Summary: A REFLECTION FOR MAUNDY THURSDAY: We contemplate Jesus’ act of humble service, and his desire that all his disciples do likewise as we live out our lives of faith as an example of loving service to others.

John 13:1-15 & 20

Sermon Series: Lent 2009

A REFLECTION FOR MAUNDY THURSDAY: We contemplate Jesus’ act of humble service, and his desire that all his disciples do likewise as we live out our lives of faith as an example of loving service to others.

Journeying with Jesus through Lent #7 ‘By the way of Humble Service’


Jesus said: “So if I, your lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought also to wash one-another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” (John 13:14-15).

This evening, we join with Jesus and those who had been his closest companions, there in the Upper Room, that fateful evening as the atmosphere of tension mounts – and the disciples’ confusion and anxiety grows by the minute. Jesus knew that his time had come. He knew that, soon, he would be betrayed by one of his closest followers, and that he would be handed over to his enemies to be passed between the Jewish Court of the High Priest, to the Roman HQ. He knew that he would suffer mockery and pain and torture at the hands of his captors, before finally being led out to death on a cross.

But in this atmosphere of mounting tension, Jesus has an important lesson to teach his friends. Not long before, that same evening, Jesus and that group of confused, anxious disciples had shared in the Passover meal – which would be their Last Supper together. That meal would never have the same meaning for them ever again – it would take-on a new significance, a new meaning from that evening on through all time. For the Broken Bread now became, for them, the broken body of Jesus – their beloved brother, teacher and guide. The Poured-out Wine became, for them, the poured-our blood of their Lord and Saviour. In their sharing of this meal, and what it stood for, Jesus had instituted that which symbolised for them (and for all people of faith) the possibility of a new relationship with God – only possible in reality through the death of Jesus as he bore the burdens of the sin of the world – the sin of the world by which the initial covenant relationship with God had been broken.

That Last Supper with Jesus had brought them together as one body in Jesus’ name – one in community, one in faith, one in their doubts – as they shared together in the pain and suffering that was the way of Christ. The pain and suffering that, as bad as it would be, would be transformed by New Life in all its fullness, but which the disciples could not yet understand the nature of.

Together as a body with one-another, in all their shared doubts and confusion, Jesus now gives a vivid example of what it means to live-out their faith – what it really means to follow him, to be his disciples. Jesus takes off his robe and ties a towel around his waist. And having poured water into a bowl, he kneels down in front of his disciples and begins washing their feet.

The utter sense of shock at this action of Jesus’ must have stunned them into silence and stillness. For, while it was considered the utmost insult not to welcome a guest into your house by providing a bowl of water for them to wash their own feet, not even the lowliest of slaves would be expected to wash the feet of another person. But here he is, Jesus, kneeling down on the floor, gently placing the feet of his friends in the water, then wiping them dry with the towel tied around his waist.

Amid that atmosphere of tension and uneasiness, the disciples are now shocked and dismayed! Shock and dismay that is only voiced by Simon Peter, in his characteristically plainspoken way. He says to Jesus, “You will never wash MY feet!” Jesus responds by gently telling him that, unless he washes his feet, Peter cannot share with him – be part of the new community of believers who live-out their faith in their lives. Again, characteristically, Peter explodes with emotion as he exclaims, “Then not my feet only, but my hands and my head too!” Peter does not understand what Jesus is doing (nor do the other disciples), nor do they understand what Jesus is ‘SAYING’ by his example. So Jesus explains.

To live a life of faith, in its truest sense, means to act and to live in faith – complete trust in God. It means to be able to see, and to respond to, the needs of others, no matter what worries and distress they – as disciples and servants of God – are experiencing. To grow in faith and to act on God’s will in their lives, they must learn to SEE AND ACT UPON the light of God’s guiding Spirit, even through the darkness of their own experience. They must trust God’s spirit to guide them in ways of service, putting even their own needs second to that of others.

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