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John 13:1-17; 31b-35

You have probably heard about the derivation of Maundy Thursday, and that Maundy comes from the Latin word for Commandment, referring to Jesus’ “new commandment,” which we read about in today’s text.


1Now 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. 2The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. 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.


I find it striking… Jesus, having known and acknowledged that the Father, God Almighty, put all things under his power, acknowledging that He had come from God and was returning to God, and this is what He does next.


The Son of Man gets up.


He takes off his outer clothing.


He wraps a towel around his waist like a servant, and he begins to do the ordinary, mundane, unpleasing thing that a servant does…he starts to wash the feet of His friends. Recognizing that He holds all power and authority, this was Jesus’ response.


In this moment we are reminded that the incarnate God of the universe, Jesus Christ, in taking on human flesh, was opening himself up to the ordinary, mundane, mediocre, and unpleasant ways of serving and loving people. He did not bypass an opportunity to love them and serve them in this way and teaches them exactly what this means.


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. And you are clean, though not all of you.” 11For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.”


It’s truly difficult to imagine that not only is Jesus willing to take the posture of a servant, kneeling on the floor and washing the dirt off the feet of his friends, He does so for those who will betray Him, and even those who will deny Him. He knew that Judas would betray Him, and while He acknowledges the gravity of this betrayal, it doesn’t stop Him from loving and serving Judas just the same. He even does the same for Peter, who He declares will deny Him three times before it’s all said and done.


Perhaps Peter is hesitant to allow Jesus to wash his feet because he is aware of his shortcomings. Could it be that deep down, Peter senses what he is capable of? I don't know about you, but every time I read this passage, I cannot help but read it with a certain emphasis in mind: “Lord…YOU are going to wash MY feet?” Like Peter, how often are we tempted to reject the radical love of Christ because we, too, are aware of how undeserving we are? By the way, we wouldn’t be wrong, and yet…who are we to dictate how and when Christ demonstrates His love?


On the other hand, we can also identify with Peter in another way, thinking about moments of being fully immersed in Christ’s love. We, too, would want to be “drenched” in that love and mercy, soaking every part of our bodies in it! Whether it’s in his sincere humility, or audacious requests, we likely relate to Peter in this moment in some way.


12After 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? 13You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. 14So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. 16Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the