Jesus Washes the Disciples’ Feet: Maundy Thursday Sermon
On Maundy Thursday we remember the story from John’s account of the Last Supper. It was the night before Jesus knew that He was going to die. He was about to be betrayed by Judas, one of His own disciples. Soon, Jesus would be beaten, made fun of, and nailed to a cross. Even though Jesus knew all these things, His disciples did not understand that He was going to die and then rise again, that this would be their last Passover Meal together with Him.
Jesus got up from the meal and wrapped a towel around His waist. He poured water into a large bowl and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him. In those days, foot washing was needed in every home because the streets were dusty and dirty with rubbish and the waste from the animals that travelled there. Sandaled feet could soon become very dirty and smelly.
The dinner-time custom was to lean back around the table at the evening meal. Usually, the lowest servant in the household was expected to wash the feet of guests. Having your guests’ feet washed was a way to show honour to them. Since the last supper was held in a private home, with just Jesus and His disciples, we can easily see why there were no servants there. Jesus took on the role of a lowly servant, showing loving hospitality by his actions. He brought refreshment to each of his disciples by washing the dirt from their feet.
Jesus shows us by example that we are to love and serve one another. This is how we show that we are disciples of Jesus. It is not what we say, or write, or preach, the services we attend, the prayers we pray, or the knowledge we have, that speak of our devotion to Christ. It is the way we show Christ’s love to one another. We can love because He first loved us. Love can flow from us when we come to know God’s love in our hearts. This kind of love is much more than a warm fuzzy feeling or even a natural concern for one another. How can we possibly love one another with the same love that Christ loves each one of us? Surely, this is beyond our human capability and yet Jesus commands us to love one another.
Peter had to learn to submit to Jesus, to allow Jesus to minister to him by washing his feet. We mustn’t be too proud to admit our need for God, to humbly allow his love to wash into our heart by the Holy Spirit. This love is beyond natural, it is supernatural, unconditional and we have done nothing to earn it. It enables us to love those who naturally we wouldn’t even like!
Jesus did not wash his disciples’ feet just to get them to be nice to each other. His far greater goal was to extend his mission on earth after he was gone. These men were to move into the world serving God, serving each other and serving all people to whom they took the message of salvation.
What do people see when they look at us? How often do they witness petty bickering, division, critical or harsh attitudes, or a lack of willingness to serve one another? Or do they know that we are Jesus’ followers by our love for one another? Does our loving attitude reveal itself in action: helping others when it is not convenient, giving when it hurts, devoting energy to others’ welfare rather than our own, absorbing hurts from others without complaining or fighting back, being ready to roll our sleeves up and serve in a menial way? Do we honour one another and bring refreshment to each other by the way we live our lives?
I will close with a verse from a letter also written by John:
‘Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.’ 1 John 4:7