Jesus' Perfect Love


The Maundy Thursday night's service is titled, “The Mass of the Lord’s Supper” but we often hear this occasion referred to as “The Last Supper” – for instance, in the name of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting. It seems that the dinner lasted a considerable amount of time. Besides the meal itself, there are the two events we hear of in our readings tonight – the institution of the Eucharist and the washing of the feet – and the “Farewell discourse” – four chapters during which Jesus addresses the disciples. And much like tonight, the supper was probably a mingling of emotions: joy, mixed with sadness and perhaps even a little fear.


But it is to the washing of the feet that I’d like us to turn – and to the reason for it – in fact, the reason for the whole of the events of this week. “He had always loved those who were his in the world, but now he showed how perfect his love was.” 


In Greek – the language of the New Testament – there are several words for love, each with a different meaning. The most common are Filia – which is described as brotherly love – eros – meaning passionate or romantic love – and the word used here: agape – meaning the unconditional love of God for his people.


The singer Meat Loaf is well known for his song where he proclaims, “I would do anything for love – but I won’t do that.” For Jesus, there is no “that.” There’s no extent to which he wouldn’t go for the sake of us, in his great love. That’s why the gospel tells us that his love was perfect. Other translations read it as him loving “to the end” – a love without limit, where the end is the cross and the tomb. 


How much did Jesus love his people? Well, Paul tells the Philippians this: Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a slave and being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.


But it doesn’t stop there: as we heard in the epistle, and as we will soon hear during the Eucharistic Prayer: Jesus, during the supper, took, blessed, broke and gave bread to his disciples, and then afterwards took, blessed, and gave wine to them. “This is my body,” he told them: “this is my blood.” He instituted the Eucharist that night – for the same reason that he washed their feet: out of love. 


Jesus loves each one of us with a heart that burns for us. Tonight, as we keep watch with Jesus, look to the left of the chapel – and see, in your mind, the statue of the Sacred Heart that usually stands there. Remember his love for you; and see it in the words and actions of the next three days.