Jesus washes the disciples’ feet. Peter actually tries to stop it. It’s super uncomfortable for everyone. Still is. It’s uncomfortable to try to avoid doing it because Jesus flat out says we should. It’s even more uncomfortable if I actually get a bowl and do it. That might be the thing it has most in common with what tonight is all about. The thing Christianity argues about so often. Communion.
It’s super uncomfortable. It’s uncomfortable if we try to avoid the plain and clear words of scripture. They’re right there. But it’s even worse when we actually do what they say. This is actually the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and drink. Like…really. Jesus’ blood. Same blood that flowed down from His hands and side on the cross. For you. Drink it. Seriously. We have to admit that’s offputting. When the funny looking pastor in funny clothes holds it up and says “the peace of the Lord be with you always” he’s showing you where peace comes from. It’s not in the air. It’s not in each other. It’s in the bread that is His body.
These words “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins” show us that in this sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. If you eat Jesus’ body and drink His blood your sins will be forgiven and you will have life and salvation. Not symbolically. The cardboard-tasting thing called bread and bottom shelf wine are the most precious gifts in all of creation. Eat and drink them and you’ll have everything God has to give you. It’s so hard to believe that the Holy Spirit has to do it for you.
Whether you believe it or not, though, is means is. When God speaks, stuff happens. ‘Let there be light.’ Good. ‘This is my body.’ Very good. God is actually here in church. The same God who demands holiness. So people have gotten hurt communing wrong. God doesn’t deal well with unclean. Anyone who does not believe this is unworthy and unprepared, for the words “for you” require all hearts to believe. So we only give it to people who will benefit from it. That’s never a “no”, but sometimes it’s a “not yet”.
It still leads people to recoil. This can’t be the way it works. It’s ridiculous. It’s mean. I have a better idea. Do we really even need this? You shall never wash my feet, Lord. So we make excuses. Because the only way to fight about communion more than trying to get around what it says is to actually do it and watch everything explode. I really get Peter’s concerns. Sometimes the whole thing feels like more of a burden than a gift. We become Judas’ guilt and John’s jealousy and Peter’s Ego. the darkest things in us take over. We insist we can fix it by avoiding the problem.
But Communion is not an excuse. It’s not a burden. It’s not something we need to reason away or struggle to justify. It’s an answer. A gift. A hope given for us to cling to in the darkest of days for the worst parts of us. When we make it an excuse, a rational, we lose sight of that. Above all else, we miss the whole point. This is for sinners. This is for you, full of jealousy, guilt, shame, rage, and sin. We don’t get fixed by ignoring reality, cramming in a room for a meal and pretending everything is OK when it isn’t. We’re saved by the God who washes feet. This is what He does. Owns our humiliation, carries our shame, our guilt, and our sin. He serves us. He bears the cross for you. This is God. He is the hope and the life. This God is the forgiveness that binds and heals. He washes Judas’ guilt, John’s jealousy, and Peter’s ego. He joins them together in forgiveness. They’re bound together in this. They are the body of Christ. It’s not about who is greatest, but who eats and drinks.
Peter suddenly gets it. Lord, don’t just wash my feet. Get my hands too, and my head! He wants more. I rolled my eyes until self-quarantine. We’re so quick to take shots at Peter that we overlook the fact that Jesus doesn’t. Jesus literally called him satan when Peter asked Him not to go to the cross. When Peter just asks for more grace, the Lord doesn’t rebuke him, but simply reminds him of an identity. A promise. You’re washed, already. You’re baptized. No. You don’t get more of what you want tonight.
Peter wants more grace than what’s needed, but why’s that so bad? Why’s it so bad to feel bummed about not being able to actually be in church to take communion on the night Jesus institutes it? Of course you’re baptized. Of course you’re washed already. You’re still allowed to feel like something’s missing. You’re still allowed to want more. Faith in Jesus goes to Jesus. To actually believe He’s in that chalice bearing promises like forgiveness, life, and salvation and then not drink is a gut punch. It’s still not no, but even being told “not yet” is a struggle. We can call it what it is. A fast. A chance to reflect on what’s missing. It will do one of two things. To those who see the supper as a law, and thus a burden, not having communion is either a relief or a hurdle to overcome by our own clever works. To those who see it as a gift of the gospel, the time away from the supper only sharpens our hunger for it. Skip lunch and dinner always tastes good.
Recognize that fasts end. Peter got more than his hands and head washed. He ate and drank. Recognize that same promise is for you. The answer still isn’t no. Just not yet. The fast will end. And when it does, you will eat and drink too. Recognize He is truly present FOR YOU. Not just generically everywhere. But here. For you. To answer. To forgive. To save. You will get to commune again unless our Lord comes first. And when you do, it actually does something. That’s the difference between foot washing and communion.
Footwashing is a symbol. It brings to light everything ugly. Communion forgives it. It is a meal that answers every bit of baggage we drag in here, every argument, pain, burden, guilt, & sin. It becomes source of our unity, bond of our church. Chance to see each other how God sees us. We can see each other receiving grace. This is the call to wash each other’s feet. This isn’t just about showing outward humility. It’s a call to see your neighbor as someone Jesus died for. Fed and made holy. Someone loved and worth loving. That’s why He serves you, not just by washing your feet, but cleansing your soul and feeding you with His body and blood. We have a place with Him. He is about to carve it out of wood from a cross and rock from a tomb. He is about to open the gates with Holy Blood.
Today, we wait, but we are washed even now. We have His life even now. Today we wait for the heavens to come, but tonight, it’s so much ours we can almost taste it, and soon we will.