Just before the Passover Feast, Jesus knew that the time had come to leave this world to go to the Father. Having loved his dear companions, he continued to love them right to the end. It was suppertime. The Devil by now had Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, firmly in his grip, all set for the betrayal.
Jesus knew that the Father had put him in complete charge of everything, that he came from God and was on his way back to God. So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron. When he got to Simon Peter, Peter said, “Master, you wash my feet?”
Jesus answered, “You don’t understand now what I’m doing, but it will be clear enough to you later.” Peter persisted, “You’re not going to wash my feet—ever!” Jesus said, “If I don’t wash you, you can’t be part of what I’m doing.” “Master!” said Peter. “Not only my feet, then. Wash my hands! Wash my head!”
Jesus said, “If you’ve had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you’re clean from head to toe. My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene. So now you’re clean. But not every one of you.” (He knew who was betraying him. That’s why he said, “Not every one of you.”) After he had finished washing their feet, he took his robe, put it back on, and went back to his place at the table.
Then he said, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do. I’m only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn’t give orders to the employer. If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life.
“I’m not including all of you in this. I know precisely whom I’ve selected, so as not to interfere with the fulfillment of this Scripture: “The one who ate bread at my table, Turned on his heel against me.”
“I’m telling you all this ahead of time so that when it happens you will believe that I am who I say I am. Make sure you get this right: Receiving someone I send is the same as receiving me, just as receiving me is the same as receiving the One who sent me.”
After he said these things, Jesus became visibly upset, and then he told them why. “One of you is going to betray me.” The disciples looked around at one another, wondering who on earth he was talking about. One of the disciples, the one Jesus loved dearly, was reclining against him, his head on his shoulder. Peter motioned to him to ask who Jesus might be talking about. So, being the closest, he said, “Master, who?” Jesus said, “The one to whom I give this crust of bread after I’ve dipped it.” Then he dipped the crust and gave it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. As soon as the bread was in his hand, Satan entered him.
“What you must do,” said Jesus, “do. Do it and get it over with.” No one around the supper table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that since Judas was their treasurer, Jesus was telling him to buy what they needed for the Feast, or that he should give something to the poor. Judas, with the piece of bread, left. It was night.
When he had left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is seen for who he is, and God seen for who he is in him. The moment God is seen in him, God’s glory will be on display. In glorifying him, he himself is glorified—glory all around! “Children, I am with you for only a short time longer. You are going to look high and low for me. But just as I told the Jews, I’m telling you: ‘Where I go, you are not able to come.’ “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”
There is a ton of information in our reading for Maundy Thursday from John’s Gospel. I’d like to highlight a few as they relate to our ministry together as a Presbytery:
Jesus loved his disciples. They were his friends. His love for them is the foundation for the entire passage and for everything that he says to them. Part of our work together is speaking the truth in love even as the sand beneath us shifts and we must alter and change what we are doing; even letting go of long-held beliefs and things that we love. We may let go of many “things” but we never have to let go of our relationships and who we are as connected together in the body of Christ, the Church. Love and friendship are the foundation of all of who we are. Jesus shared this powerful message on the last night of his life.
Holiness not Hygiene
When Peter realizes the significance of Jesus washing his feet he asks Jesus to not just wash his feet but his whole body. Jesus’ response to Peter is that he is interested in “holiness not hygiene.” Jesus reminds the gathered disciples that he has offered an example to them that they are to take out to all they minister with. Jesus reminds them that foot-washing is not just radical hospitality but radical egalitarianism. And so it is for us as we engage change in the Church today-to remember that there is no hierarchy, but that we are called to embody in our decision-making, structure and leadership the radical egalitarianism of Jesus Christ. That might mean that our decisions look different than what we imagined they might be!
Edwin Friedman’s famous words are, “expect sabotage.” As leaders in the Jesus-movement we must expect sabotage as we engage change. Change, if done right is disruptive of our current narratives and takes us to a new place where we leave behind all of our former ways that have separated us from the love of God. It was those changes and abandonment of the “way things used to be” that created such anger at Jesus’ ministry. Adherence to God’s way can get us into trouble. Jesus reminds the disciples of that on the last night of his life and he reminds us that we are choosing a new way and that personal peace and security might not always be on our side. Can we choose change as a Presbytery that names the former things that separated us from the Way of Jesus? Can we be bold in our decision making, even if sabotage is just around the corner?
The passage ends with a reminder about love. Jesus tells his disciples that they will only be recognized as his disciples if they exemplify and live love. How are we doing that today in ways that break down barriers and show the world the alternative and life-giving message of Jesus? The photo I selected for today’s blog is from three years ago, the first Maundy Thursday Pope Francis celebrated in his new role as Pope. He visits a jail and washes the feet of prisoners, among them two women (which was a huge break in protocol). One of the women was also Muslim, another radical change. He was roundly criticized by those inside and outside of the Church for this act, but he continued on nonetheless because of his adherence to the rule of Christ-like love. Pope Francis’ message to the Church was clear: radical inclusion, radical love and no boundaries.
Be like Jesus even if you break the rules.
Be like Jesus even if it invites sabotage.
Be like Jesus even if no one understands what kind of love you have.
Be like Jesus and value holiness over hygiene.
Be like Jesus. That’s the message for Maundy Thursday and Holy Week.
My prayer as we engage change in Albany Presbytery is that we too will be like Jesus.
+Story credit: The Telegraph