How Is it that We Are in Christ?

Maundy Thursday

March 29, 2018

John 13:1–15

From what Jesus did on the night He was betrayed we learn how it is that we are in Christ. We are shown that we are in Christ not through any action we do. It is through what He does. For all of our determination we continue to try to control how it is that we are who we are as Christians. But we are in Christ and that is so because of what Christ has done, not through any of our efforts.

As we have it recorded in the Gospel reading Jesus exercised His Lordship by being a servant. He wrapped a towel around His waist and began washing His disciples’ feet. Though Peter was the only one who resisted perhaps he spoke aloud what everyone was thinking. Lord, will Youwash my feet? Peter as was so often the case was not content to entrust himself to his Lord. He resisted the work of Jesus because he thought he knew better. He would not let Jesus deign to submit Himself in such a way. This was not the kind of Lord Peter thought Jesus should be.

Likewise, the congregation at Corinth was not content to celebrate the Lord’s Supper as the Lord had instituted it. They thought they knew better and turned it into something it was not. They abused it by turning it into their own feast rather than celebrating the unity they had with each other in Christ. This prompted Paul to write what he did in the Epistle reading, taking them back to the intention of the Lord in giving His Supper.

How about you and me? What is it that you and I see as our unity in Christ? How is it that the billions of Christians around the world have so much variation in what they believe regarding the Lord’s Supper and how it is celebrated? Is it not that we are following in the footsteps of Peter and the Christians in Corinth? Is it not that we are not content to let our Lord be our Lord and let Him serve us in the way that He has instituted to serve us? 

When Peter resisted Jesus, Jesus said to him, “What I am doing now you do not understand, but after these things you will understand.” What are these things? Certainly His washing their feet. Certainly what He did shortly after that in giving to them bread and wine and telling them that in so doing He was giving them His body and blood. Certainly His betrayal, His suffering, and His death. Certainly His resurrection. But Peter was headstrong. You will never wash my feet!

Jesus is ever long-suffering. Ever patient. But firm. “If I do not wash you you have no part in Me.” And that is it. This is how it is that we are in Christ. By what He does. Not by what we do. Not by what we think He ought to do instead of what He does. By His submitting to us and serving us. This is why He gave us His body and blood. This is why He suffered on the cross in our place. He came not to be served but to serve and give His life. So that we may be in Him. We are in Him because He brings it about.

When He finished washing their feet He said, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and that is right, for I am. Therefore, if I, your Lord and Teacher, wash your feet you ought also to wash one another’s feet. I have given you this example that just as I have done so you also should do.” Another way of saying this is that since we are in Christ because of Him and what He has done for us then we serve each other. How can we not when we are in Christ even as they are?

The Church in her wisdom has captured this well in the prayer following the Lord’s Supper:

We give thanks to You, almighty God, that You have refreshed us through this salutary gift, and we implore You that of Your mercy You would strengthen us through the same in faith toward You and fervent love toward one another.

Our Lord serves us, we serve one another. Our Lord gives to us Himself, we give ourselves to others. We are in Christ because we have received Christ. Because He has taken the form of a servant, wrapped a towel around His waist, and has washed us clean. As the apostle Paul records the words of our Lord in the Epistle reading, “This cup is the new testament in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” He goes on to say, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”

The you who do this is us. Together we eat the bread and drink the cup. We together proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes when we celebrate His meal together as the meal in which we are unity. That is, in which we are in Christ. This blessing is for us and others. It is for us in receiving Christ Himself, His body and blood, right into our own bodies. It is for others in our Lord strengthening us through this salutary gift in faith toward God and fervent love toward one another. 

Why would we resist this work of our Lord in coming to us as a servant? Why would we not seek our unity in Christ in the way He has brought us into unity with Him? Instead, we have the opportunity to repent as Peter did and as we hope the Corinthian Christians did. We have the opportunity to celebrate anew, often, the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of our sin, the strengthening of our faith, the manifestation of our unity with Christ and with each other. 

This is why He has given us this meal. He wedded it to His suffering and death. On the night when He was betrayed He took bread and wine. In giving His body and blood in that bread and wine He was instituting a meal that is given for us to receive often the very body He offered on the cross and the very blood He shed on the cross. The forgiveness He achieved through His body sacrificed and His blood shed is given personally for each of us in His Holy Supper. And it is extended to others as we love and serve them in Christ. Amen.