“They will know we are Christians by our love.” (song from 1966 by Peter Sholtez)
The love that we confront on Maundy Thursday comes to us as a command, a mandate, from which we get the name “Maundy Thursday.”
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
“Confront” is intentional. The love of Maundy Thursday and the next few days is not soft, romantic, or needy. Love is not an emotion. Love is an act. The love of Jesus’ passion is the love of God poured out as a gift upon an undeserving people – me and you.
This love is so strong that it defies the conventions of the time. He who is King washes the feet of his subjects. He who is betrayed shares a meal with his betrayers. He does not get angry nor kick his betrayers out of his sight or pick a fist fight or a legal fight…. He says, “Do quickly what you are going to do.” He who is Savior is not saved.
How can we possibly love one another as Jesus loves us? We cannot imagine such love, even though we are wrapped in it at every moment. We cannot imagine love that is given freely, over and over, when and although we deny and betray the giver. It is a love that says, “I will wash your feet.” I will do something that only a slave is required to do; I love you that much.
Love one another as I have loved you. We surround ourselves with this act of love, in sorrow tonight, in shock and horror tomorrow, in silence on Saturday, … so that on Sunday we might know the exuberant JOY found in this love.
Tonight, we wait; we are entering our darkest hours.
The seventeenth-century poet George Herbert writes about love in his poem of the same name (“Love”):
Love bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guiltie of dust and sinne.
But quick-ey’d Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lack’d any thing.
A guest, I answer’d, worthy to be here:
Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkinde, ungratefull? Ah my deare,
I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
Who made the eyes but I?
Truth Lord, but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, sayes Love, who bore the blame?
My deare, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
So I did sit and eat
We wait; Love never leaves.