A Lent Reflection for Maundy Thursday
By Eileen Lundy
Lectionary reading for 4/6/2023 Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14;Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19;1 Corinthians 11:23-26; John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Selected passage: John 13:1-17, 31b-35
John 13:1-17, 31b-35 NIV
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
2 The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4 so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5 After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.
6 He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
7 Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
8 “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”
9 “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10 Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not everyone was clean.
12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
The Thursday before Easter is traditionally referred to as Maundy Thursday. The word maundy simply means command. It is on this day that we are called to remember the new command Jesus gave his disciples at their last meal together. The command is that Jesus’ disciples are to love one another.
Before Jesus gives this command to his disciples, he first models for them what this love is to look like. At this last Passover meal Jesus will share with his disciples, he gets up from the table, strips off his outer clothing, wraps a towel around his waist, kneels down and begins to wash his disciples’ feet. In the ancient world foot washing was a common practice and also a necessary act of hygiene due to the combination of sandals, dirt roads and reclining at tables to eat. Foot washing, an act of welcome and hospitality, was a task done by a servant or slave. Here at this Passover meal, it is Jesus who gets up and kneels down, taking the role of a servant. In this action Jesus models for his disciples what he is calling them to do; to actively love as a servant. Jesus sets the example then instructs them to do as he has done, to get up and kneel down.
When I read this passage, it seems to me that if there was ever a time Jesus most needed the support of his disciples, most needed to be ministered to and most needed to be served it was here at this last supper. Jesus knows what is coming next after this meal. He knows that Judas who is sitting at the table with him, will soon betray him and what as a result of the betrayal will then follow. Yet Jesus still gets up and kneels down to wash the disciples’ feet, which include the feet of Judas. Jesus gets up and kneels down because he knows his identity; where he came from, where he is going and what His Father has called him to do. Out of this identity he gets up and kneels down to serve.
The command to love one another Jesus gave to his disciples at that last Passover meal is the command Jesus still gives to his disciples today. We also are commanded to love one another with an active servant love. We who find our identity in being a disciple of Jesus are called to follow his example of love. A love that gets up and kneels down to serve even when it is hard, costly or maybe just inconvenient.
What it might mean or look like for you in your daily life to follow this new command Jesus gives to love others following his example? Where might that be easy? Where might it be hard? Is there someone you sense God calling you to love? Where are you being called to get up and kneel down?
Lord Jesus, we confess that we who have experienced your grace and known your love too often seek only our own comfort and do not love one another as you have loved us. We desire to be your disciples, who follow your example and are known for our love. May we become a people who get up and kneel down to serve one another. May this active servant love for one another overflow into our communities, bringing hope, healing and transformation. Amen
About the Author
Eileen Lundy lives in Omaha, Nebraska. She is a nurse, a bi-vocational pastor and a spiritual director. Eileen is married to Steve, her best friend, and they have 3 adult children. She loves a good story in any form, spoken, written or video.