“In the Face of Betrayal” John 13:1-35

“So, where is this Kingdom Jesus keeps talking about?”    One has to admit, this is the single most difficult sticking point for being a Christian, and has been all 2000 years down range from Jesus.

Jesus came proclaiming a Kingdom that was supposedly breaking in upon this world.   He healed the sick, fed the hungry, commanded those who had two cloaks should share one if asked for it, and made it all sound like any day now the world would be changed.

And then, it didn’t.

Crucified, dead, buried, descended into hell, on the 3rd day rose again… ascended and seated at the right hand of the Father…. We profess that Jesus is all of that, but the world is still chugging along as it always has.

We still have the same political intrigue.

There is always someone vying to be on top.

There is always someone promising that they have all the answers, and then disappointing or back-tracking on promises.

There is always someone else getting caught in this scandal or the other, and the world as it chugs on its merry way seems to take peculiar delight in finding the dirty secret, the smoking gun, or the inconsistency that brings about the fall

No one is “squeaky clean.”

Where is this Kingdom of God that was promised?

It did not come with the end of the Roman Empire and the descent of the Dark Ages.

It did not come with Christendom, with the height of church power and primacy.

It did not come with Reformation or the Renaissance.

It did not come during the Industrial Revolution, or with the Space Race with the rise of Information Technology.

It did not come with the United States, or the EU, or with the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Where is the Kingdom promised by Jesus, a world transformed?

Every generation looks to the innovations of this world, to the winds of change that blow through, and tries to interpret it as finally “the hour.”   This is the time when God is finally going to bring in that promised Kingdom, and the world will be a better place.

And then every generation in succession feels the bitter sting of the betrayal of their hopes, as events that seemed to hold such promise go from bad to worse, or the promise hoped for falls far short and is once again unfulfilled.

Where is this Kingdom of which you speak, Jesus?

Perhaps we miss the Kingdom because we are not listening very closely to Jesus, and what he point to tonight.

In John’s gospel we are told in no uncertain terms that Jesus knows what is coming.

He knows that this is “his hour.”

He knows that Judas will betray him.

He knows that Peter will deny him.

He knows that the disciples will all abandon him.

If ever there was a moment when Jesus could have jumped up on the table and shouted, “I know what you jerks are made of!” and listed off each offense in order, the shallowness of their commitment, and the duplicity of their actions, this would be the moment.

One of them was sneaking around and plotting behind his back for money.

Another is all bluster and bravado, but will have not one lick of commitment when the going gets tough.

The others are clueless, can’t seem to figure out a single thing on their own or see the issues even when they are right in front of them. .

You or I might have called time out, dismissed the whole bench of disciples here, and called for a “start over.”

That’s what we might have done in coming face to face with disappointment and betrayal.   It is what this world demands.

Find the guilty party, the smoking gun of ineptitude, scapegoat them, blame them for the failure and then start over with someone “more reliable.”

But that’s not what Jesus does.

Knowing all that he does, Jesus instead takes the towel, and washes the disciple’s feet, and tells them to love one another.

Knowing all that he does, Jesus breaks the bread, and shares the meal, and dips his portion into the same bowl as the betrayer.

He chooses to sit right next to him, recline with him, share this meal with him, even knowing what is about to go down.

Where is this Kingdom that Jesus has been talking about?

It appears it is right here!

It is knowing what you know, about the people around you, and despite what you know about them, still choosing to do this, to love them, serve them, be with them.

American Author and Mystic James Marion has observed that when Jesus talks about “the Kingdom of Heaven”, what he is really doing is offering a metaphor for a state of consciousness.  The “Kingdom of God,” — the “Kingdom of Heaven” is not some place to which you go.   It is not a destination, or a transformed world.

It is instead a state of mind that you come from.

It is a whole new way of looking at the world, a transformed awareness that literally turns this world into a different place.

“The Kingdom of God has come near”  Jesus asserts, and tells his Disciples to announce it, and to do so by behaving in a way that this world does not always understand.

When confronted with too many mouths to feed, he commands to the disciples “You give them something to eat.”

In sending them out to proclaim the Kingdom, he tells them to venture out ill prepared.  “Take no staff, no second tunic, no extra sandals, but when you enter a house say ‘Peace….”  Who leaves with no travel plans and no luggage?

This is not about the world changing to meet your needs, this is about you changing and in the process, the world changes.

This is what Jesus does in this story, on this night, in the washing of the feet of those whom he knows will betray and disappoint him.   He does it anyway, and in so doing sets the expectation that this world will not be changed by “quid pro quo” deals, but by acts of service.

“Do you know what I have done to you?”  Jesus asks.  13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am.14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 1

The Kingdom is found not in a place, but in a choice made, an action undertaken even knowing what you know!

The Kingdom of God is not so much a destination to which this world will arrive some day, as it is looking at the journey of life in this world and choosing to behave in a way that defies the expectations of this world, and in so doing brings into this world the expectations of God, and the reality of God’s Kingdom.

The world would have fired all the disciples for their betrayal and disappointment.

Jesus instead washes them, and commands them to love.

This is the expectation of the Kingdom.

We too often think of the Kingdom of God as something that Jesus will bring in some day, and when he does, this world will be changed.

But instead, in the actions of this night Jesus lays the example of how the Kingdom is brought in every day by the decisions we make as his disciples and the actions that we can choose to take every day.

For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” 

This is how the Kingdom of God comes upon us, not from without, but it emerges from within, ….what you choose to do in the face of the world’s disappointments and betrayals.

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