John 13:1-15 New International Version (NIV)
Jesus Washes His Disciples’ Feet
13 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.
2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 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.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 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.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.
12 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. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
I always wondered what Maundy meant. I thought it was just the name of the service of foot washing, or the old Latin name of the foot washing service, or was it named after somebody with the last name of Maundy? A little research reveals that the word Maundy comes from the Latin for mandatum or mandate in our current English. So is this a mandate that we wash others feet on the Thursday before Good Friday? In a sense, “yes”.
In the gospel we read that Jesus had gone to Jerusalem for Passover and gathered his twelve disciples at the dinner table. He knew that by the end of the night one of them will betray Him to the authorities, one of them will deny Him three times, and all of them will leave him alone in his hour of greatest pain. And yet there He is breaking the bread and pouring the cup, eating with them, blessing them, getting down on His knees and washing their feet, showing them his love and grace and compassion in a time when his anger might have been better understood. Yet in the end He knew that He was not about to be thanked or praised, but killed, and mocked, and tortured. Why? Because in the end, the goodness, the kindness, and the compassion He had brought were more of a threat to the Roman authorities and clergy of his day than any weapon or army. Jesus so radically upset the status quo that they decided to get rid of him so that things might return to the way they had been before Him, when there were no “radicals”, no “troublemakers”, no “problem children”.
The night before he wasn’t running away from what He knew He was to face. He wasn’t preparing for a battle, and He wasn’t plotting revenge. Instead he was with the ones he loved the most, the ones who loved him, but were not perfect. The ones who knew who He was, what He had done, and would be his witnesses to His life and teachings after He was gone. This is where the word Maundy comes into effect. What do you do if you are Jesus? What do you do if you know you aren’t going to be around much longer and you have to tell the people you love the most how to keep moving forward after you are gone? You give a mandate or commandment – you tell your disciples exactly what you expect of them.
“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.”
We are still Jesus’s disciples and we are still under the mandate that he issued over two thousand years ago. His commandment, His mandate; Love one another as I have loved you. This is the only way we can separate ourselves from the modern day Romans. We must continue to be Jesus’s disciples, practice what he preached, and love each other even when anger might be expected of us.
Maybe Maundy need to be retired and we should rename this Thursday to something not as fancy – like – “Love One Another Thursday”, or “ The Last Thing Christ Really Wanted Us To Know Thursday”. Maybe more people would get the meaning if we put it in simpler terms and did away with the fancy name. This is a message all Christians need to hear, so let’s not hide it behind fancy names, or just check it off of our Holy Week calendar as just another night. We need to let others know that this is how Christ said other people would know us: by how we love one another. Maybe changing the name might help us to remember what this night is about, and what it means to be Christians. Maybe if we kept that reminder in the front of our head, kept Jesus’s commandment first and foremost in our lives, Christ’s dream for us would come true. Putting a fish sticker on your car doesn’t make you a Christian, any more than standing in a garage makes you a Buick. Following Christ’s teachings and mandate’s makes us Christians. That’s what Christ wants us to be known for.
Lord in your mercy, help us to achieve the mandate that Your Son Jesus left us. Help us to love each other as Jesus loved us. Guide us and show us the way to true Christianity. Lead us down the path of righteousness, grace and compassion. Let us wash the feet of our fellow man as Jesus did for his Disciples. Let us show our fellow man that we are capable of loving one another as commanded by Your Son. Amen.