Today is Maundy Thursday. If you are like me and did not grow up in a liturgical church, the word Maundy is not one you are familiar with. It comes from the Latin word “to command” and reminds us of the command Jesus gave his disciples on their last night together. As the disciples gathered to celebrate what would be their last meal together, none of them were willing to serve the others and perform the menial task of “foot washing.”
“It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:1)
This must have been embarrassing to the disciples as they realized that one of them should have volunteered for the task. Jesus used this opportunity to teach them about servant leadership. Some churches practice foot washing on the day before Good Friday as a way to identify with Jesus and practice humility. If you have ever washed someone’s feet or had your feet washed, it is a very personal and humbling act. More than the specific action, Jesus was demonstrating the attitude of humility that God is looking for in us. Peter initially resisted allowing Jesus to wash his feet, but later wrote these words in 1 Peter chapter 5.
“...In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5-6 NIV)
As we move towards Good Friday and Easter, I want to encourage you to reflect on the humility and sacrifice of Jesus. When you hear the term “Maundy Thursday” remember His object lesson of service.
“When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:12-19 NIV)
Now for the command. Immediately following the object lesson, Jesus gave his disciples and us a command.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34 NIV)
Jesus could have said that his followers would be identified by any number of religious activities or practices such as prayer, attending worship, or even giving. He didn’t. Each of these can be practiced with wrong motives and a proud heart. Instead he gave us a moving example of humble service and reminded us that although man looks at outward appearances, God looks on the heart. (1 Sam 16:7) May God produce a renewed love for Him and others as we reflect on His great love for us.
Looking forward to Easter!
Dr. Chuck Martin
Lead Pastor, Frisco First Baptist Church