"Everyone will know you are my disciples if you have love for one another…”
Our outline of faith (traditionally called the Catechism) says that Jesus reveals to us that the nature of God is Love.
Tonight we reenact and remember Jesus’ last night before he is arrested. And we do this at every Eucharist, celebrating the memorial of our redemption: Remembering. But the Gospel of John is unique. It gives us another part to this story.
It doesn’t include Jesus’ command to “remember him through the bread and wine.” Instead this Gospel’s focus of the last supper is about service and love. Jesus exhibits this in relationship all through his ministry:
Including, Inviting, Touching, Feeding, Healing,… “I see you, You see me.”
This new commandment that Christ gives us “to love one another as he love us” also does show up in the Great Thanksgiving through other words of prayer, such as 'Father send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you” Or “Grant us strength and courage to love you with gladness and singleness of heart… This is Jesus’ last formal teaching to the disciples.
In our passage today, the disciples have just completed the last supper. It says:
He “knew.” He knew that his hour had come. This form of “know” meaning to remember, appreciate. It is a depth of interior knowledge. He had integrated what was to be.
Jesus removes his outer garment. And he ties a towel around himself. The Greek word that is used is “girded.” He girded himself with the towel. He wrapped it around himself. What an intimate and vulnerable gesture….And yet, at the same time so strong. This image really strikes to the core of Jesus. In the face of arrest and crucifixion, Jesus doesn’t just fear or imagine what he might suffer. He knows, and rather than run, he turns to his friends. He removes his outer garment.
We often associate gird with “gird your loins.” It is actually a way for managing your clothes in preparation for battle. It is still a phrase we use for taking protective measures. Jesus girds himself in preparation for this terrifying battle by disrobing, and giving his disciples a simple but very explicit example of how to love and serve one another: How to be in the world. He girds himself with the love of his friends. He empties himself in service. That becomes his shield, his outer garment.
Jesus has one last teaching. He says "you call me Lord and Teacher. So I have set an example for you.” His is the way of peace. He is the Prince of Peace and his shield is Love. Do this too in the memory of him. And wear it like a breastplate.
Christ be with me,
Christ within me,
Christ behind me,
Christ before me,
Christ beside me,
Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ in quiet,
Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.