Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday is here. This is the night on which Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and instituted the Eucharist or communion which we still celebrate to this day. It is also the night on which he was betrayed in the garden of Gethsemane.
“And during supper 3Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, 4got up from the table,took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. 5Then 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. 6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ 7Jesus answered, ‘You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ 8Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.’ 9Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!’ 10Jesus said to him, ‘One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean.” (John 13:2 b- 10)
Other than when we are babies and later possibly under nursing care, we don’t often have someone bathe us. One of the early signs of separation from a parent is when a young child starts to want to wash on their own or even want privacy in the bath. In Jesus’ day, people’s feet got dirty every time they left the house. Servants would wash people’s feet when they entered the house. Jesus took this servant role in the story above and it embarrassed the disciples who were lower on the social hierarchy than Jesus. In the absence of servants it should have been one of them washing Jesus’ feet. When Simon Peter hears that he must be washed clean in order to share with Jesus he asks for even more.
Several years ago my Bible study group were involved in planning the service for Maundy Thursday. We usually have a pot luck dinner on that evening prior to the service. We were very interested in the foot washing part of the story and decided we wanted to include this in some way. People were too uncomfortable with the idea of actually doing foot washing and we ended up setting up two hand washing stations. People came forward and one of us dipped their hands in a bowl of warm water, and the other had a soft towel and dried their hands. I was at one of the stations doing the hand drying and I have to say that it was a most amazing experience of intimacy with members of my church family and one I will never forget!
” While they were eating, Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ 27Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you; 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will never again drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.’” (Matthew 26:26-29)
Tonight as we reenact this meal shared by Christ and his disciples I pray that we are granted that sense of intimacy as we allow him to wash us clean once again.
Today’s readings were found through a web-based Bible search tool with the New Revised Standard Version. http://bible.oremus.org/