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Maundy Thursday, March 28, 2013

Today’s Reading | John 13:1–20

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. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But it is to fulfill the scripture, ‘The one who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I tell you this now, before it occurs, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am he. Very truly, I tell you, whoever receives one whom I send receives me; and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.” (NRSV)


Water is associated with all kinds of symbolic meanings in scripture: it has a cleansing quality and also harkens back to the watery chaos that God orders in the creation story as well as the waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan, both of which are sites of crossing from one identity into another. Feet are also about journeys.

We are at the edge of Good Friday, having journeyed with Jesus over the Lenten period. Here, at what seems the end of all things, there is fear for the journey ahead: the disciples are anxious over the cryptic words of Jesus just as we are challenged by them today, even though we know what will happen. A fellowship, broken; friendships, betrayed. Violence, fear, and death will seem to have dominion over all things.

But Jesus still offers a command: wash one another’s feet. Nearing the end, but also another beginning, the Creator—who once knelt down in the creation story of Genesis to form a clay figure, a mixture of earth and water, blowing spirit into the earth creature, who had commanded “Let there be” and offer all things permission to exist in all their glorious possibility—now kneels down as Redeemer and issues a “Be of service to one another.” The scene of a knelt-down Creator and Redeemer who washes feet is intimate, and for me, it symbolizes the disciples’ baptism into the service of Jesus. In the midst of fear and death, serve. For service is nothing other than grace imparted at creation and new every morning, the grace in which our very hope clings to and which breaks down all the barriers between us and God, and between one another. Amen.


Go out into the world in peace; be of good courage; hold fast to that which is good. Render to no one evil for evil. Strengthen the fainthearted, support the weak, help the afflicted, honor all persons. Love and serve the Lord, remembering to rejoice always in the power of the Spirit. Amen.
(traditional benediction)

Reflection written by Edwin Estevez, Pastoral Resident

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