I did not grow up celebrating Maundy Thursday.
Fat Tuesday–yes. Of course.
Maundy Thursday? I had never even heard of it until a few years ago. I have known the events of Maundy Thursday since I was a child, but I never recognized the Thursday of Passion Week as such a holy moment–an occasion to celebrate or remember.
Maundy is a shortened version of a Latin word meaning “command.” Maundy Thursday, or Command Thursday, commemorates the “new command” Jesus gives His followers during the Last Supper. This familiar passage is found in John 13:
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” John 13:34
As if the commandment was not clear or punchy enough, Jesus’ message was punctuated by His actions earlier in the meal when he took a bowl of water and a towel and began to wash the feet of His followers. This was the work of a servant. When someone entered a house in the 1st century, typically a servant would greet you by washing your feet from the long journey. In this particular instance, there was no servant to greet the disciples as they entered the upper room. The bowl of water sat in the corner–unattended. I am sure they all saw it, wondering who, if anyone, was going to perform the task. Who rose, or rather stooped, to the occasion? None other than the Son of God!
While their feet were still drying from this shocking act, Jesus issued His new command: “To love one another as I have loved you…”
Often this command is seen in light of the impending cross; a grand, dramatic, and painful expression of Jesus’ love for His people. In other words, “Love people like I do. I die for them…” The backdrop, however, is far simpler and far more mundane. How about you just wash each other’s feet? Nowhere near as grandiose. Quite the opposite actually. An act like this requires tremendous humility and genuine care for each other.
How many of us will legitimately have the chance to die in place of a friend or family member, much less an enemy? Hopefully very few of us will ever be put in such a position. But how many of us have the chance to serve and love our neighbors in tangible, mundane ways? How many of us have the opportunity to view each day, each meal, each conversation, to surprise (maybe even shock!) our friends and family with humility and service. Is Jesus calling you to die for your neighbor? Maybe. Is Jesus calling you to do the small, kind, and gracious thing to whomever He puts in your life? Absolutely. That is exactly what Jesus did on this Thursday of Holy Week. Before he ever died. Before he ever rose from the dead. Before he beat sin and death, He washed feet.