Maundy Thursday: the end of love

The Gospel tells us that Jesus, having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end. But what is the end of love?

Jesus told them, “Love one another.” This was not a new commandment, exactly; it had been around since humans knew how to pronounce the word love, and before that, we knew it in our bones, that love was the answer to many wounds, and the death of many wars. But Jesus knew that his disciples would need to hear it anew ahead of the crisis to come: the cross, and all of the afflictions that accompanied them on the way there.

Jesus, having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end. But where does Jesus’ love end?

And that’s just it, isn’t it? Christ’s love knows no end.

It doesn’t end with washing his disciples’ feet. It doesn’t end with their foolishness, nor with their betrayal, nor with their carelessness, nor with their cowardice. It doesn’t end on the cross. It doesn’t end in death.

Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that love is not destroyed by death. Hearts can be broken, grief run riot; love fuels the sleepless nights of the bereaved.

Love is perhaps more often killed by life than by death. The daily grind of disagreements, disrespect, dishonour erodes our commitment to the way of love. But Jesus asks, how else will people know that you are my followers, unless you love one another?

Where is the end of love? It does not end at the edges of our skin, nor the ends of our street. It shouldn’t end at the limits of our understanding, struggling to interpret the neediness of another, frustrated by their pinpointing of our impotence to help. It cannot be ended by casual affront, not if it is love, not if Jesus washed even Judas’ feet.

Love calls us to serve those for whom we have distaste, and to wait upon those who waste our time. Love calls us to forgive those who do not know what they are doing, or cannot help themselves. Love calls us to forgive others, too; sometimes from a safe and loving distance.

Love is a decision. It is our choice to make, and we cannot make the excuse that someone else destroyed it, if Jesus washed Judas’ feet, and healed the ear of the servant sent to arrest him, and restrained the angels from coming down from heaven to frighten the hell out of Herod and that weasel, Pontius Pilate, letting love be his gospel, and his end.

Jesus, having loved his own who were in the world, loved them to the end, and commanded them (not suggested, not requested, but commanded them) to love one another.

If we belong to Christ, if we would have him wash our feet, then we must allow our love to be stretched to its limits, because the love of which Jesus speaks has no limits, no end.

After he had washed their feet, and broken bread with them, he went to pray, and they fell away, falling asleep or falling into cahoots with the authorities, no matter. We are the same way. We fall out of love with God every day, and take out our disappointment on one another. Our feet are dirty and our hearts unpretty. Yet Jesus’ love for us has no end. Day after day, time after time, he pours himself out for us, his body and blood, in the water and the wine, in the bread and the tenderness of sacramental love.

As we approach the end of Lent, trembling toward the end of Holy Week and the cross. in the water, in the wine, in the bread, in the love we have for one another, we remember that Christ’s love knows no limits, has no end.


About Rosalind C Hughes

Rosalind C Hughes is a priest and author living near the shores of Lake Erie. After growing up in England and Wales, and living briefly in Singapore, she is now settled in Ohio. She serves an Episcopal church just outside Cleveland. Rosalind is the author of A Family Like Mine: Biblical Stories of Love, Loss, and Longing , and Whom Shall I Fear? Urgent Questions for Christians in an Age of Violence, both from Upper Room Books. She loves the lake, misses the ocean, and is finally coming to terms with snow.
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