Read John 13:1-17 and John 13:34-35
Today is referred to as Maundy Thursday because of the events that took place in the upper room the night before Jesus was crucified. The word Maundy is specifically connected to the Latin word for command because Jesus gave us a new command that we love one another just as He has loved us after. This commandment was given shortly after Jesus washed His disciples’ feet.
Why feet washing? During the 1st century in the Middle East people didn’t wear shoes, but sandals, and the common form of transportation was walking. This isn’t too strange, but the things about walking from place to place is that the streets were dirty, as Sally Lloyd Jones says not just dusty dirty, but really stinky dirty…you can [only] imagine the stuff on the street that ended up on their feet. With that said it was only logical that their feet had to be washed when they came in doors. This job fell on the lowest servant of the group, and Jesus’ disciples were too busy trying to figure who the greatest was that none of them were willing to make themselves the lowest.
Since none of the disciples were willing to wash the others feet before their meal, Jesus rose from the table in the middle of the meal and removed His outer garment, wrapped His waist with a towel, and began to wash His disciples’ feet.
After returning to the table Jesus asked the disciples, “Do you understand what I have done to you?” In other words He asks, “Do you know why I washed your feet?” This question is just as important for us today, as it was for His disciples back then. I believe that there are two reasons why Jesus washed their feet.
First, He used it as an opportunity to teach us something. In verse 10, when He is talking to Peter Jesus says, “The one who is bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean…” As believers in Christ we are clean (converted and regenerated) but we still need continual spiritual cleansing (confession and repentance). We have “bathed” in the fountain that is Christ, but we still need to “wash our feet.” We do this by coming to Him regularly to confess the sins that have ended up on our feet as we walk through this world and seek forgiveness for our actions.
Second, Jesus’ example of washing the disciples’ feet teaches us the need for loving and serving each other. Jesus said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” This call isn’t to physically wash each other’s feet, but it is figurative. We are called to serve each other, to love one another in sacrificial ways. After this event Jesus gives the New Commandment that we love one another as He has loved us. Jesus washing the disciples’ feet wasn’t lowest that He was going to stoop to demonstrate His love for us. Remember, this took place the night before Jesus was crucified in our place for our sins, demonstrating the depth of His great love for us. It’s with this same love that we are commanded to love one another.
On this Maundy Thursday Christ is calling us to two things:
- Wash your feet – confess, seek forgiveness, and repent for the sins that we continue to commit.
- Love one another as I have loved you – serve each other, and give of ourselves in order to love one another.
Jesus, thank you for the way you demonstrated your great love for us by dying on the cross in our place for our sins. Help us to come to you for spiritual renewal, to confess when we sin against you and seek your forgiveness. And help us Lord to love like you. Help us to give of ourselves to love one another and you gave yourself to love us. Amen.