The Coach’s ‘Talk’
John 13:1-17; 31-35

I’d like to pose a question to you to set the scene for tonight’s sermon.  If you were involved in a sport of some kind would you prefer to have a coach who had lots of knowledge but couldn’t demonstrate the required skills to you or one who had the skills and the ability to share his knowledge with you?

I’m one of those coaches who know the game but isn’t the greatest at demonstrating the techniques required because my lack of mastery of the techniques involved.  I know from listening to kids talk on and off the ice rink that they have far more respect for a coach who has demonstrated his abilities.

In a way Jesus was being a coach to the disciples on this, his last evening before his death and he wasn’t going to settle for just telling them about what they should do and who they should be when he was going to be away from them.  He got up from the table, where he had gathered them together for this their last meal together, and after wrapping a towel around his waist, stooped down and washed their dirty, stinky feet.

When he had finished he got up and returned to the table and asked the disciples, “Do you know what I have done to you?”  It must have been a rhetorical question because there is no answer given to it in the text.  He knew they didn’t have a clue what was going on, but he was preparing them.  In any game, especially in the game of life, the coach can’t play it for you; they teach you the appropriate skills and then give you a bit of a pep talk and send you out to play the game for yourself, or as a team.  Here Jesus was preparing his disciples, giving them some new tools in their arsenal  and getting them ready for what was about to take place, sending them into the next few days a little more prepared for the way the game was about to change.

He began by showing them how to serve one another, in a humble and simple way, no matter who they considered to be the most important among them.  You see Jesus was considered to be the most important at that gathering; he was their teacher, their rabbi.  And here he was getting up from the table, where he should have been the guest of honour and serving his students by washing their feet.

This event, like many that were to follow in the coming days would be indelibly etched in their minds.  This was quite shocking to them; Peter initially refused to allow Jesus to do such a thing.  It was important though that they remember what he was teaching, this was to be a new example and commandment for them.  What was playing out before them would set the scene for the church that would soon be established.  This event is pivotal for all of us still today.  It has been recorded, written down for our benefit.  Preserved for future generations to read and learn what Jesus was teaching.

It would have been great to be there and watch it all take place, but in many ways it is better for us to be able to read it in our context, with the history of the church and the witness of generations giving us further evidence that the example Jesus handed to the disciples is effective and beneficial.

We’ve watched throughout history as others have attempted to follow Jesus’ command to love one another just as he has loved us.  We’ve seen bad examples and good ones, we’ve seen people forgiven for falling short, we’ve seen the crusades that were fought in the name of Christ and other events in Christian history that we would rather had never taken place.  But we can learn from those too.

We’ve also watched examples of incredible service toward others, like Jesus did, such as Mother Teresa caring for the needy around the world in their own contexts and then we contrast that with the greed and selfishness of the majority of humans.

We live in affluent times in an affluent society, distanced from the rest of the world because of our geographical location on the bottom side of the earth.  It is pretty easy to become complacent and forget about the call of Jesus to love others.  We make mistakes along the way too, just like Christians have throughout the centuries.

We have disobeyed every one of the Ten Commandments as well as the new one that Jesus gave the disciples at the last supper he had with them.  We are sinners, it is true.  But everything that was taking place in Jerusalem all those years ago was for our benefit.

When we play sport our coach sends us out to do it all by ourselves, sure they watch us and encourage us and tell us where we are going wrong.  But Jesus took the whole thing on himself.  He took the journey into Jerusalem and to the cross and the tomb for our sake, not for his own.  He didn’t ask any of us to do it; he did it on our behalf.  He won the victory for us, the victory over death.

We proclaim his death and everything it won for us every time we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.  As often as we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  Because Jesus has defeated death for us we live already in the hope and promise of eternal life.  Each time we receive his body and blood in the sacrament we again receive his forgiveness and the assurance of eternal life.

Tonight we will again celebrate the Lord’s Supper together.  Usually we come forward to the altar to receive the body and blood of Christ, in with and under the bread and the wine, broken and shed for us.  Tonight the sacrament will be brought to you.  You may stand, sit or kneel, whichever is comfortable for you.  Just as Christ came to the world to walk among us as a human being, his body and blood will be brought to you for the forgiveness of sin.

In the Holy Supper your sins are forgiven and you are again prepared for the journey ahead in the world, the game of life.  Jesus may now sit at the right hand of God the Father, but he has prepared the way for us and has given and taught us all that we need for life and salvation.  He has sent his Holy Spirit to be our guide and comforter.  He has promised to be with us to the very end of the age.

Jesus did more than just give us a pre-game coach’s talk; he showed us how to live our lives and prepared the way for us to live as forgiven people serving one another.  Let’s follow his example and serve one another in faith hope and love until he returns to take us to be with him in paradise.

Amen.