Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.
Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
-John 13:1-17, 31b-35, NRSV
Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday... "Maundy" comes from the Latin word mandatum, or commandment, reflecting Jesus' words "I give you a new commandment." In this account, first Jesus literally shocked the disciples by washing their feet (consider Peter's reaction), then he explained this is what we are to do for one another, to do to others as he has done to us, to serve one another.
Foot washing was done by servants, not by those of higher rank. This was an incredible example of love that the disciples had never before witnessed until that moment. Imagine what they were thinking (or listen to Peter speak it!) when their master was willingly doing this mundane (and unpleasant) task... If you have ever watched the Pope at the annual Holy Thursday mass, it is a long standing ritual for the Pope himself to wash the feet of a group of people who are present. I have seen past popes wash the feet of cardinals. Pope Francis (the current Pope) has washed the feet of prisoners and refugees.
Well, now it's Holy Week. How has your Lenten journey been? It's not too late to join in the processional, though most of us know we are getting into the scary part... the part where we don't understand what Jesus is doing... the part where we, with the disciples, watch in disbelief as he offers himself to the guards, allows himself to be mocked, maimed, and killed... the part where we have to decide if we are going to keep following him to the foot of the cross or run and hide while the scary stuff is going on...
I hope you will worship with us (or anywhere) on Easter, whether it's in-person or online. I encourage you to worship with us also tomorrow on Maundy Thursday. We will receive communion. We will hear the account of the night of Jesus' sacrifice. Continue your Lenten journey with us Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m., and then again on Easter morning as we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord.