely. So we try to tell him, “It’s OK to be sad, or angry, or upset. It’s not OK to throw your toys.” What we feel and what we do are related, but our actions can be different from our feelings. There’s a choice.
When I was in college, I played a very popular video game where you stole cars. It was a nice, Christian, wholesome video game. One day I realized a problem: whenever I drove my car in the real world right after playing that game, I felt like speeding and attempting power slides in my Saturn sedan. I felt like driving recklessly. I didn’t have to actually drive recklessly. In fact, I started giving myself a cool-down period between playing the game and driving my car so I wouldn’t be tempted to do something stupid. Not that college-age males every do anything stupid!
What we feel and what we do are related, but they don’t have to be identical. We have a choice on our actions.
In our text today, Jesus felt like walking away. He wanted the cup to pass from him. He went off to pray THREE TIMES for this burden to pass from him if possible. But he didn’t run away. Here’s what he said and did after all of those feelings, “See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”
He kept going, he faced the music, he didn’t let his emotions prevent him from doing what he needed to do. And so we can, too.
My pastor friend in Zimbabwe is focusing on that during Holy Week. He said that their theme this year is to keep on, even if it means going through the cross. Keep on – keep going. Don’t shut down. Keep on. Even if it means going through the cross. I think that’s powerful.
Jesus could have let his emotions overwhelm him. Jesus could have seen the burden coming at him and run away. But he didn’t. He kept on. He kept going. He did what he had to do even as he felt deeply. We can, too.
Jesus Maintained Focus
But how did Jesus manage to keep going, even through the cross? I believe we see in our text today that he remained ultimately focused on his identity, his purpose, and his relationship with God the Father. He never wavered on his identity. He never wavered on his purpose. He never walked away from God, even when praying for this cup to pass from him. He had laser focus on those things. That’s what enabled him to keep going despite the gravity of the moment and the incredible emotions he was feeling.
When I was in high school, one of the older guys on the tennis team offered to drive us young-uns around sometimes. But this was done at your own risk. Because he was a very outgoing guy. So outgoing, in fact, that he absolutely HAD to look you in the eye while talking to you – even while driving. So he would even turn around to face the people in the back seat of the car! He was driving with his knee, but after a few times of this I decided I didn’t really need a ride after all. He wasn’t focused on the road ahead!
Jesus knew exactly where his road would lead. But he was able to focus on the moment in front of him and face his betrayer. After that he could face the next moment. And the next moment. And the next moment. If we keep our eyes on the road in front of us – not all the scenery, not all the people in the back seat, not the gigantic mess we have to get through – just the next moment, then we can face it.
And when we know who we are, when we know what kind of person we are, when we know what kind of relationship we need to have with God, that next moment gets easier and clearer. Jesus maintained his focus instead of spinning off in a million directions and what-ifs, and we can, too.
Jesus Sought Community
Finally, Jesus brought in his imperfect community. Jesus brought his closest friends, but they don’t really come across as very helpful in this text. They kept falling asleep at the most critical hour. Typical! And yet Jesus still seeks this imperfect community. Jesus still brings in his imperfect friends. Jesus sought community – imperfect as it was – and we can, too. Many hands may make light work, but friends also lighten the burden of grief. Even if they’re imperfect friends.
Sisters and brothers, we can be sad. We can be mad. We can be frustrated. Jesus felt his emotions and didn’t hide them. We can, too.
But Jesus didn’t let those emotions run him. He was able to keep focused on the road ahead and who he was, and that let him keep on, even through the cross.
And when he was in his hour of deepest need, Jesus sought out his friends, his community – imperfect as they were.
We follow Jesus, who has known pain. We follow Jesus, who has needed community. We follow Jesus, who grieved and felt deeply. We follow Jesus, who managed to keep going, even through the cross. We can, too. Amen.