You will understand later
Notes from the pastor
Read John 13:1–20, 31b–35
The movie Hotel Rwanda tells the story of Paul Rusesabagina, whose courage saved the lives of over 1,200 Hutu and Tutsi refugees during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. As the story unfolds, terrorism, political corruption, death threats, and the horror of genocide play out as Paul’s family struggles with his decision to shelter refugees while appearing to continue the normal operations of his hotel. The words of Jesus to his disciples in this reading from John echo throughout the story: “You don’t understand what I’m doing now, but you will understand later.”
The genocidal massacre of so many people caused a deep fracture in the heart of Rwandans for many years after the crisis was stilled. However, at the 2004 Forum on World Evangelization a dramatic foot-washing ceremony brought together members of formerly divided communities of Hutu and Tutsi, on the ground, washing one another in the love of Jesus. The same thing happened in 2006 when a former official of the South African government washed the feet of antiapartheid activists in an act of repentance and reconciliation. Pope Francis, too, just two years ago, became the first pope to ever stoop and wash the feet of women and inmates in a dramatic break with papal protocol. When people can tell a story together it can be beautiful even if it isn’t happy. Genocide, apartheid, mass incarceration, betraying and denying Jesus in our own ways: none of these stories are happy in themselves. Yet, reconciliation wouldn’t be possible without the Lord Jesus drawing fractured people to himself and to a table where God’s love is communicated by us serving one another. This is our story.
Jesus washes the disciples to show the depths of God’s mercy and love, to tell the story of redemption that in a few short hours would reach its climax. He stoops low and touches their feet as if to say, where your feet have been does not matter as much as where they will now take you. Nothing can separate you from the Father’s love, a love that is also mine; a love that will take me all the way down to the depths of this world’s suffering and into death itself — for all, even Peter who denies him, even Judas who betrays him, even me, even you dear sisters and brothers.
Through the table fellowship of Jesus we become the body of the crucified and resurrected Christ. At the table, we remember—we bring the past to bear on the present—and we anticipate what will be, a reality made possible by the towel-girded Christ who laid down his life and took it up again by the power of God. As we live again through the rhythms of Holy Week, let us dwell on Jesus’s words: “Just as I have loved you, so you also must love one another. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples…”
- Pastor Patrick
Last Published: March 28, 2018 2:13 PM
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