“ . . . Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands . . . got up from table . . .”
And now God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth has given, has entrusted, all things into the hands of God the Son. There sitting at table with the disciples is the one into whose two hands has been given the whole cosmos. There with the disciples in that upper room is the one who now – by God! – holds in his hands the power that brought forth, from a primordial and tiny speck, a creation of staggering breadth and beauty. There sitting at table with the disciples is the one into whose hands has been placed the power that fuels a billion, billion stars, into whose hands has been delivered the mystery that decrees to the planets their courses and yet knows the fate of every sparrow that ever was, is, and ever shall be. And this One, in whose hands lies a type and magnitude of power that the limits of our five human senses can never fathom, that neither the measurements of science nor the logic of philosophy can comprehend, this One, knowing in some unknowable how, all that is to befall him, gets up from table. Gets up from table not to exercise his power against those who will shortly betray, desert, and deny his existence, but gets up from table, takes off his outer robe and kneels down – kneels down, subservient – kneels down before humanity, perfidious humanity, and takes into his hands of power and might, human feet. Feet, covered with the dust of the earth – kneels down like a slave of lowest degree and takes the bare cowardly feet that will soon run from his side, run from his love – and he bathes them, gently, tenderly.
“This,” he says, “is how you are to be to one another. If you but knew these things,” he tells them, “you would be blessed . . . that is to say, different . . . odd . . . strangers to how humanity views power, how humanity holds power. If you but knew what I do to you now,” he says, “you would be blessed . . . different . . . odd . . . strangers to every human notion of glory, every human understanding of glorification.”
This is glory, this is glorification: to bring to light the Almighty God who loves us human beings – us cowardly, self-serving, deceitful human beings…
“And now,” Jesus tells them, “the Son of God, the Son of Humanity is glorified and this One glorified by God in himself, glorifies God.” And the glory, the glorification of which Jesus speaks? It is that the One into whose hands has been placed all cosmic power and might will love and serve to the end those who will not be there with him in the end, on that hill of Golgotha, the Place of the Skull. This is glory, this is glorification: to bring to light the Almighty God who loves us human beings – us cowardly, self-serving, deceitful human beings – us human beings who will destroy the lover of all human kind. This is glory, this is glorification: to bring to light the Cosmic Christ who in love takes on the humiliation of handling feet calloused from self-service, feet overheated from the pursuit of self-justification, feet made hard from judging others, feet blistered from pious attempts to climb some spiritual ladder and take heaven by storm. Jesus washes all these feet before he goes uncomplaining forth to his death. This is his glory. This is his glorification.
And then, this glorified One commands his followers that this same love ought be among them. But in a few short hours the truth will be revealed: namely, that this love, by our own reason and strength, we can neither will nor do. A foot-washing slave is most assuredly not what we want in a god, and it is not the image of the god in which we want to be created. We want godly power, might, and glory to be about our will being done on earth and in heaven – and we must kill the God whose power and glory it is to stoop in forgiving love to serve a broken humanity.
St. Paul tells us that in this same night, the cosmos-holding hands of Jesus took bread, took wine – and said, look – here is my body; here, my life’s blood – it will be broken, it will be shed that you see and know that God will not use the power of a billion, billion suns to destroy – his body will be broken and his blood shed so that you taste and see yourselves that the epitome of God’s power and glory is to love, forgive, and serve those who would destroy the God whose love and glory is to feed us unto life-eternal – us, you and me and all poor s.o.b.s who will never really quite rise much above self-love, self-glory, self-service, and self-justification.
And on the third sunrise after this supper, this same God, the murdered God with cosmic power and might in his hands, will come forth to meet his deserters and deniers, will come forth to meet with all murderous humanity. And what shall the verdict be? Be here on the Third Day so you can find out for yourselves.