All of us are familiar with difficult life experiences. How we handle or react to those experiences may depend on how seriously we understand what Jesus did in the Upper Room. The story from John’s gospel gives me a challenge that I can never measure up to. Maundy Thursday gives me a challenge which I never measure up to. A particular sound illustrates how we should try to live up to its challenge. The sound was created when Jesus, the host for this Passover meal, left the table and poured water into a basin.
That’s the sound of Maundy Thursday. Jesus was about to become the servant for his disciples and wash their feet. The disciples might not have thought anything of his momentary departure from the table. But when they heard the sound of water being poured into a certain basin, they knew something was about to happen. That sound of water being poured to wash feet is closer to where we live than any other religious holiday.
What Jesus did was an example of what we ought to do if we wish to imitate our Lord. The account of the Last Supper in Luke’s gospel says that the disciples argued among themselves about who was the greatest. Jesus told them that the greatest or the leader among them must be like a servant. It was to give an example that he became a servant. When he was finished, he said, “you will do just what I have done for you.” That is what Maundy Thursday is all about.
And in a confusing upside down world of lost values and false priorities, I don’t believe a single day goes by without an opportunity to follow the example of our Lord. Jesus looked on himself as a suffering servant. He didn’t just go through the motion of service — he gave himself. Jesus knew that the Father had given him complete power. Since he knew that he had come from God and was going to God, Jesus was willing to pour water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet.
It was precisely because he and God were on the same track, that he and God were in this thing together — that he was not afraid to become the servant. Jesus and his friends were meeting in secret. They had no servant to do the customary washing of feet. But all the disciples were so hung up on preserving their personal status that not a single one of them would volunteer for the task.
If you’ve walked a long way on a warm day, you might be more than willing to get your shoes off– and wouldn’t a pan of water be nice.
How could Jesus do it so easily? Because he came into the world to demonstrate God’s love for his people. He knew he had come from God and was going to God and with such godly power that he was willing to pour water into a basin.
Following his example, figuratively speaking, will take us a whole lifetime. My experience says we’ll never get it right.
But we cannot give up trying. Of course there are injustices in the economy, or on the job. People are out of work, forced to retire, or life becomes one pain after another. There are injustices in personal relations, especially if we think someone we love is treating us poorly. Sometimes we become angry and alienated from family members — there are so many ways we may feel unloved, so many ways that other people notice our lack of love for them.
We’ve all observed that the more you love someone, anyone, the greater the hurt when that person disappoints our expectations. Husbands and wives disappoint each other. Children are disappointed their parents won’t give them what they ask for. Parents are disappointed their children won’t take their advice.
And when we’re ready to lash out because the world is not giving us what we want, we need to stop and hear the sound of water being poured into a basin. We need to ask whether it’s time to wash someone’s feet.
This is not to say we must become a doormat that anybody can walk on. Look for a way to love your enemy. Learn to make a sacrifice, a suffering sacrifice.
When we would be catty, or sarcastic, when we’d give just anything to have the last word in a head-on argument, when jealousy begs us to do something foolish, when we start thinking the principle of the thing demands such and such a solution which may be just another way of asking for revenge, THEN we must hear water being poured into a basin. When suffering is the only response in a crisis, when everything comes unglued and you’re got to start all over, it is time to ask what course of action is suggested by the sound of Maundy Thursday.
This is the struggle to which we were committed at baptism. God’s forgiveness and the power of his spirit to amend our lives continue with us because of his love for us in Jesus, our savior.
Within the community of his Church, God never wearies of giving peace and new life. We firmly believe that our sins are forgiven in the name of our Lord. Following the example Jesus gave us on the night before his death, we are called to be servant to each other, just as he became our servant.
Remembering our Lord’s last supper with his disciples, we eat the bread and share the cup. Together we receive the Lord’s gift of himself and participate in that new covenant which makes us one in him.
We who receive God’s love in Jesus Christ are called as we pass thru this world, are called to love one another. Without exception., All our fellow human beings. They, too, like us, are made in the image of God.