Maundy Thursday, April 9, 2009 “Series B”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we come before your altar as your people, baptized into the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus the Christ. Give us humble and thankful hearts to embrace the covenant that you have made with us, and through the power of your Holy Spirit, enable us to love others as you have loved us. This we ask in Christ’s Holy name. Amen.
Think about the first verse of our Gospel lesson for this evening. John tells us that “before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Jesus knew! Jesus knew that he was about to be nailed to a cross and give his life in love and atonement for the sins of the world. Jesus knew, that through his death and resurrection, God was about to establish a new covenant with his creation.
That had to be a heavy burden, to know that he was about to suffer the most agonizing death that humankind has devised to execute a healthy human being. To know that being nailed to a cross was in your immediate future, would be enough to make most free men or women do what we could to flee from that experience. But not Jesus. He chose to stay and had the courage give his life to complete his Father’s will to redeem us from our sins.
This opening verse from our Gospel lesson sets the stage for all that is to play out in the hours that will quickly unfold in Jesus’ early life. Jesus knew, and yet although troubled by that which lay ahead of him, chose not to flee, but to give his life out of love for his Father’s will, and out of love for his disciples, for you and me. And in case we may have missed this point that John was trying to make, John adds “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
Jesus knew! He was about to give his life for the world, and yet, what does he do. Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, gets up from the table in the midst of dinner, takes off his outer robe, tied a towel around his waist, poured water into a basis, and began to wash his disciples feet. Now here was a gesture of pure humility. According to the custom of that day, when guests came to dinner, a servant was to wash the dust of their travel off their feet, that gathered because of the open sandals.
Apparently, there was no servant that day, just Jesus and his twelve disciples, who, throughout the past three years, seemed never to catch on to the true scope of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus must have noticed that none of them chose to wash their own feet, or to humble themselves to wash the feet of the others. And so Jesus, who was about to give his life for their redemption, assumes the role of servant, and does what they were unwilling to do. He humbles himself, and washes their feet. It is a sign, a symbolic gesture of what was to come, when Jesus would, in humility, give his life for their redemption.
Of course, Peter had to be the one to object, saying to Jesus, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Peter didn’t know what this gesture was all about. Peter knew that he was one of Jesus’ disciples, which is a term that means a student of a master or Rabbi. The master doesn’t wash the student’s feet. It should be the other way around. “You will never wash my feet,” he said to Jesus.