For most of us, the thought of washing someone’s feet is repulsive unless it is someone we know really, really well and even then we are not very willing.
A few years ago, I served as the camp pastor at a youth camp at Ricks Institute, which is sixteen miles outside Monrovia, Liberia. We ended our time together with a foot washing. My son John and one of the camp counselors helped me wash the feet of the campers and the leaders.
It didn’t take long before the clean well water turned the color of chocolate from the dust everyone collected from walking the dirt trails on the campus. Most of the students and the campers wore sandals or flip-flops.
It reminded me of the dirty job Jesus had washing the disciples’ feet in the Upper Room the night he was betrayed. He assumed the role of a servant who typically did that foot washing task as people entered a room for a customary meal. But on that night, there was no servant and no one volunteered for the job.
The disciples were taken aback that Jesus would lower himself to do that job. Peter protested vehemently. But Jesus told Peter unless he washed his feet he could have not any part of his life.
After that, Peter was all in.
It’s almost as difficult to allow someone to wash our feet as it is to wash someone’s feet. We are proud. We are afraid of intimacy. We don’t like people knowing that we might smell or be dirty. We don’t like for people to know that we have issues. We don’t like to admit that we have weaknesses. We don’t like to acknowledge that we are not self-sufficient. We keep people at arm’s length. Even Jesus.
Jesus says, “You can’t do that with me. Unless I wash your feet, you will not have any part of me.”
So here we are. It’s Maundy Thursday. Will you let Jesus serve you? Will you allow Jesus to reach out and touch your life because if you don’t, how can you have your sins washed away?
It is also the night that Jesus gave the disciples a New Commandment.
This is where we get this strange word, “Maundy.” It comes from a Latin, “mandatum,” which is where we get the English word “mandate.” The new mandate or mandatum that Jesus gave his disciples that night in the Upper Room was this:
“As I have loved you, so you must love one another,” John 13:34.
Jesus said that if we live like this, others will know that we are his disciples.
Tonight, many will receive the Lord’s Supper and reflect on this command of Jesus.
On this night, give thanks that Jesus came to serve and not to be served. Thank God for the gift of Jesus who gave of His life on the cross for you, and me, and the world.
Secondly, contemplate what you are doing to wash the feet of others. It’s a nasty, dirty job, sure. It can be unpleasant, I know. However, serving others is joyful and fulfilling. It is amazing to see God at work and even more amazing when God does something good through us, as flawed as we are.
Thirdly, be humble. Allow others to wash your feet. Submit yourself to those who are wise and skilled in helping you journey through this life. Share your burdens. Confess your sins to trusted people. Pray with others. Sunday is coming. Gather with a community and worship with the resurrected Lord. Amen.