Holy Thursday: April 5
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him.
And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him.
He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.”
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord–and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.
“ Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once.
“Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 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.”
Our Lord has packed a whole lot of teaching into a few words (and even more so into a few actions) in John’s narrative of the Last Supper.
Jesus disrobes, girds himself with a towel and washes the disciples’ feet. If he said nothing at all there is a powerful message in this action. He humbles himself and serves those around him. That is a remarkable statement of the Christian vocation. Be humble, serve others.
He then tells us that we require his cleansing, even if we think we are clean! The blemishes that concern the Lord are not only our individual faults but the failings of his body, the church. Individually and corporately we need to keep returning to him for a foot washing. Moreover, we are to continue his model of service by serving others.
This remarkable passage concludes with the resounding command to love one another. This network of love is the sign to the world that we are Christ’s and Christ defeats sin and death through love.
Loving God, on this holy day when we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist, we pray for a cleansing of your church and each disciple
in order that we may offer unto you a worthy sacrifice
of praise and thanksgiving.
Rev. Dr. William B. Allen
Regional Minister Emeritus