My Song is Love Unknown: Love to the Loveless Shown
2nd Sunday in Lent
My Song is Love Unknown: Love to the Loveless Shown
Text: John 13:2-7
Do a quick survey of all the Bible stories rattling around in your brain. Take a moment to think about all the foolish things Jesus’ disciples did or said. You might think of the disciples caught up in a storm in the boat crying out to Jesus, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” Maybe the feeding of the five thousand comes to mind when the disciples tried to send the crowds of people away at dinnertime, not expecting or considering that Jesus could miraculously provide for everyone. Even worse was when the disciples tried to shoo away the little children that Jesus welcomed with open and loving arms. Then there was the time Jesus was walking on water and they thought he was a ghost. Or the time James and John were arguing about who was greater and had the nerve to ask if they could flank Jesus on thrones in heaven. Or the time Judas was angry at Mary Magdalene for pouring perfume on Jesus’ feet because he wanted that money in their treasury where he could steal it.
In a category all by himself was Peter. The Bible records Peter as almost saying or doing as many foolish things as the rest of the disciples combined. That time they thought Jesus was a ghost out on the water, Peter wanted to walk on the water with him—and he did (until he looked down and was afraid!). Then there was the time Peter actually rebuked Jesus for saying he was going to die. Or the time he thought it would be a good idea to put up tents and stay with Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration.
Certainly the disciples were sensing that something important was about to happen. The frequency of Jesus mentioning his death had only been increasing. After Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on a donkey to much pomp and circumstance, the next days of Holy Week were busy and active. Now they were all gathered together in an upper room on Thursday evening to celebrate the Passover meal.
Yet as the timing for Jesus’ passion heightened, so the sinful foolishness of the disciples heightened. Even on this special Thursday the disciples were at their best being at their worst. We’re told immediately in the opening verse that Judas had fallen prey to Satan’s temptations and was soon to betray Jesus. Then Peter disgracefully takes the center stage. First he questions Jesus and insists that Jesus should never wash his feet. Then when Jesus turns the conversation about washing into a conversation about spiritual washing, it goes right over Peter’s head as he asks Jesus to wash his feet, his hands, and his head.
What do you think it was like for the God who built mountains to their peaks, who dug valleys to their depths, who formed all living creatures, and who breathed life into mankind—what do you think it was like for our God to do this menial slave task on that Thursday evening? Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped it around his waist. He filled a basin with water and stooped down to wash his disciples’ dirty, dusty feet. As he wiped the filth off their feet, he even used that towel wrapped around his waist to dry them.
What do you think it was like to humbly wash the feet of James and John who had argued about being great and powerful in heaven? Or what was it like to clean the feet of Judas that soon would lead him down the road to Gethsemane to betray Jesus? What was it like to look Judas in the eye with so much love while knowing what he was about to do? What was it like to wash the feet of Peter when he had absolutely no clue what was going on and why? What was it like to hear Peter speak such nonsense out of the same mouth that in a few hours would call down curses in denial of knowing Jesus? My Song is Love Unknown: Love to the Loveless Shown.
This humility, this boundless unknown love started with washing feet in this upper room but was only the beginning for Jesus. Within half a day Jesus would have all garments stripped away and would be hanging from a cross. There we begin to imagine again what our God was experiencing.
What do you think it was like for Jesus to be abandoned by all his friends and even his heavenly Father? What was it like for Jesus to be nailed to a cross by the very people he was trying to save? Yet for these enemies that hated him so much Jesus prayed, “Father, forgiven them, for they do not know what they are doing.” What was it like for the only person ever to be perfect and innocent to carry sin and guilt? Not just a few sins or a little guilt, but that of the entire world? What was it like for the living God to die for the people he created? My Song is Love Unknown: Love to the Loveless Shown.
This unknown love was the theme for Jesus’ entire ministry. He spoke with prostitutes. He ate with tax collectors. He helped the sick, the poor, the needy, the widows, the sinners. He didn’t receive any money in return. He didn’t receive much praise or adoration. Some, but most of it was only lip service from people who wanted more worldly things from him. His own people were the ones that cried out to Pilate to crucify him. What loveless people! So this unknown love was seen in everything that Jesus did all the way through his suffering and death because that is what Jesus came to do—show unknown love to the loveless.
So great, so boundless is this unknown love that it extends two thousand years forward to the loveless people of the present—to you, to me, and to the whole world around us.
As we tried to imagine Jesus’ immense love in washing the feet of his disciples who didn’t understand him, didn’t fully appreciate him, and were about to betray or about to deny him, we also try to imagine Jesus’ immense love on the cross for us. What was it like for Jesus to die for people that he knew would betray him for the sake of money like Judas, as we today give our hearts first to the money and possessions of this world? What was it like for Jesus to die for people that he knew would deny him like Peter, as we today shrink away in fear from opportunities to share our faith. What was it like for Jesus to give everything and die for people who today give to him the leftovers of time, talents, and treasures? My Song is Love Unknown: Love to the Loveless Shown.
It is truly unknown love to us. The love that Jesus had for sinners like his disciples or like us today is beyond what we can possibly know or understand. It’s unthinkable. It’s unimaginable. It’s unfathomable. It’s unknown.
We may not understand it. We may not know what it’s like. But, we do believe it. We do know and we do believe that this unknown love of our Savior took away all the sins of all loveless people. This unknown love washes all our sins away. As Jesus told Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” This unknown love wraps us in our God’s loving forgiveness. This unknown love fills our hearts with joy and peace every day of our lives.
Then, this unknown love inspires us to show the same unknown to others. Listen again what Jesus said, “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
It is unknown love to this world when you stop to open the door for a stranger, or calmly let someone pass you on the road. It is unknown love to this world when you spend precious free time to help your church or your school, or even any random stranger in the world. It is unknown love to this world when you give your precious, hard-earned money to help the spreading of the good news through this church and school and around the world. It is unknown love to this world when you consider others better and more important than you. It is unknown love to this world when you humbly serve others with a smile on the face while they may even arrogantly trample all over you. That is unknown love. Often it is unknown love for loveless people. But Jesus has shown even greater unknown love to us loveless sinners. So, as Jesus said, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
As we take a moment to meditate on this scene in the upper room on Maundy Thursday this evening, as we will again in a few weeks, we cannot help but marvel with great awe. Those disciples were so sinful, so clueless, so loveless. Yet there is Jesus stooping down to wash their feet just hours before he went to the cross to take their loveless sins away. Meanwhile we marvel that this unknown love could be so great that it extends to disciples so sinful, so clueless, so loveless as us today.
My Song is Love Unknown, my Savior’s love to me,
Love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be.
Here might I stay and sing; no story so divine,
Never was love, dear King, never was grief like thine.
This is my friend, in whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend!
Posted on February 22, 2013, in Church, Sermons and tagged James, James and John, Jesus, John, John 13, Judas, Lent, Love, Loveless, My Song is Love Unknown, Peter, Unknown Love. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.