Maunday Thursday 2015
In our text from John’s Gospel, we hear the story of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. Foot-washing was normally done by a slave or a servant, not the host. If the host had no slave, he would provide water and a towel, but would not wash the guest’s feet himself. It was a job that could be performed by a woman or a non-Jewish slave, but no Jewish male could be required by a Jewish master to do this for another. And no Jewish master would stoop to this lowly task.
The example that Jesus has set for us is not the particular one of putting on towels and washing the feet of our fellow churchgoers. No, the example here is one of indifference to one’s own importance and of close and particular attention to the hurts and needs of others to the point of self forgetfulness in service of those needs.
On this Maundy Thursday, we are called to remember a number of things. The text from Exodus tells us of the night of the Passover, the night the Hebrew people were set free from slavery in Egypt by God’s strong hand.
The meal Jesus and his disciples ate on the night of the footwashing was a Passover meal and the early church saw Jesus as the Passover lamb whose blood has protected us from the angel of death.
Our reading from I Corinthians reminds us that on the night that he washed the disciples’ feet, Jesus said some things that must have seemed strange to the disciples but which came to mean a lot to them after his death and resurrection. After they had seen his body broken and his blood spilled upon the cross, his words over the bread and wine that night took on new and more vital meaning.
And buried within John’s story is the reason this night is called “Maundy” Thursday. After all, what sort of word is Maundy? What does it mean? It is an old English word related to “mandate” or “command” and this night is called Maundy Thursday because it was during the Passover meal, after he had washed everyone’s feet that Jesus commanded them, “to love one another.”
Vs. 34 “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.”
But, how do you command love? To be more specific, how do you command one person to love another? To be really specific, how do you command someone to love someone else they don’t even like very much, if at all?
Well, you do it like Jesus did it, and he may have been the only one who could have done it and deserved to be obeyed. You do it by having loved everyone completely and totally and “to the end” (13:1)
To the end of his life?
To the end of time?
And to the end that they will in response love one another?
Like God freeing the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt, God in Christ upon the Cross has freed us from our bondage to this world’s power. We have been set free by the death and resurrection of Jesus, demonstrated to us in the bread broken and wine poured out in the Eucharist. “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (I Corinthians 11:26)
It is because of this new freedom and the love that Jesus gives to us that we are able to love others, “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” (John 13:34)
Our calling this night is to remember the Lord’s last command and to prepare for his death. Our calling this night is to receive the love of God in Christ into our lives, the way the disciples received Jesus’ gift of washing their feet.
Our calling this night is to go out into the world renewed in our commitment to let the love of God in Christ that fills us, overflow from us into acts of kindness and generosity to others – and to truly be the Body of Christ for the world - to love as God in Christ has loved us.