Note: The following will read much better on our website.
In Jesus' day, washing feet was the ultimate display of servanthood, and no one would have imagined a rabbi actually doing it, even to make a point. Among any hierarchy of household servants, this job was reserved for the lowest. It was an incredibly dirty job considering the filth encountered by sandaled feet in the streets of first century Jerusalem. More often than not, it was the job of the servants' children. Against all existing paradigms of leadership and power, in his day or ours, Jesus takes the role of the lowest servant. Imagine what the disciples must have felt. Peter is apparently the only one bold (or bullheaded) enough to point out the apparent absurdity of it all. But this is the wisdom of God. The will of God. The way of God, revealed in Jesus.
Maundy Thursday has historically been the day that the Church brings the footwashing of John 13 to the center of our thoughts. ("Maundy" is derived from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" which is translated "A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you.") Regardless of how we as individuals (in our everyday bouts with pride) or we as a Church (in our misguided pursuit of power) have interpreted the role of Jesus and the reasons for his life, death and resurrection, this commandment must remain the defining characteristic of the people who claim Jesus as our King, because servanthood is the defining characteristic of his Kingdom. Servanthood is the outworking of his character. Of his self-giving love. Christ's Kingdom has never been about the exertion of power over others, but the divesting of it so that others might be lifted up, empowered, encouraged - valued.
Footwashing still happens today around the world - literally and figuratively. It's still a humbling moment to wash another person's feet, isn't it? In the West, we are spared the dirt. We don't have to shoulder the same cultural weight as in first century Palestine. But Maundy Thursday, as a window facing the cross, is a time for us to embrace, yet again, that following Jesus is servanthood. That washing feet is the heart of Christ. Following Jesus is not, first and foremost, about a well-crafted ideology that can confront the near-sighted aims of our culture (though we believe Jesus is the Way). It's not about being right (though we believe Jesus is the Truth). It's about living in the pattern of the one who lived (and died) for us - because we believe Jesus IS the life. He is our wise rabbi. He is our King. He is our God. And if we are to truly be his people, we are to reflect his servanthood to one another and to the wider world.
Here's a beautifully crafted wordless video, illustrated by Dan Stevers (2 minutes). It's stirring. Let it move your heart toward Jesus today. NOTE: Please do not share it on social media, as our license does not allow such.
Below is Jesus' prayer for his disciples and for us on the night he washed their feet and instituted the sacrament of his body and blood. We can always find our own prayers for unity and love in Jesus' words. Take a few moments to do so.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:20-26)
Grace & peace,