Holy Thursday reflection
Something amazing happened in the life of the beloved disciple. Tradition holds that John, the author of the fourth gospel, was the youngest of the 12 apostles. He is the only apostle who died in old age. The others were all martyred. The gospel that carries his name is an extraordinary achievement, and is clearly the result of many, many years of careful prayer and reflection upon the writings of the Hebrew scriptures in the light of all that happened in the life of Jesus, and then the life of the early church.
The same community wrote a letter – we call it First John – that begins with a beautiful reflection:
We declare to you what was from the beginning,
what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes,
what we have looked at and touched with our hands,
concerning the word of life—
2 this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it,
and declare to you the eternal life (life unto the age/olam)
that was with the Father and was revealed to us—
3 we declare to you what we have seen and heard
so that you also may have fellowship with us;
and truly our fellowship is with the Father
and with his Son Jesus Christ.
4 We are writing these things1 John 1:1-4
so that our joy may be complete.
John tells us of his own experiences – like leaning so closely to Jesus that he rested his head on the heart of Jesus; or being the only male disciple to stay with Jesus through the passion and death, and he is the first male disciple to believe and then to recognise Jesus. (Mary Magdalen as another wonderful disciple who loved Jesus deeply beats him to belief.)
John doesn’t give us his name in the Gospel or letters that he wrote – instead, he calls himself the beloved disciple. He knows that Jesus sees us in the same way – he calls us all to become his beloved disciples. He wants us also to be so close to him, to lean our heads on his heart and be there with him when he celebrates this Passover meal.
From the very beginning, God wanted to share this amazing intimacy with us. He wanted to walk with us in the cool of the evening breeze. He wanted to be in a relationship of friendship with us. God did all the work in creating and defining the covenant commitment.
Even though time and again, the people of Israel broke the covenants and turned away to worship other gods, our God remained faithful and true to the covenant. He continued to know their troubles, to see the suffering of the people, to hear their cries and he longed to set them free.
First through Moses, God sets the people free from their slavery in Egypt.
As a nation, Egypt embodies all that has gone wrong with humanity
– idolatry, injustice and constantly giving into evil.
So on the night of the Passover, God invites Moses to lead his people out from slavery and back into relationship with God. We are invited to remember the covenant relationship, where “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” God longs to live among his people in a personal way.
We are invited to be faithful to the commandments of God, so that we can be the priestly representatives to all the nations.
We have waited this Lent to receive the communion that we will receive tonight. Like all beloved disciples across the history of the people of God, we are weak and unworthy. Even so, he wants to wash our feet and care for our needs. Even so, he invites us into deeper intimacy with him.
Even so, he invites us to wash the feet of others in service and love.
Even so, he wants us to know the joy of self-giving love.
There are no limits tonight. Let him call us by name to grow deeper in intimacy and love: to be his beloved disciples.