Reflection on John 13.1-17, 31b-35 (Maundy Thursday)

Simon Peter said: Lord, are you going to wash my feet?

Every year, on Maundy Thursday, clergy across the world get down on their knees and wash the feet of those who gather in worship. In this single act of loving service they are given the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to emulate Christ’s love and service. But, such loving service is a two-way transaction that often causes problems.

In our reading today we hear of Peter’s reluctance to receive Jesus’ subservient and loving ministry. Peter’s reluctance is emulated to this day in those who claim that the washing of their feet by another is embarrassing or mutually demeaning. However, the act of foot-washing is a gift that is offered freely and openly, no strings attached. In expressing a reluctance to accept that gift we are impugning the motives of the one who gives by applying our own sceptical standards to the way in which we do, or do not, receive.

Jesus washes his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper; the meal on that day took place on the eve of his execution. During the course of that meal, Jesus also gave us a new commandment: Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. The full extent of the words, ‘Just as I have loved you,’ will not become apparent until we see him hanging on the cross, but even the humble act of foot-washing gives a depth of meaning that challenges the way in which we live out our daily lives.

Jesus came to earth because of God’s love for humanity. Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus taught, preached, healed and worked wondrous signs. The whole of Jesus’ earthly ministry was one of divine love. As the moment of his execution drew near he demonstrated the way in which we should carry on his mission in a world that is dominated by human greed and self-interest. We are called to both literally and metaphorically get down on our knees and wash the feet of those amongst whom we live. We are also called to demonstrate a love that gives without any hope of being matched or returned.

Let us pray that we might be given the humility and sense of perspective that allows us to humbly serve, to love generously and to sacrifice self in the name of Jesus Christ today and every day.