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.
For this Maundy Thursday a slightly different reflection - this is the first day that the reading doesn't mention explicitly love or compassion in the text!
Love is not always mentioned as love - in fact, the way in which we act and the attitudes we express give away more of our heart than saying that we love people. Jesus talked of it in another parable when he challenged the community to think about how they treated the least and the most vulnerable, saying that "whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me."
In this story from the last night before Jesus was crucified, we see here an act of service which is an expression of love by Jesus to his friends. Service that comes from 'duty', or from following orders, or from what we are employed to do, or feel we 'should' do isn't necessarily done out of love. Choosing to serve when one is in a position which would allow one to be served is showing that love calls us to humility and to service of one another. In this Jesus sets an example for all those who claim to be his followers to copy.
And even more, in the passage above it is made clear that the one Jesus knew was to betray him, the friend who would be the first to abandon him, is still included in those who are served, those who have their feet washed and share at table. Likewise, love calls us to serve all, even those who do not like us, who do not look like us, who do not sound, or smell, or act, or think like us. We are called to serve even those who might betray us. That is how love as service looks, even though we may not understand it
Maundy Thursday Prayer
As those who strive to follow Jesus in our living
and to trust your power in our dying,
we gather to reflect upon the life that ended on a cross.
We recognize in ourselves
the strengths and weaknesses of Jesus’ disciples:
although they loved him,
they disappointed and failed him.
And yet, gathering with these imperfect friends at this last meal
Jesus washed their feet in service, and then
extended the bread and cup to each.
Jesus called them to love one another,
and invited them to share in his very life
and in his acceptance of the road ahead.
We are humbled, honored and inspired
by the deep love Christ extended to the world,
and we take seriously the calling
to be the body of Christ today.
Forgive us when we disappoint and fail you,
and guide us back to a place of trust and faithful living.
Grant us the vision to see the world as you see it,
with love and compassion for each creature and all of your creation.
We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.
~ from “Come and Remember: Prayers for Maundy Thursday,” written by the Rev. Kelly Burd.