Today is Maundy Thursday, the day in Holy Week that the church remembers Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. The name for this day has its origins from what Jesus said to his disciples after he washed their feet:
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”John 13:34-35
Are we, as Christ’s 21st Century disciples, known for our love for one another?
This morning I listened to two podcasts on a walk. The first was from “Pray as You Go.” I heard the lectionary reading from John 13. It is a beautiful and compelling glimpse into the heart of Jesus and his relationship with his disciples. Jesus, taking off his robe, taking the role of a servant, and washing the feet of his disciples. The second podcast was the “Holy Post.” It was a special episode that described the “Evangelical Industrial Complex” (EIC) and its role in the church in the United States. The podcast pulled back a bit of the curtain and revealed pastors and church leaders wrestling with money, power, fame, and the temptation for self promotion. It was a stark contrast from the story in John 13. And it left me with no doubt as to where I want to be: with Jesus, washing feet, loving one another. But to get there I know I must be continually informed by the way of Jesus, and resist the temptations of cultural Christianity.
As I was listening to the first podcast, the narrator invited me to imagine Jesus washing the feet of Judas. In this same passage Jesus reveals that he knows that Judas will betray him (v. 11). Yet knowing this, Jesus washes his feet too. Tenderly. Carefully. I could almost feel the weight of the silence and the struggle in the heart of Judas.
Then the narrator invited me to imagine Jesus washing my feet. I was instinctually repelled by the thought! Just like Peter, I wanted to cry out, “No Lord! Never!” I don’t deserve this. I’m nobody. And then it hit me. Do I consider myself worse than Judas? Do I consider myself better than Peter? What is it in me that thinks that Jesus should not wash my feet? Jesus tells Peter: “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me” (v. 8). And I realize, Jesus has washed me in my baptism. He has named me “clean!”
Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that he is their Lord and Master and that they therefore must follow his example in washing one another’s feet – in loving each other.
As is so often the case, as I reflect on Jesus’ last days, I find myself more compelled than ever to follow him, and more convinced than ever of my own need to grow more in love.