Maundy Thursday is the time of reflection three days before Easter. It commemorates one of the last moments Jesus spent with his disciples. During this time with his disciples and a simple basin of water, Jesus takes a servants menial task, the washing of feet, and teaches an incredible lesson for all of us.
“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 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. ” (John 13:3-5)
While it might be hard for us to imagine, in Jesus’ day walking from one place to another on dusty roads and across sandy streets was a regular part of life. Because of this, it was the custom of the day for a host to provide his guests with a basin of water to wash their feet as they entered his home. This wasn’t really to keep his house clean but to provide refreshment to his friends after a long journey. The traveler would enter the home and a servant would bow down and begin the servant’s task of washing the feet of the guest of honor.
Jesus was at a place of dignity at the table. He was the leader of this group of people who knew that this was the Messiah, the one who had been promised so long ago as the Savior of the world. Yet this man, Jesus, gets up from the table, takes off this robe, ties a towel around his waist, and begins to wash his disciples feet.
Apparently each disciple calmly watched this scene play out before them. Finally, Peter voices the astonishment that the others must have felt as their teacher and leader was kneeling before them in the place of a servant.
He says, “Lord are you going to wash my feet?…You shall never wash my feet” Peter can’t begin to imagine being served by Jesus in this way. In the world of the disciples, even Jewish slaves were not required to wash the feet of a visitor. If we jump back to Luke 7 we find a story of Jesus having his feet washed by a woman’s tears. Peter complains that Jesus would allow this to happen and Jesus points out that Peter didn’t even provide water for Jesus to wash his own feet. Now, we fast forward and here is Jesus not only providing the water but kneeling down on the dirty floor in front of Peter washing his feet.
Peter, who was so caught up in his own stuff that he couldn’t even find the water for Jesus in his home, is having Jesus wash his feet.
Jesus then takes Peter’s confusion and protest and uses it to redefine this traditional custom of washing feet into a spiritual ritual- physical act into spiritual truth.
Let’s not get confused: this isn’t about Peter’s physical state, it is about his spiritual life. Peter had already put his belief and trust in Jesus and had given up everything to follow him. However, along the journey of their three years together, he’s collected some road dust- resentment, doubts, frustrations. Jesus knew his disciples, the road they had been on, and the journey ahead. He knew they believed but what they needed now was to be renewed and refreshed for the journey.
While following Jesus we will find ourselves surrounded by broken relationships, hurt feelings, and resentment. As we collect this road dust in our lives we also need to have our spiritual feet washed, refreshed, and renewed for the road ahead.
Jesus says this a few moments later, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 3:14-16).
The journey on the road of discipleship is not always easy and it should never be traveled alone. As we walk beside each other we must become servants to each other, helping each other along the way, providing the spiritual encouragement necessary to walk the road ahead. The church, as Jesus describes it here, is a community of foot washers- cleaning off the dust from the road of our lives. Who surrounds you in your life and symbolically washes your feet- spiritually refreshing you and encouraging you to continue the journey?
JOIN US FOR EASTER ON SUNDAY, APRIL 16 at 11AM, at BUNKER HILL ELEMENTARY. Easter is the beginning of a story of endless possibilities; an invitation to experience something new. And, that invitation is for you.