Today many churches celebrate Maundy Thursday, commemorating the Last Supper Jesus shared with His disciples. “Maundy” is a modern adaptation of the Latin “mandatum” meaning “command”. Jesus initiated our practice of Holy Communion during the Passover meal with those closest to Him, teaching them to “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19-20).
Our scripture today is John 13:1-17.
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
One of my seminary professors once remarked that if the cross were not the sign of our faith, it should be the towel and basin, representing Christ’s servant love for us and that we are to share that servant spirit in the same way. I also heard that we all want to be servants – right up to the point that someone treats us like a servant! How do you feel about being a servant?
Footwashing was usually performed by the lowest servant in the household. However, Jesus showed in this passage the love and care He felt toward His disciples, and all of God’s children, taking on this task without shame, in the same way He went to the cross for us. Jesus showed that no task is beneath us when it is done out of love for God and each other.
Are we willing to go in Christian love and service to do whatever is needed to care for God’s children? Jesus told us the way would be difficult and we might be ridiculed as He was for our faith. He taught that no one is above serving others and that sharing God’s love everywhere is a blessing, no matter what the setting or circumstance.
Loving Lord, sometimes our pride gets in the way of our faith and duty. Help us to go as humble servants to share the joy of our relationship with You to all the world. Amen.