The Thursday in Holy Week is called ‘Maundy’ from the Latin word ‘mandatum’ which means ‘commandment.' We are reminded of Jesus’ words - ‘a new commandment I give you, love one another.’ Jesus demonstrated this commandment by washing his disciples’ feet, stressing on this day a theme of love and service.
Another theme on this particular day was the institution of the Lord’s supper which happened in the upper room, as Jesus explained the symbols of bread and wine to the disciples - reminders of his forthcoming death. John in writing his gospel, makes no mention of the Last Supper and replaces it only with the story of the washing of his disciples’ feet. This may purely be because John wanted to offer a profound reflection on the nature of love, and in particular, what it means to be loved by God.
In the company of his closest friends, Jesus turns all recognised religious protocol on its head by kneeling on the floor and washing their dusty feet. What Jesus was doing was the menial service normally done by a slave – the one who had no status or rights. This was a stunning illustration of seeing glory in the loving service of your neighbour.
John writes in the opening chapter of his gospel - ‘we saw His glory in the word made flesh, full of grace and truth.’ It is surely one of those defining moments in our lives when we are invited to understand that in Jesus, the majesty and loving kindness of God are wonderfully combined. Here was Jesus, their Lord and master, kneeling at their feet on the night of his arrest.
In many churches, all over the world, foot-washing traditionally takes place today, symbolically acted out. This is not just a call to love one another in acts of caring service but reminds us of a deeper truth: before we can serve others, we need to receive from Jesus, through the work of the Holy Spirit, the gift of loving. ‘We love,’ writes John ‘because he first loved us.’
We are only capable of true love because God loves us. Jesus had demonstrated to all who met him, that each is loved by their Heavenly Father, and within hours of this foot washing, the disciples were to witness the final proof of this love – death on a cross.
Having washed their feet, Jesus says to them - ‘Love another as I have loved you.’ This deepest truth of all which is communicated here, is that when we realise and know that we are accepted, forgiven, loved and valued by our Creator God, then it opens our eyes to see each other’s worth. This sets us free to reach out to one another in service and friendship and generous hearted love.
Today reminds us that God loves us beyond our imagining or understanding and went to such lengths to win us to himself through the death of Jesus.
***ANNOUNCEMENT! We are delighted to be able to reopen St Paul's church for in person services - in time for Easter! For details of our events and services during Holy Week, check out our Services at St Paul's and Church At Home Pages.****