When Beccy and I were first married we used to have a running joke along these lines:
-(Insert name here) was a real pain at the church meeting last night
– But Jesus loves him
– Well, yeah but that’s His job
Loving people is Jesus’ job. The Bible tells us that God gave Jesus a mission which He was faithful to, even to death on the cross. It’s not an easy job. Jesus faces opposition from the authorities, rejection by his neighbours and abandonment by those closest to him. But throughout His life on earth Jesus consistently loves those who we find the most difficult to love: the outcasts, the tax collectors
On this night before He was handed over to the authorities Jesus shared a last meal with His disciples and washed their feet. He did all this knowing that one of them would betray Him. In the washing of His disciples feet Jesus overturned the usual order of things doing the job of the lowest servant. It’s the ultimate act of “servant leadership.” Jesus instructs his followers also to love and to serve.
One of the inspirations of my Christian life was watching volunteer nurses look after the homeless men of St George’s Crypt. Night after night nurses (who might already have worked a shift at the Infirmary) would give their time freely often spending their time tending to men who had walked for miles in cheap shoes and socks and had the most appalling feet. Seeing someone have his socks literally cut from his flesh is an image that he stayed with me for over 20 years.
A truth that our society has forgotten but been reminded of in our current crisis is that the people who perform the seemingly most menial tasks are the most important people. Our refuse collectors, delivery drivers, care workers, cleaners – the least well-paid people in our nation are still doing their vital jobs.
Jesus has given us a job: today is Maundy Thursday which comes from the Latin mandatum which means a commandment. It’s the same Latin word that is used in John’s Gospel “Love one another as I have loved you.” If you are a follower of Jesus you have a deceptively simple job description; deceptive because the reality is so much harder than the theory for two reasons. The first is that people we are called to love can be hostile, unpleasant and ungrateful. The second is that the way that we show that love can involve us in dirt, humiliation and pain.
The ways in which we express that love may have had to change as so much else has changed over the last month but the job remains the same: “Love one another as I have loved you.”